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, (www.sherrimeyer.blogspot.com) 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. (www.kaitnolan.com)
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 (www.alisonkent.com).
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?