Early in my writing journey, I’ve come to my first dilemma for which I don’t have a clear answer, and not one I don’t think anyone can provide me with an answer, either. That dilemma is how much should I be reading to learn about writing styles? A lot? A little? Somewhere in between? What I like? What I don’t like? A mix of both? And what else?
To read a lot could expose me to lots of styles I would know about from which to assess, see what I like and don’t like, derive some things from that, among other possibilities, to help find my own voice. However, that may taint my thinking, and introduce my bias from my choices, whether recommended by something common among my sources, or that which the public accepts to have become best sellers or classics, etc. Reading not a lot could let me experiment more freely, though I could experiment with having read a lot, too. I’d be less tainted by knowing I’m reading books that are successful as that would weigh in my mind to be considered “good” learning content, even if it might not be for any number of reasons. Reading more would be more time, of course, which I’m short on for a two year journey while working full-time and doing other things.
Getting lots of variety would be the ideal goal, to see what’s out there, good and bad, but that would take a lot of time. There are lists of writers with their styles from which I can choose, or pick one from each to get a feeler for, if I haven’t seen already. Some focus would be nice, though, to avoid the “bad” examples, if I can to help save time, but among successful books, are there any real “bad” examples to learn not to emulate to some extent, even if not full extent? One thing I have committed to doing in 2021, though, is to read at least 52 book samples from Amazon. They’re free, available to me at any time, and let me get a sample to know if I want more, or just to know certain kinds of writing styles exist out there.
Purpose and desire. I do know some writing styles I like and/or want for certain pieces already. It’s not all a free-for-all to read and learn. Maybe I can use purpose and/or desire as lens through which I can filter some variety and volume out to make optimum use of my time scanning the literature.
My current solution
As with many things in life, moderation, is best. That doesn’t mean exactly or nearly down the middle, just not extreme to either side. I’ll combine all these considerations and maybe get a shortlist of books which I think will serve my purpose, then read them as I think I need them most urgently, like if I wanted something with a passive, reflective memoir voice now, I’ll read something like that rather than an action story next. Alongside, that, I’ll do my sampling of book samples and hope I get lucky here and there to find something really dandy that will maybe lead me on a short path to a few more books, or a rabbit hole to read many more books related to and/or stemming from one of those sample books.