Back in the fall of 2008, I read Heather Seller’s Chapter By Chapter, in which she issued the challenge of reading 100 books, paying attention to how they’re put together and what makes them work (or not). You’ll see the tab up top where I’ve been tracking what I’ve read. Last night I finished City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, which was book 100. It’s taken me around two years to do it, but I knocked out 100 books (and okay a few novellas). I started and put down at least that many others in the same time frame. I guess I’m averaging about 50 a year, which isn’t bad considering my schedule.
I have to say I think I’ve learned more from reading those 100 books than I thought I would. I can’t really say that I can attribute my growth JUST to reading those books. What I really DID was to focus on a chunk of them and analyze whatever aspect of craft I was studying at the time. Scenes and sequels. Goal, motivation, and conflict. Story structure. These things tend to pop out at me now after getting all these stories under my belt–whether they’ve been executed well or very poorly. The more time passes, the more I learn about the craft of fiction, the picker and more critical I get of what I read and the less willing I am to waste my time finishing something that just isn’t working for me. But either way, each of these books have been a real education. I’ve got a shelf of keepers that I know I’ll go back to in order to analyze exactly how the author pulled off whatever aspect of craft I so admire there. Which was the point.
You so often hear the advice to new writers–if you want to learn to write, READ. And it’s so true. If you haven’t read voraciously–and not just for story but for how the books are put together, you need to make it a priority and part of your education as a writer.
Now that the challenge is over, I will, of course, continue to read. I suppose I can move over to Goodreads or Shelfari or Librarything or something to keep track of what I’m reading. I’ve got accounts at all of them. I have to say I’m not totally in love with any of them. But I guess I can take the time at some point to transfer those books from the Book 100 into one of them and just go with it. Anybody got a favorite? Why?