Reading as writers

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Rebecca Kiel
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Reading as writers

Post by Rebecca Kiel » June 26th, 2011, 12:32 pm

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Do you read as much as you write? Do you think writers ought to?

Do you read as a writer? Or for pleasure?

What are you reading now?

Rebecca

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Leonidas
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Leonidas » June 26th, 2011, 1:24 pm

Generally, the more I read, the more I write. I haven't written anything for the last few days, and I haven't picked up a book since last Thursday, either. The more invested I am in my own writing, the more I enjoy the writing of others. Sometimes, though, I do burn out -- sometimes I just want to sleep or listen to music or do anything at all that isn't related to words. That's what these last few days have been: a little break from writing and reading, even though I love them both.

In my pile to read from the library right now are The Orchard Keeper and No Country for Old Men, both by Cormac McCarthy; The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover; Bel Canto by Ann Patchett; The Secret Life of Bees (rereading) by Sue Monk Kidd; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; and finally Possession by A.S. Byatt.

I need to get moving on all of them -- that break from reading and writing is going to bite me in the butt when I have to turn in some edited and new chapters of my WiP in about a week and finish at least two of the books listed above.

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Rebecca Kiel
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Rebecca Kiel » June 26th, 2011, 2:08 pm

Those are some good books in your pile.

I'm re-reading parts of Stephen King's writing book (obviously because of the quotes). I am also playing with The Self-Esteem Trap by Polly Young-Eisendrath and am starting the new Madeleine Wickham book.

I think writers have to read. It is a way we extend past our own limitations and learn from what others do well and not so well.

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by maybegenius » June 26th, 2011, 3:08 pm

Yeah, I think reading frequently and widely is a requirement of being a writer. It expands your literary repertoire, gives you a sense of what's currently selling in your genre, and can help you learn the ins and outs of successful (and unsuccessful) plotting/characterization/tropes/etc. I can't remember where I read this (maybe King's book?), but I related to it strongly: You can't be a writer if you don't read. It takes a certain amount of arrogance to expect other people to read YOUR work when you won't read anyone else's.
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by GKJeyasingham » June 26th, 2011, 3:47 pm

A writer should definitely be reading. I actually only started writing seriously about a year ago, and my writing sucked then. Since then, I've read as much as time would allow and I've written things here and there. I look at the stuff I'm writing now, and it's so much better that it actually amazes me.

As for reading more than writing and vice versa...I guess it depends. If you're just starting to write, I guess it would probably be a good thing to read a lot and then start writing. But the best would be to alternate between the two. Maybe read in the morning and write at night? Right now I'm writing and reading a lot, but when school hits again, I'll probably be reading a lot more and writing when I can squeeze in the time.

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by CharleeVale » June 26th, 2011, 4:12 pm

It depends for me. I read so quickly that my brain needs a bit of a respite after I finish a book. (I read a 300 pg. Novel in 3 hours last night) However, reading does seem to boost my creativity level and make me want to write more. :)

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Collectonian » June 26th, 2011, 9:08 pm

I read way more than I write. I'm a lazy writer at times (or more like a really lazy editor...grr) :-P

In my current reading pile:

Fiction
* The Princess and the Hound - Mette Ivie Harrison
* Carnal Sin - Allison Brennan
* Kieli, Volume 3: Prisoners Bound for Another Planet - Yukako Kabei
* Kieli, Volume 4: Long Night Beside a Deep Pool - Yukako Kabei
* Spice & Wolf, Volume 4 - Isuna Hasekura

Non-Fiction
* Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 - Simon Winchester
* Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 - National Geographic

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Holly » June 26th, 2011, 9:26 pm

Rebecca, you asked, "Do you read as a writer? Or for pleasure?"

That's an interesting question.

I just donated seven boxes of paperback books to the library. They were stacked up two and three deep on my bookshelves. I figured I was supporting generations of dust mites, so they had to go ("Mommy, what happened to our house?").

I buy tons of books to see how other people handle dialogue, romantic scenes, pacing, description, and so on. Now that I have a Kindle, maybe I'll save some money with those 99 cent books -- or maybe I should use the library more often (and check out my own books).

The last book that really gripped me was The Prince of Tides. The language is magnificent.

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Rebecca Kiel
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Rebecca Kiel » June 26th, 2011, 10:10 pm

Holly, those must have been seven heavy boxes! Your Kindle is bound to be lighter.

