I love reading. It is my main hobby. I am always on the lookout for new authors and books to enjoy. But, I also get recommendations from friends, magazines and the Internet that I ignore. Because of my ever-growing TBR list, I have more books to read than I could ever get to.
Lately, I’ve been more reluctant to add to my reading list. A few months ago, I deleted titles from that list. In doing that, I marked my reading time as valuable and solidified what is worth that time.
You may also have an unwieldy TBR list. Pull it now. Literally, if it’s a physical copy. Let’s make sure you spend your time wisely and see what you don’t have to read.
Here are five things aspiring authors can remove from their TBR list:
1. The Classics.
True confession: Despite having an English degree and a business helping people write novels, I have never read Moby Dick. It sounds long and tedious. I have heard several times that everyone attempting to be a connoisseur of English literature must read it. I once read an entire article in a literary magazine about the benefits of reading and re-reading Moby Dick. At this point, I probably can’t read it without it feeling like an assignment for college.
Some classics I do enjoy reading because I think they demonstrate good writing. I have read To Kill a Mockingbird three times. The classics can teach writers, but even more important is reading recent releases in your genre. Those are what agents, editors, and readers will use to evaluate your story. That’s where you should go first to study technique.
2. Books in other genres that don’t interest you.
Publishing runs on genre, and understanding your genre is one of your first tasks as an aspiring author. You also need to be aware of major trends in publishing. Big hits in other genres aren’t going to affect you much. You don’t have to read the YA romance everyone is talking about if you’re writing a cozy mystery.
Personally, this is where I recently got bogged down in my reading. I tried reading two books in genres I don’t typically read. But I like reading new things, and they sounded interesting. One was set in my favorite time period to study. I laid both aside rather quickly. I re-learned why I don’t enjoy those genres.
I also am part of a non-genre-specific book club and have encountered books I never would have read on my own but ended up loving. By all means, go beyond your reading comfort zone. But also allow yourself to say no to things you know you won’t like.
3. Craft books that aren’t helpful.
As an aspiring novelist, you should be hungry to learn as much about writing as you can. Reading books on writing is a great way to learn. But, everyone has different philosophies and approaches to writing. Some will appeal to you more than others.
Most of these books have introductions where the author explains the problems she is trying to solve and their solutions. Ask yourself: Am I experiencing the issues this book addresses? Can I implement the advice? Does the author understand my problem?
Remember that being a good writer is being a skilled artist, not a knowledgeable scientist. If you read writing advice that is confusing or doesn’t apply to your situation, set it aside. Take what makes sense. Over time, you will develop a process that draws from multiple sources and works for you.
Again, you should try new things, but don’t blame yourself when something doesn’t work. Find what does and stick with it.
4. Blogs and magazines that don’t resonate or get repetitive.
Blogs and magazines for writers are important resources when you are trying to break into the market. They give easy access to great information from industry experts. You should read some of them when you are first figuring out how publishing works.
But, every publication has its own leanings and opinions. It’s not that one is wrong and another is right. Each one targets slightly different types of writers. If you are considering purchasing a magazine subscription, peruse a copy and ask yourself a few questions: Do they feature authors in or near your genre? Do you see yourself using the services that are advertised or endorsed? Do the articles address issues you are facing? Does the general tone appeal to you?
Even a good resource may start to feel repetitive. When that happens, stop using it. It’s there to help you. It must be worth the time to read.
5. Books you “should” read to the exclusion of books you want to read.
When you are trying to publish your first book, there are definitely things you need to read. But step back occasionally and read for enjoyment. Reading is still your hobby. Read for fun to unwind at night or to celebrate finishing a draft. Don’t feel the need to justify everything on your reading list.
You’re probably a writer because you get swept up in good writing. Allow yourself to still fall under a good book’s spell. That is what you want to give your readers. You should feel it often.
Tell us in the comments: What are you going to remove from your TBR list?
Grace Pelley is a fiction book coach and a former intern at small presses and agencies. Find out more at https://secondchancebookcoaching.com/.