I Need an Intervention

Good day, my friends. 

I hope you don’t mind, but I felt the need to address something nagging at me earlier today. 

On a Storycrafter chat, hosted by Faye Kirwin, she asked, “Which books have you emotionally connected with more than any other?”. I had no response. I couldn’t think of one book that resonated with me the most. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized a more pressing problem. I haven’t read a lot of books.

That’s right. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not something I’m proud of. Reading so many writers’ profiles and biographies, a common thread is how certain books influence what they write. (I find this especially the case with fantasy writers.) I can’t say that there’s a book that influenced me to write what I write.  I read books that were “required reading.” And that’s it. I didn’t take the initiative to read anything past it. I didn’t explore all that was available. And I regret it to this day.

It’s been said that we have to read if we are to write better. Regardless of genre and format, we need to learn from the past. Study the techniques from authors we admire. Learn what works and what doesn’t. And then, create something unique to us, even if the story’s been told hundreds of times.

The problem is that I’ve consumed so much “visual media.” I let TV and movies give me unrealistic expectations. For example, I expect a story to jump me right into the action, allowing no time for backstory and exposition. Now, this may be frowned upon in books generally, but I developed an extreme intolerance for it. If something doesn’t grab my attention right away, I don’t consider it worth reading. And on that note, I don’t take the time to properly invest in a story and all the aspects. I indulge YouTube, Twitter, whatever social media is out there rather than take the time to let my imagination run wild. 

So, I’m staging an intervention on myself. I need help in developing a healthy taste for reading. I don’t want to be limited to one genre and one format. I know there are classics I’ve never read or heard of. There are modern novels that might be considered classics in the future. There are numerous book series waiting for me to ingest. There’s so much to learn about the world today that stories can tell in their own unique way. And I’m missing out. 

So, for everyone reading this post, I’m asking for your input. I’m tackling this issue with an open and flexible mind. Name a book that has impacted you the most. A book or series of books that you think I should read. 

I will not use genre as an excuse. I will not use format as an excuse. I will not use time as an excuse. And I want you to hold me to these promises. I need this. If I am to be a better writer, I need to read more than I ever had before. 

Thank you in advance for your support. Until next time, take care. 

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Author: G. R. McNeese

I'm originally from Illinois, currently residing in Georgia. I graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing. I am blessed with a supportive wife and family.

7 thoughts on “I Need an Intervention”

  1. Even in writing, the opening should grab the reader. If I start a book and the first two pages are describing the setting or explaining the world, I lose interest. Maybe that’s why, when I write, I tend to think of it like I’m directing a movie – where do I want the camera? Do I want to make the “audience” gasp, cheer, cringe, or cry? I think drawing on our experiences as visual media viewers can be helpful as writers.
    That said, I love reading and will devour books like there’s no tomorrow. I lean heavily towards fantasy. The first series that really grabbed me was Harry Potter – to the point where when I was in labor I sent my husband to get Order of the Phoenix so I could read it in the hospital. My current love is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I love how he presents his characters – their personalities, their foibles, and the times they shine. In Sci-fi, I highly recommend The Forever Watch by David Ramirez. It seemed a little odd to me at first, but I was quickly drawn in by the characters and the mystery they were trying to solve.
    Hope these help!

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  2. I personally think that learning about storytelling by watching movies isn’t a bad idea at all 🙂 Many how-to books for writers and tutorials on writing borrowed from Syd Field and other screenwriters, and you’ll often see books that are very much outlined like a movie. Many writers specifically write their books in a way that can easily be translated into a script too. So I wouldn’t dismiss visual media as a way to learn about story-telling.

    I read a lot and I always read a lot, but I don’t have one single book of which I’d say it influenced what I write or how I write. I think it’s rather that I developed a taste for certain genres and styles, and I think it’s normal you write stories that fit into your personal range of taste. 🙂 See, you’re certainly not alone in that 😀

    One of the books that impacted me the most was Orwell’s 1984 because it taught me about the power of words. Grimm’s Fairy Tales also rank very high on the list of books that impacted me strongly. The others all are non-fiction 🙂

    Good luck with your quest and maybe the best way to find books to read you might actually enjoy is visiting your local library and spend some time reading through the first couple of pages of books that intrigue your interest.

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  3. I think you’re already on to the secret – more people watch TV and movies than they read. As a result, there’s a trend towards writing more like movies. Jump right into that action, the ‘hook’, save the cat, and be clever with the backstory.
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman had a big influence on me. It’s full of original, unexpected things and breaks more than a few ‘rules’ along the way. It gave me the courage to write the sort of story that excites me.

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  4. Hi George,

    I saw you tweeting about blogging and I thought I’d check out your website. I really like it. Looks like George has come a long way!

    You should consider installing an SEO plugin like Yoast or something, theres loads of good free ones.

    Keep making great stuff!

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  5. Excellent and honest post! There’s nothing wrong with jumping straight into the action, and you’re right about not expecting that out of novels you read.

    I have quite a few favorite novels that have inspired me as a writer:

    -“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows — an excellent epistolary-style historical fiction

    -“A Modern Witch” by Debora Geary — a low fantasy series with characters you can connect with

    -“The Time Machine” by HG Wells — classic science fiction

    That should be a good start! Good luck!

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  6. I want to agree and encourage you on this shift. I’m sure there are writers who don’t read. There seem to be as many ways to write as there are books out there, but I can’t imagine how you learn the rhythm and rhyme if you aren’t baptized in books.

    Even though I do a lot of reading, there’s always an author others swear by whom I haven’t read yet. I also think structure for literary short story is different than a fantasy novelette, so bear that in mind as you go.

    I heard an interview with Lawrence Oswald yesterday (another I haven’t read), and he re-reads The Odyssey every year. They discussed how repeating narratives get under your skin and subconscious and alter what you write. I have favorites that would be terrible templates for the learning writer, full of info-dump or soggy middles, but I still love them. I have other books that I might not love as a reader per se, but which fascinate me as a writer. How did they make me care about that person? Oh, what a neat trick of a twist. Stuff like that.

    As far as finding time to read – I don’t watch tv. That’s not like some gross humble brag. There’s no judgment behind it. TV is great. I just slowly made the choice over the years to put that time into books instead because I couldn’t find the time to do both. (I have to fight myself over Twitter ALL the time. It was easy to take the time I was saving not watching tv and end up watching my feed scroll by instead!)

    There are blog posts out there which discuss reading as a writer vs. reading for pleasure. You might want to try your hand at both. Don’t feel guilty dropping a book that doesn’t grab you. Just keep going until you find one that does! For time saving, I will often read an author’s short stories before I invest time in their book.

    This comment ran long. Sorry. Reading means a lot to me, so I have a lot of (strong) opinions about it! Thanks for the change to vent some of them! 😀

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