DIY MFA: The Importance of Reading

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve worked on my DIY MFA. Part of the reason has been the massive forest fire in my back yard. Fortunately, we had an unseasonable snowstorm that helped the hotshot crews to get critical fire-breaks in place. Temperatures are on the rise again, so our break might be short-lived. New fire activity will depend on the wind. Another reason is that my information was inaccessible until I got my desktop re-imaged. The last is a simple excuse—I’ve had a hard time getting started again.

Not that I was idle while my system was hosed. I read—a lot. I read Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series, followed by her Vatta’s Peace series. Then, at the recommendation of a friend, I started reading C.J. Cherryh‘s Foreigner series and listening to her Morgaine Cycle. The change in writing styles was startling, which is why I’m listening to The Gate of Ivrel.

One pillar of the DIY MFA program is to “Read with Purpose.” Ever since I began writing stories with the intent of publication, I’ve noticed that my reading habits have changed. I don’t just read to enjoy the story. I try to figure out what about the writing makes the story exciting and keeps me turning pages or pushing Play. With some books, I’ve read partway then gone back to the beginning to find the foreshadowing and better understand what I read to that point. It almost sucks the fun out of reading, but in other ways, it makes the book more interesting.

As I watch videos from the DIY MFA folks and listen to the BYU lectures of Brandon Sanderson, I realize just how much I don’t know about telling stories, creating characters, and building worlds. But I’m willing to learn.

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