If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ∼Toni Morrison
Sometimes writers are given advice to write what they know. I prefer the advice to write what you are interested in. If a writer can stay engaged while writing something, there is a much better chance that the reader will also be engaged.
Thoughts about writing what interests you and writing the book you want to read came to mind a couple of times over the past few months as I attended workshops and a conference.
The first time was at a workshop at the Tucson Festival of Books given by Donis Casey titled “How to Commit Murder”. The session was about writing murder mysteries. There are many variations and sub-genres in the mystery/thriller arena. How does a writer determine which form is best for her? Donis suggested we do that by deconstructing our favourite novels, the books we like to read.
The advice was to look at these books and discover what they have in common. What type of characters interest you? What did the author do that particularly appealed to you? What is it you like about the plot and how it unfolds? How did the author captivate your interest? Is there something in the style of writing that continually attracts you? We do not want to mimic someone else’s style, but looking at our favourite reading materials may give us insight into what truly interests us and help us direct our own writing, whether it be a mystery story or some other genre.
After we’ve written the book we want to read, we probably want others to read it too, and that involves publishing. I thought about “write the book you want to read” again when I attended a publishing conference “50 Shades of Publishing” put on by the Manitoba Editors’ Association. In one of the sessions, David Larsen of the University of Manitoba Press talked to the group about the importance of approaching the right publishers. He suggested we look on our own bookshelves to identify publishers who might be appropriate for our work. If we have written the type of book we like to read, that makes a lot of sense.
Most writers love to read. The books on our bookshelves are our friends. How inspiring to think they may provide answers to our writing direction.