Today Perrin Pring, author of An Appointment at the Edge of Forever, is stopping by for a chat about one of my favorite subjects: reading. I’m a firm believer that if someone wants to write the first thing they need to do is read. Read a lot. But don’t listen to me. Perrin is much more eloquent about it. Please welcome my buddy, Perrin.
When I was in college, an English professor told me how he couldn’t stand to read books where the characters were untrue to themselves. He said he knew if the author screwed up the characters. At the time I thought what he was saying was fascinating, not because authors made mistakes (although that was surprising to me, then), but that my professor could discern those mistakes. How did I learn to do that?
The short answer? Read. Read anything and everything you can. Read all of the time. Unfortunately, it took me several years to learn this.
I graduated college in 2008, just three months before the economy crashed. I was lucky to get the dead end job I did. Perhaps the most significant outcome from that awful job was that I decided to devote most of my free time to writing. It was then I came across the adage that you have to read a lot to be a good writer. As a twenty-three-year-old, I knew I was the obvious exception. Besides, I didn’t have time to read. I had to work and when I wasn’t working, I had to write.
So, if it isn’t obvious from my set up here, that book I wrote as a twenty-three-year-old was never published. While there are dozens of reasons for this, an important one was that at that point in my life, I made very little time for reading, and it showed in my writing.
Yes, it’s great to support other writers by reading their works, but another HUGE reason to read as a writer is to learn. You may not start your writing career by reading books with an eye discerning enough to pick out what you want to emulate and what you don’t want to do, but that’s okay.
After my first novel attempt, I started to read, constantly. Then, in the end of 2010, a friend told me about Goodreads.com. Talk about suddenly being held accountable for my reading (or lack of reading). I could physically see how many books I’d read, and I could see how many books I hadn’t read. I’m a pretty competitive person, and suddenly my biggest competition was me. I needed to start reading. I needed to start outdoing myself. In 2011 I signed up for my first reading challenge. I wanted to read 50 books that year.
As I started to take my reading habits seriously, I remember thinking I must be the worst writer/reader in the word because I couldn’t find any mistakes in others’ works. Then, one day I was writing, and I realized my sentence structure wasn’t as crisp as I wanted it to be. I stopped writing and picked up the book I was reading (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak). I started reading and looking for sentences with a similar structure to what I was trying to create. This was my first break through.
Because I was reading others’ works, I was able to identify areas in my own writing that needed improvement. Much to my surprise, the first lesson I learned about writing from reading wasn’t about the flaws in others’ works but about the flaws in my own. I started seeing how much better others’ prose was. I started to see where I was lacking, and I started to learn from it.
This was just the tip of the iceberg. In spring of 2012 I bought a book at a thrift store and ended up only reading it with a red pencil in hand. It was a published pile of trash, and I marked every error I could find. I was enraged that such dribble could be traditionally published and my work not be, but I paid very close attention to what I wanted to avoid doing. In the end, the book was filled with red and I was feeling slightly like a jerk, but I walked away from that knowing I could do better. If that kind of prose could be published, there was hope for me.
Then, in the summer of 2013, just before I signed my first traditional publishing contract, I read Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. Talk about a beautiful book. I was convinced that it was going to be one of my all time favorites. I only wished I could construct sentences as simple and moving as those, and then I reached the end. Guess what? I finally did it. I found a character that was untrue to himself. De Berieres committed the ultimate sin, and I both hated him and wondered at myself for it.
While my prose is in no way perfect now, I know it is infinitely better thanks to my reading habit. As I started to seriously pursue my love of writing, I was bombarded with what people considered absolute “Must’s and Must Not’s” for writing. After years of hearing – never write at night, always write at night, only write after you’ve worked out, don’t work out until you’ve written – and other equally contradicting pieces of advice, I can place every bit of writing advice I’ve ever heard into three categories. In order to be a writer you MUST:
3.) The rest is just details.
Synopsis of An Appointment at the Edge of Forever:
Filion felt safe in his role as a Dream Searcher. He was paid to venture into other’s dreams and exert influence over individuals whom he would never meet in the flesh.
But that was until he received The Summoning. Filion has been called to track down and protect Ryo, the last of the Chozen. She is the only hope of preventing a tide of evil driven by the Afortiori and the prospect of universal slavery if they aren’t stopped.
Time is ticking and Filion has no idea of how to find Ryo let alone how to protect her, yet destinies of planets rest in her hands. Enlisting the help of a rag-tag band of mercenaries, Filion will set out to search the wastes for Ryo. Together they will confront an evil whose power they just might have fatally underestimated.
About the Author:
My name is Perrin Pring. My first novel, An Appointment at the Edge of Forever, is the first book of the Ryo Myths, a science fiction trilogy. I’ve also written a handful of shorts, one of which, Enabled, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
I’ve had a variety of adventures that have given me a lot of subject matter for my writing. I’ve worked as a dish washer, I’ve been a volunteer ski patroller, I’ve represented in the United States in international white water kayaking races, I’m learning Italian, I’ve lived on Maui, and in college I worked as a raft guide in Grand Teton National Park.
On Twitter and Instagram at Perrinpring