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Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading is Necessary: Guest Post by Terry W. Ervin II

I've got another wonderful guest post from Terry W. Ervin II on the blog today! If you didn't read his post on panels, I highly recommend you do! Terry's new book, Soul Forge, is now available! (See the end of the post for where you can buy it.)

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In some variation it’s often said: An author needs to be a reader.

Most writers are pressed for time, even if one only considers career and family responsibilities.
And every hour with a nose stuck in a book is an hour that isn’t spent writing, editing, revising, researching, marketing, and a myriad of other tasks necessary for an author to be both productive and successful.

So, on balance, is the time spent reading worth the potential payoff?

For me the answer to this question came into focus during an email exchange with a former crit partner. With a husband and children, work, and moving, she had a lot on her plate. Plus, she’s been revising and editing a handful of novels and beta reading for a writing partner. My former crit partner didn’t feel she had the time to read. But, during the course of our discussion, she indicated that she’d finally sat down and began reading Flank Hawk, and admitted it’s the first novel she’s read in over two years.

We discussed use of description, including what’s ‘in favor’ on a writing forum where we’re both active. While reading my novel, she recognized that the ‘consensus’ on the forum of what works didn’t match how I implemented use of detail within the story’s narrative. Going back and looking at her latest revision effort, she recognized what was missing and could make it better.

That’s one thing reading does. It reminds a writer of what works, and helps a writer avoid getting stuck on autopilot, caught up in ‘group think,’ or writing with blinders on.

Reading and re-reading, and studying how an author crafted—tells a story—helps me immensely. When I’m unsure, trying something new, or get stuck on some aspect of storytelling, I go back and read and study, seeing how successful authors like Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny and Sandra Kring (to name a few of my ‘go to’ authors) did it. Then I apply what I learned to my current story and my writing style.

For example, that method enabled me to refine the frame story structure in Relic Tech and create the chapter starts in Flank Hawk. The method provided insight into the techniques to write series sequels (Blood Sword and Soul Forge) that are also able to stand alone. The result is that a reader can start with any novel in my First Civilization’s Legacy Series and fully enjoy that story, yet those who’ve already read a novel earlier in the series can equally enjoy all novels in the series that follow.

Another reason to read is to spark ideas while recharging one’s imagination. Re-reading and thinking about Zelazny’s Guns of Avalon and Harry Turtledove’s World War Series triggered the thought: How might a dragon fare in aerial combat against a WW II aircraft? That episode of pondering resulted in Flank Hawk, the first novel in my fantasy series.

Reading also invigorates critical observation of the storytelling process, and offers insight and uncovers new twists that a writer might use, improving the available array of writing and storytelling skills.

Would anyone expect engineers that design and build cars to refrain from riding in automobiles and note what customers who purchase such vehicles seem to enjoy? Would it make sense for engineers to avoid immersing themselves in the driving experience, where such activities might offer insight into what could be implemented in their next automotive design effort?

Finally, I find that reading allows me to discuss novels and authors with fellow readers of fantasy and science fiction. This is especially useful at conventions and book signing events. It enables me to both make a connection with potential readers, and to determine if what I write might be of interest to them.


Yes, time is a finite commodity, but one worth spending on a little bit of reading.




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Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction.


His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK, BLOOD SWORD and SOUL FORGE, his newest release from Gryphonwood Press. Terry’s debut science fiction novel RELIC TECH is the first in the Crax War Chronicles and his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies and magazines. The genres range from SF and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com or his blog, Up Around the Corner at http://uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com.

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You can buy Soul Forge at the following locations:

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Yes, reading is a necessity. You must make time for writing and reading to grow as a writer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Terry.

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    1. I'm glad you agree, Cher. Occasionally I come across some writers early in their efforts that sometimes claim: I've never read much but I want to be a novelist, or they indicate that there just isn't any time to read at all. I think this really hinders their efforts.

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