Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Secret, for Readers and Writers

I've just read and enjoyed Russell Blake's The Voynich Cypher--click here for my review of Voynich Cypher--and I'm honored to feature a guest post from the author on my blog today. He's written something for both readers and writers, with really good advice, interspersed with plenty of smiles, so please read on (and leave comments and questions at the end). Thank you so much for visiting today, Russell.

Meanwhile, for anyone wanting to know more the book, I plan to post reviews tomorrow. It's certainly an interesting novel to read around Easter (think Dan Brown), but then, I've always really enjoyed interesting and thought-provoking. I like exciting mystery-adventures too.

Oh, and if you look up Voynich on Wikipedia, you'll find out there really is a Voynich manuscript! 

Over to you Russell... 

For Readers and Writers

I've been asked, mainly by voices in my head, what the secret is to writing well.

I think I've figured it out.

After writing about a million words since I started publishing last June, I've discovered the truth.

The secret is simple.

Read a lot.

That's right. You want to become a good writer? Read voraciously, with a discerning eye, and grow impatient with sub-par writing. Learn to tell the difference, and drill in into your noggin. Then, pick up a keyboard or pen and write something.

It will suck. Unless you're the equivalent of Mozart (and let's not forget he was a child prodigy recognized as such by the time he could walk), it will. Just realize that. Read your creation with your reader hat on, and you'll quickly see I speak the truth.

So ball it up, or hit delete, or file it for posterity, and then write something else.

Repeat this simple process until you have written, oh, I don't know, about 10,000 hours.

That's how long Malcolm Gladwell's compelling book, Outliers, says it takes to become truly proficient at a skill.

Obviously, most don't like that equation. I mean, it's fine for others, but surely we, WE, are different, and somehow absolved or excluded from that crude rule of thumb...

Likely not.

I have a friend whose daughter is in ballet class. Little gladiators in leotards spend a lot of time looking seriously in the mirror as they perform the same, identical steps, over and over, hours and hours every day. Eyes following themselves and watching their classmates, while waiting their turn to try it again.

They also watch lots of footage of themselves dancing, as well as go to as many performances as possible. The watching is key. Even when they can't dance due to injury or sickness, the girls sit in class and watch. Because you only develop an appreciation for the art by watching it. And only when you watch, do you see the mistakes. You encourage a different sort of acuity than that created by doing.

I write things. You are reading one of the things I wrote. Hopefully you like it. If you’re still reading it (which this sentence assumes you are), you either sort of do, or are a masochist. I'll take you either way.

Besides espousing on ballet and the decline of western civilization, I also write thrillers. My latest, The Voynich Cypher, which is being mentioned in the same breath as The Da Vinci Code and Raiders of the Lost Ark (mainly by me, and those who hate me, but hey), is written as well as I'm able to write, after putting in my 10,000 hours over many years (so much for my subtle subliminal self-promotion, huh? Still have to work on that). If you're curious as to what I'm all about, you could do worse than checking out Voynich. Although I'll warn you up front that it’s controversial and may not sit well.

Some of you reading this blog are probably writers. Or maybe are thinking of writing. I've heard that everyone has a book in them. That's probably true. Just as everyone who picks up a Karaoke mike has a song in them. But if you want my advice, read a lot before you try to write. I simply don't understand writers who don't read. And there are plenty. To me, it's like trying to create a TV sitcom without ever seeing one. How do you do it competently?

I’m a big proponent of self-actualization, and chasing your dream, and crafting your own reality. If you are a budding writer, you owe it to yourself to pursue your dream. But never forget where a love of writing comes from.

Being a reader.

So my advice is, get busy.

Name: Russell Blake
Title: The Voynich Cypher
Genre: Thriller
Summary: When a sacred relic is stolen from its subterranean guarded vault, Dr. Steven Cross, amateur cryptologist, becomes embroiled in a deadly quest to decipher one of history’s most enigmatic documents – a 15th century parchment written entirely in unbreakable code; The Voynich Manuscript. Stalked by secret societies, and aided by the daughter of a murdered colleague, a trail of riddles catapults Cross from England to Italy to the Middle East, where a Byzantine web of ancient secrets leads him to a revelation so profound it will change the world order.


Janalyn Voigt said...

I couldn't agree more. I don't understand writers who say they don't have time to read. That's like stating you don't have time to take a shortcut.

maryrussel said...

I just read this riveting book too and I loved it. Thank you, Russell for allowing me to escape the mundane for a few hours.

Russell Blake said...

Thanks Mary. Glad you liked it. Be sure to leave a review at Amazon and Goodreads. Janalyn, as they say in Clerks, you can fill the Grand Canyon with what I don't know. But writers who don't read are like musicians who don't listen to music...

J.Lyn Jones said...

Thank you for the writing advice. I like the imagery about the ballerinas and the painstaking practice.
It's good to be reminded that mediocrity is easy, but to "go for the gold" it takes deliberate practice and soul searching pain.
Loved the advice about putting on the reader hat.
Thanks again.