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Confessions of an Ex Classics-Only Reader

Confession time: I used to only read Classics.

Not only that, but I bashed what I called "modern literature." I thought authors had phoned it in. Had given into the ravenous demands of readers instead of staying true to their writer's voice. (Little did I know, of course, that honestly so did Classics authors).

So I proceeded only to read Classics, until I reached college.

What happened?

In college, as part of our major, we had to read a number of review books. These books, published in that year, needed someone's opinion. In the case of dozens of these review titles, it required MY opinion.

So I read new.

Although some did make some rookie mistakes, I found I really enjoyed some of the newer reads. They spoke to me on a deeper level than many Classics stories, because they had a refined edge of experiencing the same modern minutiae I had.

And the weirdest thing happened. I began to read more and more books published recently. This actually helped my writing a lot. More on this in a moment.

If you want to get published now, you have to read now

I run into many "Classics only" authors in my inbox.

They believe past 1800-something that writing has lost its touch and refuse to read anything later than Bradbury.

To those authors, first of all, trust me. I get it. I was in your shoes when I first got started. Part of me wondered why authors didn't have the symbolic finesse of Fitzgerald or the triple-edged humor of Shakespeare.

But once I read more and more modern books, I realized the opposite. Authors do, in fact, implement these devices. In fact, they do so in addition to having MORE restraints than previous authors ever did.

In other words, many Classics authors would not get published today because their writing is not strong enough.

Read that again.

Imagine Victor Hugo trying today to convince a publisher to take on his 500K+ Les Miserables? It wouldn't happen. He didn't do tight writing. He gave us useless histories of Abbeys or the history of France that didn't even have any significance on the plot.

So to those Classics-only readers who love to write, let me explain why publishers need you desperately to read modern works. And why only reading the Classics can hinder your growth as a writer:

Classics, although timeless aren't always timely

Mark Twain has a fun writing voice. But Mark Twain's voice doesn't appeal to teens now the way Marie Lu's does.

Each age has a different vogue style. Don't fool yourself into believing Classics works are untainted. Shakespeare threw in fart jokes into his work to appeal to those with a less refined humor. Arthur Conan Doyle serialized his stories before he published them in book format, trying to get as much bang for his buck as possible.

Whatever we read seeps into our writing.

If you want to write now, you have to read now.

Publishers require MODERN Comparative Titles

If you want to win a publisher over, they'll ask you, "So what books are similar to yours?"

If you tell them Huck Finn or 1984, they'll turn you down right away. Why? Because they want to know what books selling NOW (i.e. published 5 years ago) can your book compare to? Does it have CURRENT market interest?

In order to have those comp. titles, you have to read newer books.

Agents and editors don't like fixed mindsets

As an author, if you go to an agent or publisher, puff out your chest, and say you refuse to read modern books in your genre, they'll instantly reject you.

This shows them you did not put the research into assembling your book. All authors stand on the shoulders of giants, and those giants come in the form of recently published books.

Are Classics Bad?

Of course not, I enjoy reading them from time to time.

But authors often put them on too lofty a pedestal. And if we want to grow as authors, we have to read a variety (i.e. newer books).

Why does this matter?

OK, Hope, you've made your point. But why does it matter what we read?

This matters because traditionally published modern authors have to prove themselves far more than they did back in the 1800s. Because people continue to re-read Pride and Prejudice over and over again and refuse to try new romance books, new romance authors suffer.

Good readers make good writers.

Many writers often like to skip out on the research portion and get right to the writing and book contract. But in publishing now, you have to pay your dues. That includes reading modern works.

And who knows? Maybe you'll find your favorite author when you read new books. And you support a starving author when you purchase that book ... a noble cause, whether you are an author, a reader, or both.


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