It is an interesting question particularly because I find great pleasure in reading as a writer. There are some whose work I have been following for years that are so masterful they seem to be able to bend language. When I read something very well-written, I get excited and study how the author did it.

Some of my favorites are:

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
A Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I could study these and others for hours. But I am always, always excited to get back to my own writing.

Rebecca

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polymath
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by polymath » June 27th, 2011, 1:19 am

I have several reading hats. One of them is always reader reading for satisfaction. Another one is always reading as writer. There's an editor hat, copyeditor and developmental editor, a screening reader hat, a publisher hat, a reviewer hat, a literary analysis hat, a consumer hat, a student hat, a teacher hat, and a few others crowding my brim. However, they all pull together in a glorious harmony and make for an extremely satisfying reading experience in general anymore, most of the time, for dynamicaly screened and edited published work anyway.

I figured when I graduated high school that my reading skills had peaked and were about the same and as good as any reasonably literate anyone elses. I'd just plateaued though. Several decades later when I went back to school, undergraduate, my reading skills were severely taxed, but they rose to the occasion and gained new heights. Since graduating college, they've continued to gain ground, plateau for awhile, and then push ever higher.

Several surveys conducted over the years indicate that about one in seven high school graduates ever finishes a novel after graduation. One in four college graduates. One in two postgraduates. I used to think that was sad. Now I believe it's tragic, but understandable and allow as each as they want. Such is life.

I now acknowledge that everyone reads differently, writes differently too. Sometimes comparatively like-minded readers and writers connect. More often than not, they don't. I was told at a young age, if you want to be a writer, read, read widely, read deeply. it's taken most of my lifetime to accomplish that and come to fully understand why. I appreciate why now. The opus of literature is a recordation of the human condition spanning creation, a thousands of years old ongoing conversation and documentation of human spiritual and temporal and social advancement. It's beautiful. I understand. Read so that one acquires the wisdom of the ages and can separate the grain from the chaff, so one satisfies one's self what's art and what's not.

I've got boxes of books to read, and more coming in all the time. Soon, I'll be reading and analyzing and responding critically to some heavy tomes, and once again participating in face-to-face writing workshops, and--Providence forbid--tutoring and teaching and fostering young readers and writers. Oh my.

One of my more rewarding reading tutoring experiences was a session with a young miss, an English second language grammar schooler. She could read okay, sound out words, read at grade level, but she was lackadaiscal about it, and couldn't comment on what she'd just read, not even the previous sentence. The teacher put me on notice. "I don't hold much hope for tutors in general. What's any student going to learn from a tutor if a student doesn't want to learn? If you can do something for her, well, we'll see." Heck and libel, was I on point.

I opened the session by speaking in miss' native language and asking her if I said it right. Yep, she said, and her eyes lit up. I asked her to speak in her native language and translate into English the names of some objects around us. I asked her questions in both languages. She replied in both languages. I asked her if she had any questions she wanted to ask me. She asked where I'd learned her language. I said I wasn't as good at it as her, but I learned it in high school and college, one day hoping to visit with a native culture to fully learn the language. She said that would be good.

Then miss read the primer chapbook the teacher assigned. While she read aloud I asked her questions. Why is the frog green, the beetle blue. Are they friends. Do they help each other. And so on. I learned something profound about how I read by verbalizing my subconscious reading process. Ask questions; answer them. I didn't say that to miss. She did it herself from about the middle of the book on.

Miss then went back to class, took the corresponding comprehension test, which I didn't know would happen. And she aced it. For the first time, she passed a reading comprehension test. She came out with the teacher, who gleamed with joy at the immediate difference. Miss came over to me and hugged, said thank you in her native language, and went back to class. The teacher asked me what I'd done. It took a moment to put a name to it. "I first built a rapport then got her nonconsciously asking questions while she read." Miss did just fine after that, even engaged actively on other subjects she'd been struggling with, disinterested in.
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Beethovenfan » June 27th, 2011, 3:40 am

CharleeVale wrote:It depends for me. I read so quickly that my brain needs a bit of a respite after I finish a book. (I read a 300 pg. Novel in 3 hours last night) However, reading does seem to boost my creativity level and make me want to write more. :)

CV
Me too! Reading absolutely boosts my creativity, but I have found that I cannot be in the middle of a good read AND continue to write. Perhaps it is simply my personality, but I seem to compartmentalize the two. If I'm reading, I don't write until I'm finished with the book. If I'm on a really good role in my writing, I will not even pick up something to read (unless it has to do with something I'm researching for my WIP).

