Writing the Story You Want to Read

I think often times a person’s first novel is the book they want to read–that nobody’s written.  Steven Saylor. Italian-mysteries.com interview, May 13, 2004

“Read, read, read.  That’s all you ever do.”  I remember my sister saying this to me many times when I was a child.  If you are like me you were part of the flashlight-under-the-covers club, either after lights out or early in the morning, or both.  All the Charles Dickens in the library at age 11.  Long before Dangerous Visions, all the hard-core science fiction at age 12.  Age 16 was the Russian year—Tolstoy, Gogol, Chekov, Dostoyevsky.

I thought about Saylor’s comment last night—errr, early today—as I kept going one more paragraph until 2 AM.  I wanted to know what was going to happen next.  Not the story outline but the actual actions taken by the characters and the words spoken.  I couldn’t just leave.  It was like a book I couldn’t put down.

Back to year sixteen, it’s New Year’s Eve I am reading Anna Karenina.  Suddenly it is dawn and a new year.  I wasn’t a virgin reader anymore; it was the first time I stayed up all night reading.  Well, by golly, that’s the kind of book I want to write—one the reader does not put down until she is finished.

Without a great deal of reading—constant reading—a writer will have trouble knowing just what kind of story he wants to read and, more importantly, write.

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