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Reading as a Writier (1 Viewer)

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Plaidman

Senior Member
I think many writers have a tendency to gravitate to genre areas. Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Also, I believe that what a writer reads will inevitably, even in some small way, affect what they write.

As a writer, do you read mainly the genre you write? Or, do you expand your horizons with other genres and types of writing?

There are a couple of things that have led me to this question. I read a somewhat wide ange of genres. And, when I finish a book, I frequently have difficulty selecting the next one.

I have recently thought about the aspect of what I read affecting what I write. As a writer, do you read with your own writing in mind? Or, do you allow, or even make yourself, take in other genres and styles with the idea of broadening your reading experiences and possibly your writing?

If you read with your writing in mind, do you have a strategy to focus what you are reading?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I read what I was drawn to, which is horror, with a little fantasy thrown in, although science fiction seems to be seeping in unannounced recently. As Stephen King said, he used to write in the voice of the writer he was reading at the time. That's not a bad thing. That's the best way to develop your own voice. The more you read, the more you change and adapt traits of other writers, and eventually, your own style emerges.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I will say it forever: As a writer, you can't just read what you like and get the full benefit of reading. This is no different to a chef refusing to eat anything other than the foods he/she already likes.

Optimally, and I understand this is difficult, you should train yourself to read anything. Anything means anything: The first book you see with a 'bestselling author' or 'Booker Prize Nominated' tag on the cover? Read it. What your book club recommends? Read it. What you found cleaning out your dead aunt's attic? Read it. What you find laying on a park bench? Read it. Read it all, anything by a reputable or semi-reputable publisher, anything that has a $ price on the back has a readership somewhere. Because if it has a readership it can be learned from and, crucially, not being beholden to a certain author or genre will permit a wider scope of learning than re-reading Harry Potter over and over again.

And, while you're at it, train yourself to read quickly. The tiresome counter-argument is always 'there's only so much time and we can't spend it on books we don't LOVE'. That, I am sorry to say, is nonsense.

The average novel ranges between 60,000 and 100,000 words total. If your reading speed is right in the middle of the pack at 300 words per minute, and you're reading a middle-of-the-pack novel at around 80,000 words, you'll be able to knock it out in around five hours or less. Two hours reading in the morning and two at night and short sessions through the day and most people can quite comfortably read a book a day, certainly at least one book every three days @ 2 hours a day reading for a total of ~120 books each year.

Is that still a significant investment of time? Yes, yes it is, but if you claim to be 'serious' about publishing this is what, I believe, you need to make room for. This is supposed to be your job. Ordinary people who don't want to be writers may read whatever they want and spend weeks reading a book. It's not the same thing. Again, not to harp on it, but this is the approximate level of commitment required in every other vocation. Unless you are some kind of natural born writing genius (and none of us are) then you have to work your ass off. Just like how aspiring athletes spend hours in the gym and managing their diet, only a fairly small portion of a writer's work consists of actually writing. There are other things that are vitally important: Reading, is one. Editing, is another. Networking, as much as it pains me to say it, is a third.
 

thepancreas11

New Writers' Mentor
WF Veterans
This is no different to a chef refusing to eat anything other than the foods he/she already likes.

This is genius advice, luckyscars. I can see why you've got several published author badges in your showcase.

Maybe it's because I cut my teeth on Star Wars novels, but I will read anything I can get my hands on. You can learn from any writing, often more so from the stuff you don't like. It's always easier to identify something's flaws, than to put your finger on what you like. I recently read Twilight--which is very bad, but weirdly enjoyable. The whole series is a lesson in brevity: one good edit could have made that book eight times better.

My favorite moments are the ones where you read something expecting not to like it but you do. My sister-in-law let me borrow her well-worn copy of "Emma" recently because I didn't have anything from the nineteenth century in my Goodreads history. I figured it was a classic and something I should get to eventually. What I didn't know was that it's hilarious and prescient and vibrant. Plus, I got to imagine Mr. Knightley as Paul Rudd, which never hurts.

Actually, Goodreads is a surprisingly helpful tool. I get to see what other people are reading, and there's a feature that allows you to log your progress on the books your reading. Its incredibly addictive. I would highly recommend it.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I read Sci-fi, heroic fantasy, and mystery. There is so much breadth of style and story in those three areas that I get plenty of exposure, and I can read for a lifetime never leaving the list of high quality authors. Occasionally I get trapped into sub-par fare by a bad recommendation, and I'll try that author for a book or two, but if they don't measure up they're out of my TBR consideration for good.

Not by coincidence, those are the genres I write. Well, not mystery. There is some mystery in each of my novels, but not rising to the level of a skilled mystery writer crafting a web of clues. I'd hoped to do something of that sort in my WIP. However, I wound up with minor mystery, a lot of character interplay, and occasional heavy action. It turned into a PI story with mythological characters, and no PI. ;-)

I need to do some study and FAR MORE advance plotting before I can get to dedicated mystery. I've had How to write a damned good mystery by Frey on the shelf for a long while. I need to finally take the time to crack it open and see if it's any good. I believe in experiencing and studying the fine points of a genre before jumping in and typing away.

Romance is a third of the market, but I have little interest in reading it, less interest in writing it, and from sampling some popular authors to test the waters, not much to learn from it. However, I may eventually check out Nora Roberts. She's regarded as the #2 all-time seller in Romance, and the first member of the Romance Writer's Hall of Fame. But her series as J.D. Robb has an emphasis on mystery, and my wife devours everything she publishes, so probably worth a look.