I love to read. I love to write, but I can't do both in a given time frame. I think it is because I get too distracted. If I'm reading a good book, I can't wait until I finish so I can use the creative boost, but knowing the book is waiting for me makes me unable to concentrate on my writing. Or, if I'm writing, it's a similar thing. I don't want anyone else's story distracting the flow of ideas. Don't know if this makes sense because I've never really thought about it before now. But that's how it seems to be for me.

I just finished reading WATER FOR ELEPHANTS a week or so ago (fantastic BTW).
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness is next on my list. I also have a few YA award winners lined up: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, and TOUCHING SPIRIT BEAR by Ben Mikaelsen.
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Sommer Leigh » June 27th, 2011, 8:41 am

I think you absolutely cannot be a writer if you don't read. 1) I don't think you can write well if you don't read and read a lot across all genres and 2) I think there should be writing police who take away your laptop if you try to be a writer and not read. It seems totally contrary to be a writer but not actually read anything.

Also, reading makes you smarter. It expands your vocabulary and teaches you new things and not just about writing.

Generally I read at least 1 book a week, usually more, sometimes less. On good months I can take in 8-10 new books a month. I juggle the writing and the reading, though in my head they feel like almost the same thing. I never feel like one takes away from the other.
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Aimée » June 27th, 2011, 1:55 pm

I read for pleasure, and I read a lot. Reading certainly affects my writing style, but I don't read in order to learn about writing. I read because I think it's fun. :) And I write because I think it's fun, too...

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Chantelle.S. » June 28th, 2011, 6:25 pm

Rebecca Kiel wrote:"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Do you read as much as you write? Do you think writers ought to?

Do you read as a writer? Or for pleasure?

What are you reading now?

Rebecca

Http://rebeccakielpages.blogspot.com
I want to read that book!!!!
:ugeek:
It's hard to say whether I read more than I write. Sometimes I go through growth spurts with one or the other, and other times I barely touch on one or the other.
There's a thin line for me between reading as a writer and reading for pleasure. For example, I'm trying to find all books written on the topic of ghosts and ghost hunting - fictional and non-fictional. It's partially because it's an area that keeps grabbing my attention, but it's also partially because I want to write a YA novel on ghosts/ghost hunters. You can't write about something you don't know anything about, so I want to see how other authors have done it. But at the same time, it's like leisure time for me, too. I read The Presence - A ghost story the other day at the library. It was aimed at the YA audience, with a lot of hints at inappropriate sexual behaviour (teen hormones, go figure), blatant obsession, murder, possible suicide, and the typical teenage naivety of getting drunk at a party and the results of driving thereafter. Stuff that touches on the general teen-thing of modern times, but with a warning/positive message behind each dreadful incident...wait, what am I doing, why am I giving a review on this book?
*conscience says*...because it was good!

True. So, I've seen how a ghost story can be done. I loved it (aside from the...er... YA way-out-there-with-no-explanation-how-this-can-possibly-be ending that is sure to satisfy teenagers), found it to be a very enjoyable read, and pitted some inspiration out of it because it had me writing like a mamba yesterday. I got a whole two pages done! Unfortunately it wasn't for the ghost story I so badly want to write, but it inspired me to actually put pen to paper nonetheless.

So, I guess, for me, reading for my writing and for pleasure go hand-in-hand.
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." -Stephen King

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by oldhousejunkie » June 29th, 2011, 11:51 am

I have been a voracious reader in the past. In the last year or so, I've been so focused on my writing, that my brain barely has the energy to comprehend someone else's writing.

But I've recently embarked on a tour of reading or reading everything that I have been putting off for the last year. But with that being said, the more I have learned about writing, the harder it is to read other people's work. Where I used to toss away a book if the plot didn't grab me, I now toss on other things such as a voice, weak characterization, etc.

Sadly, I'm beginning to see that marketability is trumping good writing. It's not that the authors are bad per se, but the writing is just not compelling. It's a shame when there are so many good, unpublished writers out there. I understand that the market plays a big factor in these things, but can't there be a better balance between something that is marketable versus something that is well written?

Needless to say, I'm beginning to think that writing has ruined me for reading!

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