Let me soften that statement. Read better books within the same … era, say. I write historicals now, but I read writers who have stuck around as well as people who write historicals now. Fiction isn’t my native soil, so I read a lot. This definitely helps. Learning what the ‘market’ wants is also very important if you plan to publish. Sentence construction, for example; rules have changed as well as the content publishers demand.
One of my book teachers lately: Oscar Wilde puts you into his world immediately, with one declarative sentence. “The scene takes place in a brightly-lit ballroom.” His characters are drawn so beautifully that right away you’re among the ‘ton.’ The elite in London. His people are often superficial, whereas historicals often just skip those things. Anyway, Wilde’s people do get described once, then we go on to other things. He does this well.
Wilde might not be your cup of tea; he isn’t exactly mine, but writing about rich folks in London is one of his areas, in many plays. I forget about the Norton Anthology and trivial gossipy things.
China wrote me; perhaps I’m going back. You never know; I’m in the middle of paperwork now. Teaching in the PRC you know you’re alive…
My new year’s resolution: remember my ‘high thinking’ all day. Don’t get swamped by pettiness. Memorize poetry; think about things I want to know (when was that piece of music composed? for example). Reading about teen suicides & peer cruelty put me in mind of this. Keep thinking about difficult things that matter!
(New Year’s: Buddha was born and died this week end; he also achieved enlightenment. In Thailand, it’s a new beginning.)
Keep well on this holiday. Mary Ann