WordPeddler on Authors as Readers — January Vol 1 Issue 3

Welcome to the WordPeddler’s Society h

an article from our Featured Author

Austin Chambers

Why the Best Authors are Readers First

“Man, this is actually… pretty bad,” I thought when I got to the long anticipated book 10 of an extremely popular series. “I mean—does he really think this is good storytelling?” I won’t name it, of course, as it brings no value to this article. But honestly, if that series conclusion hadn’t been so poorly written, I may not’ve taken the plunge into writing myself. But I did—and I need to go back to the mid-90s to explain why it took so long.

I went to a junior college, mostly at night, in the few years after getting out of the Navy. The very first quarter, my English 101 professor would read my stories as an example to the rest of the class. I knew then that I had the makings of a good storyteller. After all, I’d read everything Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Harold Coyle had written to date. But life happened. Baby bumps evolved into kids joining sports. My dream job as a firefighter ended with a layoff at the same time asthma was forcing me to consider what to do for a career. Landing a good paying gig with the federal government helped me climb back out of debt, but it required a lot of overtime. Yada yada yada…

As time passed, I quit reading, and the thought of being a writer never even occurred to me. I’d heard of self-publishing, but until I decided I would do it in 2018, I had no idea just how easy “they’d” made it to get into the game. I’d been actively reading once more, picking it back up in 2012. My eyes had been opened to the rapidly growing preparedness movement, and a co-worker handed me a copy of “One Second After.” After that, I started devouring this new-to-me genre. In the years that followed, I’d discovered that a lot of the popular novels in the genre read like “how-to” manuals for home defense, food storage, or survival skills. To be clear, the series I opened this blog about was pretty good, overall, and it was not the first time I’d had a bad impression of the supposed great books in the genre.

In the three years since I’d penned my first draft one until I went to my first writer’s conference in 2021, I’d heard a few times that “authors need to be readers first.” I heard it again in person at that conference from some talented best sellers like Boyd Craven III and Franklin Horton. It was finally starting to stick. Like many of you, I’ve made best use of my time by listening to audiobooks. I’d actually listened to most of two Ryan Schow novels on the drive down to Lost Wages from Washington State. It was refreshing to just get lost in another universe while cruising through the high desert. I’d started to pick out some major story-telling differences between he and I.

At that conference, my biggest takeaway was not in learning to grow my newsletter or get better at ads, but to study the craft. I’d already written a trilogy and a novella, and finally I was cluing in on studying craft. On the drive home, I finished the Schow novel and then started listening to a book on laying out plot beats. When I got home, I put the current work-in-progress through a major overhaul. I analyzed my existing works and realized that I’d done okay on natural ability, but not perfectly. It was then that I realized that, like those authors who write stories that are just “meh”, that I was not taking-in nearly enough of other author’s work.

I went to an expo in late April and bought two books from every other author in the genre. I’ve been reading stories, capturing ideas, and most importantly—learning the craft. Reading good prose has forced me to evaluate my own words in my current work. Reading about good characters is making my characters better. I don’t always achieve this, but I try to read ten pages each of non-fiction and fiction daily. That is an excellent way to read two to three dozen books a year. It is my hope that as my current series continues to publish, I will continue to hear, “Man, your stories were always good, but now they’re REALLY good!” I’ve heard that with both of my 2022 releases and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t started making the concerted effort to also be a reader.

About the Author

Native Texan “Austin Chambers” wanted to see the water. The Navy was only too happy to oblige, sending him to the Persian Gulf twice (and on a two-month special op) on a nuclear-powered cruiser. The Gunner’s Mate decided to give civilian-life a try after the Gulf War, moving through a series of labor jobs that helped him land a role in a Naval Shipyard. He gave that up to earn some cool-guy points in the fire department, before asthma sent him right back to the shipyard.

Needing some change, in 2021 he left Federal Civilian Service, choosing to pursue his passion for writing and creating videos. His former tax-deductions are all grown up. He and his wife live in rainy and rural Seabeck, Washington with an awesome mouser creatively named “Kitty”. With his new-found time from leaving civil service, he plans on cranking out several book series and finally getting that chicken coop and garden started.

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