Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guest Blog: Read Before You Write

By Cristopher Loke, Executive Editor for Jolly Fish Press and author of "The Housekeeper's Son."


As authors we often blog and talk about writing and the publishing industry, and as we busy ourselves in pursuing the dream of being published and read, we sometimes forget the importance of reading. As busy as we all are, there should always be time for reading. Because, after all, we are in the business of books.

So, let’s talk a little about reading and why it is important. First, as authors, we are storymakers. And as such—as eery as this may sound—we feed on stories to churn out stories. It’s like The Lion King’s circle of life. In order for us to write well, we must also read well. Here are a few reasons why authors should be reading every day:

That’s right. How are we to create awesome worlds and universes for our readers to explore when we have not yet explored any ourselves? While there are some mighty authors out there who can invent something spectacular out of nowhere, most of us aren’t blessed with that degree of godsend. So, we have to discover things for ourselves. JK Rowling based the Harry Potter series on Greek mythology, while Gregory Maguires’s Wicked is derived from the popular Wizard of Oz. Good books always come from somewhere, whether it is a seed planted by another book or article, or an experience faced by the author. Most of the time—I’m willing to bet—they come from something that the author has read.

Ah, this is perhaps one thing that I love most—the gift of discernment. And yes, I got it from reading. Being an avid reader, I am not only able to explore new things and discover foreign worlds and characters, I am also able to learn what makes a good book and vice versa. When I read a book I love, I instantly recognize the qualities in the book that I relate to and love. With such impressions in mind, the next book I read will have to at least be of equal quality, or better. By reading a diverse selection of books, I have learned what works for readers and what doesn’t, which, in turn, helps me in the crafting of my own book. Suddenly, I find myself editing out everything I hate about a book, only leaving in all the elements that work. And this all comes from the perpetual habit of reading.

How many times have we recognized our desire and passion to write, yet we are faced with the dilemma of not knowing what to write about? We want to write so much that we have forgotten to look inside and ask ourselves the ultimate question: What genre do I write best? Which genre do I belong?

True, some authors may argue that a good author can write anything. But in the publishing industry, it is very important to write within the genre that you love most. No point writing about airplanes—even if you’ve done great research—when your love lies in vampires and goblins. As authors we must first identify ourselves before our readers can. And in the book-selling business, we all know how powerful loyal fans can be; they can rake up your sales because they love you and your work. By reading, we are not just exploring new worlds, we are actually “shopping” for the best world to belong to. In other words, we are finding the genre that we, as authors, can feel most at home.

While I can continue on with a myriad of other reasons why every author should make time to pick up a book and read, the three that I listed are perhaps the ones I think are most important. And of course, reading should not only be important for authors, it should be a habitual practice for everyone. Because books don’t do well sitting on shelves. Because literature is an integral part of our civilization—both in its rising and falling. And to be able to contribute to the world of books and knowledge . . . what better honor can there be?

Christopher Loke, executive editor for Jolly Fish Press, has made a splash in the writing world with his powerful and touching novel, The Housekeeper’s Son. This novel explores how far a mother can go for love. The answer? Murder. The Housekeeper’s Son is available as a hardcover and ebook through all major online retailers and a local bookstore near you. Visit for more information.