Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Do You Read For Your Writing?

What books I read is mostly determined with an eye toward helping me with my writing. I first turn to my favorite classic authors for ideas for my own fictional stories and novels.

As I read one of these stories, one question is always on my mind: How can I turn this classic story into one of my own, with my own stamp on it, my own setting, characters, and plot? My favorites include: Faulkner, Hemingway, Nabokov, Poe, Kafka, Borges. For literary influences, I stick to the best.

Many of the stories in my collection "Queen of the Chess Cult" were inspired by the books of these authors. Which author has given me more ideas than any other? It must be Poe. Virtually every story he wrote inspires me with my own ideas. For me, these authors are launching pads for my personal literary rocketship.

Sometimes I'll think of an idea for a story, and my mind will match it with a book I've already read by one of my favorite authors. So then I'll look up his story and see how he used a similar idea. It's as if I'm an apprentice learning from a successful author. I may have a few keywords vital to my idea, and I input those into Amazon Books and see what titles and authors appear in the search results.

This leaves me precious little time for "leisure" reading, which I define as any reading I do for fun and not with any idea of using what I read for ideas for my own stories--although that could happen after the fact anyway. I can't even remember the last book I read for "leisure" purposes.

Whenever I buy a new book, I'm expecting it to give me some writing ideas. For example, I just picked up a couple J. M. Coetzee novels because something I heard about them suggested to me that I might be able to learn from them for my own literary purposes. If I don't think a book can give me some writing ideas, it's doubtful I could find the time to get through it, since I'm always checking other books for inspiration.

For my blog, I look to literary essayists for ideas, such as John Updike and Edmund Wilson, and think of ways to write something topical in today's world that they might have written decades ago.

Time Crunch

I think of books I want to read but doubt I will finish: War and Peace, Saul Bellow's novels, Philip Roth, Charles Dickens, lots more where those came from. It would be rewarding to read through their entire oeuvres, but with only 24 hours in a day, it seems unlikely.

I often wish scientists could change the earth's rotation to double the hours in a day to 48. I think then I would have time enough to read everything I want with plenty of writing time as well. I feel a time crunch these days with no relief in sight. Too many novel and story ideas and books to read and write with a limited supply of time to finish everything.

The News Purveyors

News websites give me ideas as well. I like the idea of writing a novel "ripped from the headlines" with trendy topics, such as drones. It's my expectation whenever I browse through my twitter news feeds that I'll find plenty of real world scenarios that would make good plots and characters for fictional stories.

But news sites tend to agitate me since all the major mainstream media sites are politically slanted one way or the other. Honest journalism is a rare commodity these days, so I'm always considering what I read as the product of a political mentality, rather than a journalistic mindset. But still, anybody who doesn't get ideas for novels from reading the news in today's world just isn't trying.

Take a look at my books:

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