Creative Writing 1: What do you read? What do you want to write?

Down the left hand side of a sheet of paper, list all the types of book you can think of (such as Crime, Romance, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Biography, etc). If films or plays are what interest you, then try the same exercise with you video or DVD collection. Go through your bookshelves and make a note of how many books you own in each category. Only record those books that you have read or seriously intend to read. What are the top three types of book on your shelves? Is the type of book you wanted to write one of them?BBC Get Writing: What do you read? What do you want to write?

I didn’t look at all my books; not the ones in boxes, nor the ones in cupboards, not the ones by my bed or ‘in the smallest room’. I simply looked at the books on the shelves in my study, which ought to give us some sort of an idea at least.

  1. Fantasy: 140
  2. Thrilller: 108
  3. Horror: 91
  4. Science Fiction: 73
  5. Crime: 70
  6. Science: 54
  7. Humour: 47
  8. Other Fiction: 23
  9. Travel: 18
  10. Philosophy/ Religion: 14
  11. Memoir/ Biography: 14
  12. Other Non-Fiction: 9
  13. History: 7
  14. Articles/ Essays: 5
  15. True Crime: 4
  16. Poetry: 2

What do I want to write? Possibly any one of those top 5 (although I don’t fancy writing a police prodecurals one, so any mystery stories I would tend to write would I imagine be more to the ‘thriller’ than the ‘crime’ side of things). I’m not particularly feeling ’science fictiony’ at the moment, but that could just be because I’ve not read any for ages, and don’t have any science fiction type ideas at the moment.

I’m not entirely sure what this exercise is supposed to prove, however. My book collection has grown over time and while I still buy a lot of Fantasy — particularly Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt — over the last 3 years, I’d estimate that for every Fantasy book I’ve bought, I’ve bought three crime or thriller books.

4 Responses to “Creative Writing 1: What do you read? What do you want to write?”

  1. The Goldfish responds:

    I’m not sure what this is supposed to achieve either. My starting point would be to consider the sort of story you’d like to read, that doesn’t exist yet. And think about stories you’d like to tell and characters you’d like to write about.

    The best books tend to span the genres, at least slightly, and unless you found that you read nothing but one particular genre, I would suggest you concentrate the sort of book that you’d most like to read. Would you like it to be serious or light-hearted? Would you like a bit of romance in it? Would you like some sort of mystery at the centre of it? Would you like it to be in this world, in this historic era, in the North East of England, etc.?

  2. JackP responds:

    While there is part of me that would consider creating a world at some point (and going down either the Fantasy or SciFi routes), I’d imagine I’d be writing something set in approximately the present day, probably in England, not necessarily the North East, I would imagine anything I write would have some form of mystery in it; and while I wouldn’t plan on writing comedy per se, I can’t stay serious all the time, so there would be some light hearted elements.

    We’ll just have to see where NaNoWriMo takes me :-)

  3. Holly responds:

    Glad to hear that you’re going to give NaNoWriMo a go! Hoping to join you, if my course doesn’t prove too taxing.

  4. Jessica Meats responds:

    That opening was a little familiar… Although, in my case, it’s: the books I have in my flat, the books that are still in my bedroom in my parents’ house because there wasn’t room in the car, the books that are in storage boxes in my parents’ house for the same reason, the books my sister has “borrowed,” the books I’ve leant to various friends…

    I also know exactly what you mean about police procedures and crime. If you write about a crime scene investigation and get it wrong, someone will tell you. If you write about some secret organisation hunting someone down, most people aren’t going to know if it’s right or wrong. Certainly, no one’s going to tell you if their secret underworld gang does it differently. That way, you get to have more fun playing with the plot instead of worrying about fiddling details.

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