Read Up

READUPLast fall I interviewed Elizabeth George at the New England Crime Bake.  It was a wonderful conversation, with a lot of advice to ponder. One piece of advice I think about is to “read up”. My friend Michele Dorsey and I were talking about it at Malice Domestic. (Michele is the author of No Virgin Island, a wonderful mystery set on St. John.)

“I’ve taken her advice,” Michele told me. “I’m reading authors who inspire me to write better.”

As writers, we need a balanced diet. We need books that inspire us. We also need craft books and articles (and blogs) that help build strong bones and muscles. But we also need an occasional guilty pleasure–low in nutrients, but high in pleasure. Pleasure books are just that–read purely for pleasure.

When I read craft books, my brain is retaining, categorizing, filing for future use. When I am pleasure reading in my genre, I am watching another writer’s craft at work. The critic “Julie” is also reading aspirational novels, trying to absorb tips and tricks that I can use. But once in a while, I stop analyzing and start zoning in on the storytelling.

Some pleasure books break through to become aspirational. Some aspirational (well written) books are torture to get through. The balance between the two is the sweet spot.

I hope that each book I write is better than the next. Sounds simple, but it is tough to do.

Friends, what are your “I wish I wrote that” books? Which writers do you aspire to write like?


Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. She also blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors.


4 thoughts on “Read Up

  1. Beautiful diet that you mentioned there, I have been working on these books that help me to write better and I must admit that they aren’t just coax, they are for real. The guilty-pleasure books have their own charm. No inhibitions, no pausing to look for the hidden literary art but it’s just there, waiting to be engulfed.

    One such books for me are from Sudha Murthy, she is an Indian based entrepreneur, social worker and a writer. She puts life so elegantly in colloquial English and I wish I could just write so honestly as her.

  2. As an aspiring travel writer, my all time hero is Dervla Murphy. For those who don’t know her, she is an Irish travel writer who, in 1963, rode a bicycle from Ireland to India alone. The diary she kept became her book, and she’s gone on to write over 30 books, the latest, about Israel and Palestine, published just last year, when she was turning the tender age of 84. I only wish I had her physical stamina.
    Otherwise Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Shadow of the Sun, Patrick Holland’s Riding the Trains in Japan.
    I love reading about other places, especially the ones you never hear about.

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