Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Goals? We need no stinkin’ goals!

Reading Goals for 2011.

Reading goals? Yeah, right. I’m a writer. Between personal goals, writing goals and other new years resolutions, the last thing I need is another set of goals to clog up my time.

Yet, adding some reading goals to your New Year repertoire is a smart thing to do. And well worth the time and energy spent.

You so often hear the advice to new writers – if you want to learn to write, READ. And it’s so true. If you haven’t read voraciously – and not just for story, but for how the books are put together, you need to make it a priority and part of your education as a writer.
In her January 4th blog entry, my friend and fellow aspiring author, Sherri Meyer, ( talks about her third year of reading goals for 2011. Trying to work herself up to 100 books a year (the mother of four boys did 75 last year), she found her original

inspiration to start a yearly reading goal from a blog entry in 2009 by Kait Nolan. (
According to Kait, she herself was inspired in 2008 by Heather Sellers, author of ‘Chapter by Chapter.’ In the book, Ms Sellers issued the challenge of reading 100 books – with the emphasis on paying attention to how they’re put together and what makes them work (or not).

Ms. Nolan goes on to say she met the challenge in two years, and believes by focusing on whatever aspect of craft she was studying at the time, such as scenes, goals, motivation, conflicts, story structure, etc, she received more from reading those 100 books than she thought she would. Ms. Nolan confesses the more she learns about the craft of fiction, the pickier and more critical she becomes when choosing her books and the less willing she is to waste her time finishing something that just doesn’t work (for her). In the end, the whole experiment was a delightful education in discovering the difference between a well executed and a poorly written story, and she now sports a shelf of keepers to go back to in order to analyze exactly how the author pulled off whatever aspect of craft she admired between the pages.

Another reading goal blog entry Sherri felt worthy to mention came

from Alison Kent (
Ms. Kent has the problem of thinking ‘everything has to be done’ before she can sit down to read. Determined to do as Stephen King ordered, this year she is making the time to read, guilt free. Period. She wants to spread out the reading material, to take in a wider variety than she has in the past. And she has placed on herself an order NOT to go out and purchase more books because she already has a looming To Be Read pile. (She does give herself some creative breathing space – if there is a new book she simply must have, she needs to read at least 10 books off her TBR pile before coughing up the money to buy.) Her goal is to aim for a book a week – 52 books in a year.

Ms. Kent has devised a plan (and welcomes readers to join her) that will take the reading experience and expand it from the comfortable norm people often find themselves in.

1. One new (to me) author each month.
2. Four genres/sub-genres each month (to avoid ruts).
3. Four release years each month (to help cull older books).
4. One book from a glommed author (A glommed author is someone whose books you’ve bought a bunch of after reading one or two that you love).
5. One book from the unfinished pile (until pile is depleted).
6. Alternate male and female authors.

My friend Sherri tweaked this list a bit – for number 2, she is adding at least one book a month must be non-fiction and/or writing related. She told her readers she has other blog friends who have interesting reading goals of their own – such as reading more banned books or reading more classics. And she is considering implementing my suggestion (for something I have done since 2007): For each book read and enjoyed - WRITE to the author and let them know how much you appreciated the read. Tell what worked for you, how you were surprised or how the characters jumped off the page. On the heels of that, CC a copy to their publishing company, so they know and will be more likely to publish something else by the said author.

As for me and my own reading pursuits for 2011?

I will continue to write to authors whom I have had the pleasure of reading their work. Equally, if I love the book, I will CC my note to the publishing company, encouraging them to actively give the author (and others who write in the same vein) more work. On a new note – I am going to start to actively write the publishing companies when something isn’t right. By this I mean the editing. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read recently where the editing JUST SUCKED. And if I noticed it (me, the epitome of grammar students) then something is really wrong with the story. It should have been caught way before it was put on the sales block.

And while I’m at it, I’m gonna start e-mailing the cover artist. There is

some awesome work out there, and cover artists never get enough glory. After all, it’s the cover that usually sells me.

I tend to read between 30-50 e-books a month (about three hours a night before sleeping.) The amount varies, depending on the page count. Novellas and shorts can be devoured by threes per evening, while as a larger novel will take me a couple of nights. I also read 10-15 non-fiction or writing related books a month, though those are used for research purposes and I don’t always read the whole thing through. During the year 2010, I read 483 books. And, as much as I love reading, I am thinking about cutting down. Just a bit.

