Photo credit: Ralf Steinberger via Flickr
I recently wrote a post about how I use the Goodreads reading challenge to set goals for how many books I read per year (click here to read). My current goal is 50 (yes, I increased it since the last post). Fifty sounds like a lot of books that I get to read: why set priorities? Because I have 125 books in my TBR shelves, and approximately a bazillion on my wish list, not to mention several bookcases filled with books I’d love to re-read. Last year I found myself ordering new books – OOH SHINY! – even though I had plenty of wonderful, exciting books already on my shelves. Clearly it’s time to focus.
I’ve done a bang-up job in the last three years with my goal to Read More. But I’ve been thinking lately about how to Read Smarter — in particular, reading in ways that will improve my writing and my career as a writer. Naturally, I started giving more thought to prioritizing what to read. This led me to read Gabriela Pereira’s book, DIY MFA. (I’ll post a review on Goodreads when I finish it; come friend me if you’re interested.) One of the three pillars of her program is “read with purpose,” where she talks about prioritizing your reading list, and her advice is quite similar to my plan.
I love it when the expert’s advice is what I’m already doing — high five!
I was also inspired by Sammi Cox’s recent post on her reading challenge goals (click here to read), which were very specific. Mine are less specific, but still help narrow down and remind me what’s most important to me.
Without further ado, here are my reading priorities for 2019:
1) Comp Books
Comp books are those in my own subgenre, and preferably recent successes. They’re the ones I need to know so that I can tell an agent, “My book is like Famous Comp Book 1 meets Famous Comp Book 2, only even better!” It turns out that “comp” is short for competitive. All this time I thought it meant comparable or comparison books. I think I’ll keep thinking of them that way; comparison sounds so much nicer. Unfortunately, I can’t find many books that are similar to what I write. So that either means that writing non-epic secondary world fantasy is poised to be the next big thing, or that nah, nobody wants those books. Or that I’ve somehow totally missed all those other books like mine (this is where you should shower me with suggestions, please!).
2) Fantasy Classics
Because there are amazing books out there that people are still talking about decades later, and I should read them too (or in some cases, re-read them). Not only for the pleasure of discovering a worthy classic, but because it’s a great learning experience to, er, read at the feet of the masters. Also, because I’m sick of not understanding everyone else’s references.
2A) Finish What I Started
I especially want to finish some of the epic fantasy series that I have the first however-many books of but never finished. Most of these are fantasy classics, or near enough, so they fit into that priority.
3) The Latest Greatest in SFF
To keep up on the current stuff that everyone’s talking about, that’s up for a Hugo, Nebula, etc. And who knows, maybe I’ll find my comps there!
4) Diverse Directions
Heterosexual white American men write some pretty good books, but by this point, I’ve read an awful lot of them. Especially as someone who writes in a secondary fantasy world, I’d like to expand my exposure to include more writers and characters from varied backgrounds and perspectives and attitudes and ideas.
5) Writing Craft and Resource
At any given point, I’m usually reading two or three books: one of them fiction and one or two books on writing craft or resource material. The priority this year is to get more focused. I feel like I’m not getting much out of the general “how to write” or “how to plot” books anymore. They go over so much of the same ground I’ve already covered. So I want to concentrate on books that delve into one particular area in more depth. I also want to keep myself on track with the resource books. I tend to go a little nuts there, just grabbing any book about history or culture that might possibly be relevant to something in Eneana at some point, if I looked at it sideways and squinted. Since this year I have some specific world building goals to meet, I’m going to try to rein in those impulses.
6 ) Short story collections and magazines
If I’m going to be serious about getting my short stories published, I need to get more serious about reading what’s out there, both classics and the latest thing, and what’s working.
That’s it. I actually had several more things on the list, but I cut them out. They are things I probably will end up reading, but really, they’re not top priority: they go into the “extras” pile.
That’s a lot of priorities, isn’t it? But there are so many things not on that list. Old favorites that I’d love to re-read, for instance, not to mention classic science fiction, cozy mysteries, historical romance, non-genre fiction, literary classics, most nonfiction… the list goes on. I will almost certainly read (and probably buy) a few books that are not on this list, and that’s fine. But hopefully this helps me focus in and “read with purpose” more effectively this year. At the very least, I have a pretty good idea what I’m going to be reading for the next month, and that’s better than I could have said this time last year.
What about you? What are you planning to read this year? I’d love to hear about your reading goals and priorities!