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Sunday, April 5, 2015

The BEST (Worst) Writing Advice About Reading


The worst best advice about who, when, what, how, why, and how much to read.

Hi everyone. Your favorite mystery blogger here.

I'm hacking the signal* and piggy backing some desperately needed advice to all you writer types. It's been a while since I dropped a fat nugget of my uberwisdom, and you are all overdue. Because if there's one thing your burgeoning writing career needs to supercharge it like a line of crystal meth is my awesome advice.

Remember, the lies about "Write a lot. Read a lot," are just propaganda designed to keep most would be writers out of the winner's circle. I know the real hackz to being a real writer. 

And I'm willing to share.

Today we're going to talk about reading. Specifically, we're going to go over a list of very important "Don't"s when it comes to the reading you should be doing.  (Or rather shouldn't.) There's a rumor going around (spread by those who have made it as writers that you have to read a lot, but that's just because they want to waste your time.

Fortunately for you, I'm here to tell you about some pitfalls to avoid when you read. You want to work smarter, not harder, and that goes for reading as well. Hopefully I'm not too late.

Don't read. You really don't have to read that much to be a writer. This urban legend is just perpetuated by writers who've already made it. They whipped it up to keep their competition busy reading instead of busy writing awesome bestselling novels like a boss. Don't be a pleb and get quagmired in their vicious propaganda lies. You can just watch good TV or movies and go live life. What possible benefit could there be to stuffing your nose in a book and reading other writers. You want to be writing your own bestseller, not reading other people's. Come on!

And don't worry about that sad old line about learning how to express ideas with words. That bit of particularly insidious spin is a favorite of the ones who want to keep you distracted. You'll notice how many young would-be writers are smart enough to completely ignore this point. As long as the editor you're assigned by the publisher as part of your seven figure deal knows what you meant, you're golden. And if they don't know for sure, they can dial the digits, am I right? What else would we be paying them for?

Don't read literature. Those guys are complete snobs. There is not one sentence of actual writing quality value in the whole lot. You can't pick up a single good lesson about what makes for good prose from a writer regarded as the best of their generation. This advice is just a trick to make people sound anachronistic.

Don't read anything contemporary. Yeah this might sound weird with the last point, but it actually makes since if you realize you shouldn't be reading much at all. Modern readers are all crap. You might THINK you want to have a sense about current trends in literature, prose, character development, or storytelling, but you really want to be a bold trailblazer who goes their own way. Just watch quality movies and talk about symbolism in Starbucks. Trust me.

Don't read other voices. The challenge to try to read non white/cis/het/male writers is a trick, of course. It might seem like the PC police are at it again, but it's really just a smokescreen. The PC police are on the payroll of the writing elite who want to quagmire your reading lists in a bunch of obscure, whiny bullshit. Obviously white/cis/het/male writers have the most objective take on the world around them since they don't experience anything differently in any way. Getting a diversity of voices cannot possibly benefit you as a writer. Just read what you were going to without thinking about it...or better yet not at all.

Don't read a genre you don't write in. If you write sci-fi, that's all you should ever read. Ever. Don't waste your fucking time reading a bunch of shit you're not going to write! This is a no brainer--or should be! What good would you get from reading something from another genre. Learning the way other kinds of writers frame stories so that you can cross or bend genres or take the best of multiple types of writing? Or just getting out of a trope "grammar" for a fresh perspective? That's just crazy talk.

Don't read anything different. This is really just a combination of above points, but it bears repeating. If you must read, don't read anything that stretches or challenges you or makes you think about the writing in a conscious way. You want something you can read quickly and get back to writing your bestseller. Read the same genre, the same voice, the same authors you always do. No sense spending a bunch of time trying to work through unfamiliar tropes or word choices or figure out different ways authors set up stories or points. What possible fucking good would that do?

Don't think about what you read. If you must read, just read for fun. You certainly don't want to stop when you find something clever, moving, inspiring, or evocative, and examine the way in which the writer achieved the effect. That sort of meta thought is just a recipe for sitting and clutching books to your breast and wasting precious time that you could be spending watching Mad Men. Let those metacognition overthinking losers who don't want to get busy writing the next Harry Potter worry about sentence structure and word choice.


*Chris had some sentimental shlock about what some two year old who can't even hold a crayon taught him about how to be a better writer. Gee, I sure hope that wasn't his only copy.

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