Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reading to write right. Right?

Among the things of which I am sure-and those diminish at an alarming rate as I age-is that writers read.  Good writers read a lot, great writers read obsessively.  I daresay you could ask any serious writer what they are currently reading and most would give you a laundry list of novels, non-fiction, magazines, blogs, newspapers, cereal boxes, trade publications, political opinions and even other peoples' shopping lists.  This would most likely be in addition to the material dedicated to research on whatever projects are ongoing in the writer's own work.

Writers read for the same reason non-writers do:  To inform themselves, to derive entertainment, to escape from their own work and world for a moment to inhabit another, and often, for inspiration.  Most of us in the writing life have the requisite number of How-To books, Strunk & Whites, dictionaria, thesauri, Bartlett's Quotations, a few atlases, and sagging shelves of classic and contemporary authors.  We also read for the sheer pleasure of seeing the language used gracefully; for that sweet turn of phrase and, of course, to see where we might pilfer an idea or just steal a grand metaphor.  Unlike most businesses-writers don't have trade secrets-we pour our recipe ingredients onto the pages of our work and pray that the world will come to taste our creation.  The cruel reality is that many deserving writers will labor in obscurity.  Their work will never go beyond their circle of family and friends not because it unworthy, but just because it is unlucky.

I have long since abandoned the notion of 'catching up' on my reading.  There is just too much.  I won't have the time to get to everything F. Scott Fitzgerald or Jane Austen wrote.  I'm particularly fond of Dickens and Shakespeare, but can't imagine I'll ever finish my studies.  My imagination was fired and illuminated by Bradbury and Asimov;  educated by Chekhov and Poe on the short-story.  Harper Lee and Upton Sinclair kindled a modern social conscience.  And these were all writers of fiction.  I haven't even begun on the writers of biographies, science, politics, history and music.  Nonetheless, writers have fans, and are fans.  In the contemporary writers of fiction category I'm a fan of Ken Follet, Khaled Hosseni, David Guterson, and two fellow laborers in the literary garden, Robert Dugoni and Mike Lawson.

At a recent Northwest Pacific Writers Association event I had the opportunity to meet both of these authors and introduce myself to their work.  I'm glad I did.

Robert Dugoni is a New York Times bestselling author of legal thrillers that should put Scott Turow and John Grisham on notice:  There's a new voice in town and he's taking no prisoners.  Introducing attorney David Sloane in his breakout work The Jury Master, Dugoni showed that, well defined characters, crisp pacing, relentless action and page-turning excitement is just the beginning of a well-plotted, suspenseful series.  In this case I decided to start with the first book in the series.  Robert followed with Damage Control, Wrongful Death and is well into the promotion phase of his fourth, Bodily Harm, with this character--and now I have a new must-read author on my list.  Thanks, Robert, for the encouragement in my own work, and the entertainment I derive from yours.  Now all I have to do is catch up.  Sigh..a reader's work is never done!

Mike Lawson, also a New York Times bestseller, was gracious enough to sign and gift an ARC copy of his latest political thriller, House Justice, (ARC is publishing-speak for advanced readers copy-what is usually sent out for reviewers prior to publication).  This time I found myself engrossed in established characters, with back-stories I now must explore from his previous books.  Political intrigue in high places, shadowy figures, dead CIA operatives, bodies piling up, all linked to the mysterious 'unnamed source' of a journalist desperately trying so salvage a failing career, add up to a splendid yarn where no one in the book is quite sure who all the players are until the dramatic conclusion.  His style is straightforward, filled with tension, insight into the machinations of Washington D.C., and a firm grasp of unremitting motion in plot and characterizations.  Unforgettable and another fun read for thriller fans.  I highly recommend it, and look forward to catching up with his series, starting once again at the beginning with Inside the Ring.  From there I'll move on to The Second Perimeter, House Rules and House Secrets, while the rest of you are reading his latest.  Again, my appreciation to Mike for his motivation and kind words.

There you have it, this is just a peek at what writers do to write right.

No comments:

Post a Comment