I realise that a lot of you will be at most only mildly curious about what I’m reading right now, so I’ve decided to mix things up a little. These are three books that I’m hacking through right now and I think they make a good representation of a literary grunt’s arsenal.
This is the most obvious thing that you need to have before starting a writing project. Not this book in particular, though it is a good read so far, but a source of inspiration. Most of you will already have a wealth of stories, characters and places rolling around in your heads.
Inspiration can come from somewhere you’ve visited, a TV show you watched, a film or even a conversation you overheard on the train. I’ve chosen a fantasy novel for a number of reasons. It looked like a good read, the genre will provide broad sources for ideas and the fact that it’s a novel means I can learn from an author who’s already made it!
This choice was only half for fun. I’m a big fan of ancient Rome and have been since childhood, reading historical fiction like I, Claudius (if you haven’t read it, you should certainly give it a go).
But this is also research for a project I’m writing at the moment, about the members of Rome’s lowest social class at a time of far-reaching upheaval.
I had to hunt to find this title because most bookshops mainly stock histories of the emperors and that famous chap, Julius Caesar was it? Whereas I’m fascinated by the Roman Republican period after Hannibal and before Spartacus, when Caesar was toddling around in whatever Romans used for nappies.
It’s my first time buying this kind of book, let alone reading one. Previously, I’d seen the sharp covers with their slicked-back hair and gaudy knock-off watches, and promptly looked the other way. I’d dismissed them as easy ways to con aspiring writers.
And it’s partly true. You can’t learn how to write well from a book. But what it can do (or so I hope) is help you to learn the rules and know which unexpected pitfalls to avoid. Once you know what the general laws of writing are, at least you can break them while knowing you’re doing it.