Last 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?