I'll finish my WIP sometime this week, and next up is completing a fairy tale I started (it looks like) circa 2015. I have read fairy tales, and my fairy tale voice seems to work, so I'm on solid ground. LOL
 
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druid12000

Senior Member
If I don't like a book I read, I still learn something from the experience. Even if it's simply: That's not how I want to write.

I decided a few years ago to read 'The Classics'. Several were brilliant and deserving of the praise they have garnered over the centuries, IMO. Some, meh, not so much, also IMO. But, man, what a brilliant snapshot into a different time.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
About the reading as a writer: If you read with your writing in mind, do you have a strategy to focus what you are reading?

I got inspired today after reading a story and so after reading critically I am planning on replacing the characters, theme, and I should have an original story since I am only going to reimagine it drastically. That being said I need to research the premise. Because it needs for me to read into something I don't know much about. I found much inspiration after imagining what the story was going to be about and imagined more. The story also had some moments when I had been in a similar situation before. I am going to use the advice to write what you know to write it. Two memories came to mind when reading the story. Emotions triggered it. I have been thinking it is useful advice since your material that happened to you is the emotionally charged and could make the readers care more. But I am also a fan of writing what I don't know. It is as if I am rewriting the story until it is no longer the same. What appealed to me about the story were the ideas of what could have been. What if the story had taken this direction instead?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
About the reading as a writer: If you read with your writing in mind, do you have a strategy to focus what you are reading?

I got inspired today after reading a story and so after reading critically I am planning on replacing the characters, theme, and I should have an original story since I am only going to reimagine it drastically. That being said I need to research the premise. Because it needs for me to read into something I don't know much about. I found much inspiration after imagining what the story was going to be about and imagined more. The story also had some moments when I had been in a similar situation before. I am going to use the advice to write what you know to write it. Two memories came to mind when reading the story. Emotions triggered it. I have been thinking it is useful advice since your material that happened to you is the emotionally charged and could make the readers care more. But I am also a fan of writing what I don't know. It is as if I am rewriting the story until it is no longer the same.

I can't do anything else. I haven't read a story just for the story in years. I try but that critical mind stops me in my tracks, has me thinking about the strong sentences, imagining how I would write it, and even (sometimes) rewriting to strengthen what I consider an unnecessary word or weak sentence. I'm probably wrong but I still do it.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I can't do anything else. I haven't read a story just for the story in years. I try but that critical mind stops me in my tracks, has me thinking about the strong sentences, imagining how I would write it, and even (sometimes) rewriting to strengthen what I consider an unnecessary word or weak sentence. I'm probably wrong but I still do it.
I know everyone has a different process for which they come up with ideas. My new idea involves retelling an old tale I read today. I got caught up making notes before reading the story. That prompted me to rewrite the story with my own ideas by adding things that didn't happen in the plot. But that could have made it better in my view. Those obsessions of mine I wanted to insert in the story. The reason I write is to depict what is wrong with the world. Those are the obsessions or what some people refer to as injustices. Or what makes the writer angry. Such as issues that they can relate to.

That said I like your writing style. I usually read anything. I think your stories got well-received. That's what matters since writing is based on peer feedback. Your English is good too. I need to sit down and take my time to read your work. But it starts promising since you can be poetic. That's a weakness I have. I am going to try to read it when I have nothing to do. I usually focus on plot, or what is called substance. But this forum has some good writers who are good at writing style. I think you focus a lot on style, but I know it has an audience. Some people cannot tolerate a bad style. Not even if the story has a good plot.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I know everyone has a different process for which they come up with ideas. My new idea involves retelling an old tale I read today. I got caught up making notes before reading the story. That prompted me to rewrite the story with my own ideas by adding things that didn't happen in the plot. But that could have made it better in my view. Those obsessions of mine I wanted to insert in the story. The reason I write is to depict what is wrong with the world. Those are the obsessions or what some people refer to as injustices. Or what makes the writer angry. Such as issues that they can relate to.

That said I like your writing style. I usually read anything. I think your stories got well-received. That's what matters since writing is based on peer feedback. Your English is good too. I need to sit down and take my time to read your work. But it starts promising since you can be poetic. That's a weakness I have. I am going to try to read it when I have nothing to do. I usually focus on plot, or what is called substance. But this forum has some good writers who are good at writing style. I think you focus a lot on style, but I know it has an audience. Some people cannot tolerate a bad style. Not even if the story has a good plot.

I don't even go near stuff like this. It has to be done extremely well for it not to become moralising or soap boxy, and I just don't think I could pull it off well at all. You've got to be careful with those stones. :)

You're right about me focusing on style. I do do that without a doubt but that's the part of the journey I'm at right now, not my entire journey. Plot, story, character were once my complete focus, which was followed by dialogue. I spent years on that because it's my weakest trait, and even though it's stronger, once I've nailed my 'voice' I'll be returning to it again as my main focus.

I look at what I'm weak at and concentrate on strengthening it. I find it more manageable than trying to improve 'everything' at once.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
I like certain authors in all sorts of different genres.

I know which authors have influenced my writing. Especially when I was young. The books I read and that left impressions on me then also influenced my character. Thank goodness for wonderful young adult books!
 
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