Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Training 3: Do your homework!

"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies." Ray Bradbury

I like to tell the story about winning a book. Not a winning book, but winning a book. During the 2001 Horror Writers Convention in Seattle, WA, Cemetery Dance Publications was kind enough to give away a few books through the Horror Writers Association's hospitality suite. One of the books was Richard Laymon's THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW. The book was honored that year with a Bram Stoker Award, a feat Laymon couldn't celebrate because of his sudden death just weeks before. The last day of the convention, following the drawing for the books, a group of young writers cornered me about just who had won. Since I had a couple of unclaimed books (including the Laymon), I gave them away.

"Wow! Is the author still here and can I get him to sign?" asked the young man with the Laymon book in his hot little hands.

"Well, no," I said. I was taken aback that any member of the convention wouldn't know about Dick's tragic heart attack. Besides being a popular author, he had also been a dynamic president of the HWA. "Mr. Laymon is dead."

The young man grinned as took off after the others. "Okay then. I didn't know. I don't read horror. I just write it."

I don't think I'll ever recover from those words: "I don't read horror. I just write it."

Quite plainly I can't comprehend how anyone could attempt to write in any genre without having first read what stories have already been written. Of course, it's impossible to read everything, but this man didn't say he'd never read Laymon. He said he didn't read what he supposedly was involved in writing.

So what are you writing and, more importantly, what are you reading? Reading helps a writer see how others are tackling a particular theme, character, style, voice, etc.

Here's the weekend assignment:

1. Read something and then write a brief (no more than 500 words) review of the book/poem/short story/article/play.

2. Do something: Take a walk; see a movie; watch the NCAA tournament; hold your spouse's hand. In other words, taste life. It's easier to write about what you know when you reach out to know more.

See you Monday!


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