Books are learning tools. 

Writers know how important reading is, even if we go through periods when reading is not a big part of our lives. Books are learning tools not just for kids and teens, but for adults who write or who aspire to write, as well.

I may dislike the content of a writer’s work – I can’t read Jack Reacher books any more simply because they are too violent for me – but I do learn a lot from an author’s style of writing about how to create tension, how to keep the text minimalist and moving so that we quickly get to grips with a storyline. I have learned a lot from Lee Child’s techniques for writing good fiction.

And similarly, I don’t read Stephen King’s novels though I do respect him hugely for his persistence and for the discipline of his writing habit. I also appreciate that he takes grammar and syntax seriously, not merely writing off these aspects of clarity as fussy, fin de siècle snobbery.

And while I recognise the usefulness of daily word counts, I do still feel free to digress from the writerly discipline of these greats, because my circumstances and priorities are different from theirs. Stephen King suggests, for example, that we should aim to write several thousand words a day, every day: which is something for me to aim for, certainly, but until I make my living by writing, not something I can reasonably set my mind to. Though Nanowrimo might be a good place to start, I seriously doubt being able to keep up that kind of work rate.

There are writers whom – ssshhh! – I cannot read. And again, it is hugely instructive to work out why not, and what and how I would do things differently. Since understanding that I need only aim to write for “my tribe” I am quite relaxed about different tastes in writing. As with most other things, it’s a case of different strokes for different folks.

Thanks for listening.

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