Back when I first launched my company, I often used the phrase literary excellence as part of my branding. The idea was that Sahno Publishing evolved out of the notion that literary excellence is more important than a financial formula.

The company entered the publishing world with the guiding principle that books should always find an audience, especially if written well.

Naturally, I hope readers think of my own novels that way, but where does it all come from? For my fellow writers, I think the answer is obvious: you have to read widely before you can write well.

It’s been said by many writers for many years. Emerson wrote, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” And when it comes to what writers themselves say, there’s no shortage of great ones exhorting their readers to read even more.

“The more you read, the more you will write. The better the stuff you read, the better the stuff you will write.” – Annie Dillard

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so… If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” – Stephen King

“By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well.” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

Great Writers Are Great Readers

So what does all that have to do with me or this blog?

Well, I think it’s important for all my fellow writers to get the message any way they can. I love to read, and I love to read the classics. As an undergrad, I was required to take three hours of grad-level literature classes. I took eighteen. At one point, I had to read a Shakespeare play and two major classic novels every week for an entire semester.

In grad school, I continued that kind of pace. I took a seminar in Dickens, which required reading a novel a week, at the same time I had two other grad level classes.

I’m not saying it’s necessary that every writer obtain a formal education in literature; it’s not even necessarily important that they read every great book in the canon in order to create their own great books. But it can’t hurt, and can only help.

After grad school, I certainly didn’t think I was anywhere near finished. I realized that even my Master’s in English hadn’t filled some gaps in my reading experience, particularly continental fiction. So I delved into Balzac, Camus, Mann, Umberto Eco, and many others. Lately I’ve been reading some of the Dreiser novels I didn’t get to in college.

This is the writer’s life. It’s the life of a reader. It means reading widely, reading every great writer you can, until you have absorbed them all and developed your own voice. You won’t be imitating any of them, but some will have influenced you. And that’s all to the good.

Books As Extended Business Cards

As I mentioned on here a couple weeks back, my freelance copywriting gigs feed my addiction to writing fiction, not vice-versa. However, my copywriting business is just part of a larger vision for Sahno Publishing, and that's a publishing company that provides...
kicking that can

Kicking That Can Down the Road

When I started writing my upcoming novel, I didn't have an agenda or even a plan. The story of Whizzers came about very organically, though it has roots in my own life from many years ago. To understand how I evolved as a writer, you almost have to understand how I...

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

When I was thinking of the title for this week's post, I realized I really needed to look it up and confirm that the word is "peace" and not "piece." Just in case. I'd forgotten that that expression is commonly used in weddings...ironic, since my lovely wife and I...

What’s the Worst Thing About Social Media?

I’ve been known to refer to social media as antisocial media, so you might wonder what I think is the worst thing about it. Online bullying? The relentless self-promotion? (Buy my book! Buy my service!) People tagging you or adding you to lists without asking...

Frustrated By the Publishing Process?

Beep. Beep. Beep. You wake up bright and early to the sound of the dreaded alarm clock. First thing, you brew some coffee and grab your computer. It’s a Thursday, so you have to go to work, but you feel compelled to start each day with a bit of writing. You also...
scam

Is the American Dream Just a Straight-Up Marketing Campaign?

Warning: profanity ahead. I should just start all my posts with that from now on: profanity ahead. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed recently when I saw someone had tweeted something like, What's the biggest scam of all time? Patriotic Americans might be shocked...
newsletter

A Sneak Peek at My Latest Quarterly Newsletter—And An Invitation

Okay, I'll admit right out of the gate that this isn't really a "sneak peek." My subscribers got it yesterday. Most of what I send them each quarter is content exclusive to subscribers, but every once in a while I'll share something here as well. The following is from...
software

How Hard Is Software Supposed to Be?

So last week I took the Memorial Day holiday off from everything: no blog, no book project...nothing. Just me and my wife enjoying the day off from work. We don't get that many of those together, so it was nice to just hang out, sleep late, and watch mindless TV shows...

Strictly Commercial In SE Asia

Three weeks is not a normal lapse of time between blog posts for me. I try to blog at least once a week, anyway, but from November 9th through November 23rd, I was on my first real vacation since 2015. The destination: my wife's native Thailand. This was my fifth trip...

More on Literary Fiction

While I'm recovering from some oral surgery I had last Friday, I'm inclined to just rest and update my blog another time. But I'll be on vacation soon, so I'd rather post something than nothing. With that, I recommend blog readers check out my fellow literary author,...