mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Robert's Rules of Writing #16: Write What You Read

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

Masello's sixteenth rule doesn't really need much elaboration, as it's rather straightforward. But that didn't stop him from writing two pages on it, and it's not going to stop me from commenting on it either.

"Write what you read."

Quite simple, really. The best stuff that you will write is the kind of stuff that you most enjoy reading. But what do you most enjoy reading?

Masello has a clever way of helping you find the answer to that question. He asks what kind of book is sitting on your bedside table. Because that's the kind of book you choose to read at the end of the day for pleasure, and therefore that's the kind of book you should be writing.

I've seen this advice from many other writers. Lawrence Block's own story comes to mind. Back in the days when there was a big market for confession stories, Block tried to write one. But he couldn't get past the thought that such stories were mind-numbing, rotten garbage, and consequently, he was never able to write one that was any good. (He once wrote three in an afternoon to fill a hole in a magazine for a desperate editor, and Block says that was some of the hardest money he ever earned.)

I try not to quote Masello's essays directly in my own, but the following is too good not to share:

"If you wouldn't read it, you will not be able to write it."

And that's the gist of it.

As for myself, the books sitting on my bedside table include a lot of science fiction, particularly the works of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer. I've also got some nonfiction, mostly science and history, and -- amusingly enough -- a lot of books on writing. Maybe I should write one of those.

What kind of books are sitting on your bedside table?
Tags: books, personal, roberts-rules, writing-advice

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