Thursday, July 29, 2010


BEACON FLASH #46 - August 2010

Summer reading is an annual treat that writers enjoy as much as any reader. What does it mean for you?  A secret indulgence to have time to read novels that romp along? Time to catch-up on all the books friends have lent you? Or simply something to do when there's no TV in the tent?

Summer reading for me is much as it is at any time of year. As a writer I am reading widely and more than I ever did before. I gave up TV about two years back so I could find two hours more each day for books. Sure, I watch the news as I cook dinner and the golf majors, but that's all.

This newly captured time has allowed me to read more YA fiction and nonfiction, as well as adult Canadian and BC history, both genres in which I write. I can have a go at the latest bestsellers and the many titles that appeal to me from book reviews and recommendations. I read magazines from cover to cover too -- Nat. Geog., Outdoor Photography Canada, and Tidings are among my subscriptions, and I get a national daily newspaper online.

But, I also make time for books outside my favourite genres, authors I don't like but are acclaimed, and books on the craft of writing. Most writers don't read enough the latter. I read these books repeatedly, especially those on grammar and editing. I read them in small chunks, think about what I've read, and attempt to remember the nuggets. I do this while waiting around - in a dentist's office or riding the train. Some, like Strunk and White, I've read half a dozen times, and need to read yet again.

Here are some titles on craft I think are worth keeping close:
    Cover of "Old Friend from Far Away: The P...
  • Bell, Susan. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself.
  • Cutts, Martin. Oxford Guide to Plain English.
  • Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones; Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. (These have much to offer all writers.)
  • Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Your Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Lyon, Elizabeth. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore; A Writer's Guide to Fiction; A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction.
  • Maass, Donald. Writing the Breakout Novel.
  • Prose, Francine. Reading like a Writer: A Guide for People who Love Books and for Those who Want to Write Them.
  • Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.
  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
  • Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. 
  • Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (applicable to fiction too.)
Thanks to Joyce Gram, editor and writer, for her list at It helped remind me of some wonderful books for writers.

QUESTION: Do you need to widen your reading as a writer? If so, what step must you take to achieve it?

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