Reading as writers

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Re: Reading as writers

Post by polymath » June 29th, 2011, 12:11 pm

oldhousejunkie wrote:Needless to say, I'm beginning to think that writing has ruined me for reading!
I had a dark time where writing and literature study ruined me for reading. It was both literature and writing study, though, that restored my passion for reading and came back in trumps a more satisfying reading experience overall. I realized I was ruined while taking an introduction to literature survey course. Five years later, a year after graduation, while trying to unravel the plot and motifs and theme of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions so I could understand its intents and meanings, I came out of the funeral shrouds of my reading morbidity. Hang in there, but don't obsess. It'll come to you. When it all comes together, reading, writing, and literature study, it's a glorious quickening of being.
Spread the love of written word.

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by JustAnotherJen » June 30th, 2011, 8:41 pm

Hi everyone! I'm new here, but I loved this question and wanted to join in. I totally agree with oldhousejunkie that writing has ruined me for reading. The more I learn about the craft, the more I find myself being increasingly picky in what I'm willing to tolerate. I don't see that as a problem though. There are sooooo many good books out there, and I can never keep up with my to-read list. So if I'm a little more picky than I used to be, it just simplifies things a little. :)

I read both for pleasure as well as for study. Sometimes the two overlap and sometimes they don't. I definitely agree with the idea that you have to read a lot to write. You can't be out of touch with what's out there and what works, and then expect your own writing to work. There's so much to be learned about how to write, just through reading. And I have a lot of books I turn to for inspiration and a few I turn to for reminders of what not to do.

I love reading my favorite books over and over again and I enjoy the fact that when I do, I learn new things every time. Not just about the story, but also about the author's skills. I become more aware of voice and style, more aware of plot development and character arc, more aware of writing devices in general. I don't know if all this reading is going to make me any better at applying the same good writing principles, but I feel like at least becoming more aware has got to be a good thing, right? :)

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by ClaudeNougat » July 2nd, 2011, 8:34 am

Great topic! And yes, all writers should read and should have read the classics...and reread them! Very important, because it's the only way to hone your craft.

But reading can be disruptive for writers: a good book can take you away from your own work and you lose sight (and the pace) of what you want to write. I know that if I'm into my FIRST draft I cannot read anything beyond the daily news! Simply nothing! Because I'm afraid to lose that stream of inspiration...

So reading, yes (and how!) but always after the first draft is done. Reading as a recreational activity too, not just for learning from the great masters. It sometimes help to read a really bad book because you feel "my, look at that crap, I could do a lot better...Nay, I do a lot better!" A real pick up! :lol:

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by Ty Johnston » July 2nd, 2011, 9:29 pm

Oh, I definitely read more than I write, and I'm not an exceptionally fast reader, averaging about 45-50 books a year. Writing, I only average about a novel a year, but I also usually write a few novellas and a dozen or so short stories.

My reading pile has grown so large that most of the time I don't know what's in it. There's a handful of classics I've not gotten to yet, a few books I want to re-read, a half dozen or so epic fantasy novels, a few horror novels, quite a bit of nonfiction and a few books about literature by one writer or another (Tolstoy, Gardner, etc.). Then there are a few thrillers and a slew of indie books I keep meaning to get to.

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by CabSav » July 3rd, 2011, 4:30 am

Love to read, love to write, but not at the same time nowadays. Not since I learned that whatever I'm reading subconsciously makes its way into my story. Half-way through one first draft my characters suddenly started grinning wolfishly, and behaving generally ... wolfishly. I traced it to the book I was reading at the same time, which was about wolves.

Sometimes, part-way through a story I need a fiction fix. I stop writing then until I've devoured enough books to go back to my own story, and I always re-read my own WIP a couple of times first, just to make sure I'm in the right story.

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Re: Reading as writers

Post by MACS » July 7th, 2011, 9:57 pm

I agree with Sommer Leigh about reading making you smarter. I read a lot and always have. I also agree, however, with Bethovenfan that being immersed in a good book makes it impossible/difficult for me to write. I good book sometimes inspires, sometimes depresses me. If it's masterfully crafted, it can psych me out. But then I read something incredibly bad and think, I can do better than that. So, I also agree with OldHouse Junkie that the market often trumps quality writing. Bottom line is, if you need to write, don't give up and you'll be published too someday. Either way, reading is like breathing to me. I read one or two books a week, depending upon how engaging or challenging they are. I read widely in both genre and literary and classics. Too much of one genre or author pushes me to explore others. I find that the more/longer I have been a writer/studied writing craft, the more things I notice while I read. So while I mostly read for fun and the experience, these days I can't help critique and learn from others' writing, both the exemplar and the appalling. Or, sometimes, about style and voice. I realize there is room for all kinds, including my own. If I couldn't read, I think I would perish.

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