I do plan on reading a couple of classics this year, starting with the great American writers of the 20th century. I figure they were great for some reason – maybe I’d better check them out.

It is my habit to stick with indie books, small presses and that sort. e-publishers are great, and I have come across some fantastic authors. The thing with e-books and new authors though, sometimes it can be tricky. I think a lot of my trust factor (when it comes to new authors) is the reputation of the e-publisher. I want to check out some new e-publishers, thereby introducing me to new (to me) authors.

In overall fiction, I tend to keep to the GLBT stories – (probably because of all the years I was stuck having to read about straight people and their lives. Now, having such a wonderful selection of glbt fiction books being publish
I reach for those instead.). The one exception to that rule is the Cozy Mysteries. Although my main genre love is romance, I find my horizons are broad when combining romance with a subgenre of mystery, suspense, comedy, paranormal, western, historical, sci-fi or fantasy. With all that being said, I might venture out of my zone and check out a horror novel or two. Possibly from (*GASP!) the straight world point of view.

If a book doesn’t hook me, I refuse to waste my time reading it – so I don’t have an unfinished pile (it gets donated or deleted). I do, however, have the TBR pile from hell. I tend to hit library sales, used book sales and garage sales to find my cozy mysteries and non-fiction reads. I also have an allowance of $40 a month to buy e-books (and there are always buy one/get one or coupon codes for favored readers waiting in my mailbox). I think this year I need to start winnowing down that TBR pile before it topples over on me some night when I fall asleep in bed with my glasses perched on my nose. I will do this by organizing my e-book library (my other library is still in storage on the other side of the state).

So what about you? Do you have reading goals for the new year?


  1. Over 400 books last year?! And I thought I inhaled books, LOL, though I will say my average book was 400 pages long (I've only recently got into e-books which tend to be shorter works).

  2. Amazing! More than 400 in one year...I can't even envision that many. :)

    I have started reading differently lately, as well...and it is true that you can get so much more than just a story out of books if you look at them as learning tools.

  3. yeah - 483 books - most were e-books, the shortest around 40 pages, the longest around 375 pages (those are usually anthologies) - I believe my average e-book read is around 175-225 pages -- which is 60-90k I think (my chart for that is on the other computer).

    When I read a print book (usually the cozy mysteries) they run close to 275-300 pages each.

    The non-fiction can be anywhere between 200-400 pages, but then again, I usually only read about 2/3 of the book, as it is for research or personal improvement.

    So far, for January (this being the 5th) - I have read 9 e book novellas (3 historicals, 3 paranormals, and 3 steampunk - 40-90 pages ) one e book anthology (contemporary western 371 pages) and one cozy mystery in print (inspirational, 288 pages), and I am in the middle of three non-fiction books, doing research on cowboys, cancer survivors, and near death experiences.

  4. George,

    That's a pretty impressive total, even if there were a number or shorter e-books included. I tend to stick with an author and read an entire series at once (currently almost finished with Terry Pratchett's Discworld books - all 37 of them), with occasional breaks when a new book comes out by a previous fave (Robert Asprin's recent posthumous release cowritten by Jody Lyn Nye). If those names don't tip you off, I am heavily into Fantasy (Sci-Fi, not so much), especially Fantasy of a comedic bent (and the 2 listed above can be quite bent at times). Next 'series' to read? Well, it is actually about 15 trilogies based in the D&D world of Eberron, where I spend much of my free time playing the MMO DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online). So as you can see, my reading habits will probably not change much, but I can see where the suggestions you (and others) list could be helpful to keep things fresh. More power to you!!!


  5. OMG I had no idea you were such a serial reader. So impressed, George! You can probably tell just by reading a first page or two what is going to grab you and what isn't. Sort of like an agent or editor. They read that many.

    I used to think I had to remember all the characters, and story lines. Nah, nuts to that, right? Thank goodness there won't be a test at the end of the year. One minor problem I have on my Kindle as I haven't found out a way to mark what I've read, not like my physical bookshelf.

    Love your idea of reading 10 other books first before reading a new one. Five or six a month is about my speed, but that's 10 times faster than before I became a writer, and before my Kindle.

    Thanks for the laughs, buddy.

  6. Thom - I love Terry Prachett! His humor and wit with words leaves me with a hanging jaw - gawd, I wish I could write like him! Thing is, whenever I try, I get accused of purple prose. Hmphf. The romance world (even in m/m high fantasy) doesn't know what it's missing - a touch of Prattchet could go a long way...

    Robert Asprin (who is no longer with us) MYTH series was a hoot. Oz is a favorite character of mine - and you can't go wrong in a story if you have a tralop or two...

    The D & D series based in Eberron sounds quite the serious series - a far departure from Prattchet and Asprin. I wish you luck in your adventures and slay a few nasty dragons for me.

  7. Sharon - yeah, I've run into the same problem with my e-books - remembering which ones I've read (I have over 5,000 e-books now). With my print books, I pencil in the inside cover the date read and my rating system. With my e-books, I never did anything and now I'm screwed. I hate it when I buy an e-book, only to discover I already had it.

    It doesn't help that I have three computers, and the books are all over them. Some are duplicates, some in triplication (so instead of the over 5,000 books I KNOW I have, once combined on my book drive, it tells me I have 12,362 e-books)- and all seem to have a different file name from me trying to sort out things back in 2009 (with a actual program to start an e-book library system. It didn't pan out, but left me with a file mess. UGH!)

    So, for the weeks I was bed-ridden, I started to work on the library - to get the books put into folders by author, then go back through, delete the multiples, combine series, and try to note the titles, the sub genre, and add my own rating system.

    It's a daunting task - one I have barely scratched the surface with. I figure if I squash 50 titles a night, I'll make it.

    What I should have done in the beginning was keep a copy of my e-mails to put along with the folder. Or start writing a review after each book read.

    Hind-sight is always a wonderful thing.

  8. You know, George, that would be useful information to all new eReader owners who got blessed with them at Christmas. Had I known, you're right, I'd have done something else.

    At least most of what I buy is at Amazon, and one nice thing they do is tell you when you've already bought the book. I suppose others do too, although the PDF formatted ones probably don't. I'd be curious if other sites like B&N does the same. Anyone know?

    I remember when my grandmother had a stroke years ago and, although she could barely talk, she was animated and excited she was bedridden. "Oh good, now I can get caught up on all my correspondence!" Good use of your bedridden time, and something we don't stop to do when we're "normal", whatever that means!

  9. Well, George, I've got an excel spreadsheet, LOL.

    It started out just as a list of what I wanted to read from recommendations etc. Then it morphed to include what I actively had in my TBR pile (which includes my e-books). And then I decided to start tracking...oy.

    The spreadsheet now has:
    * one sheet for the books I'm on the look out for and I do print it (or at least part of it) out before I hit a brick & mortar store
    * one sheet for the books in my TBR pile including e-books and library books
    * one sheet for the read books (sorted by date read) -- though I am thinking of doing away with this one
    * one sheet (per year) for the books read in that this list is more extensive in that I have columns for author, title, # in series, format, page # if less than 300, hero, heroine, date read, if it's a keeper or not, and any other notes I might have about the book (like if it was a beta read, genre, etc.)

    I just copy and paste from the 'looking for' page to the 'TBR' page to the 'read' page(s). :shrug: It keeps me sane, I don't buy a book I read from the library (unless it falls under the keeper column), I don't buy extras (unless I'm buying for gifts), and I can sort the sheets any way I need.

  10. Thanks for the post, George. I'm afraid that I have gotten behind with my blogging and replying now that I am back to work after the two weeks down. My reality (with 11 hours at my day job, leaving me only a handful of hours to do everything else, including family time), is I can't find time to read. During my break, I did manage to read about three books, and I was so happy to have been able to find time for that. I really do love to read, and am hoping that 2011 will allow it. We'll see.
    I bow to all of you who can find the time to read so much. Happy reading!

  11. Jeez, you left me behind on the starting blocks... in comparison to you I just don't read at all!!! I reckon if I got to double figures last year then I'd upped my previous year's result by a couple of hundred percent!

    writes: I. M. Impressed of Yorkshire, England!! :)