Reading to Write Better

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
Oldtimer
 
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby Oldtimer » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:41 pm

You could try Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson. It seemed a bit disjointed at first, but you soon realize why, and I definitely couldn't put it down.

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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby Basie » Sun Feb 03, 2013 7:43 am

I do what James does. I read the first few pages of a book and if it grabs me, for whatever reason, I'll spend the money.
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby nhope » Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:43 am

WildandLee wrote:Thanks all.

I think I will push on a bit further. The book I'm actually reading is called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I now have a love/hate relationship with it. I want to find out what happens next but am impatient and frustrated with it. The next book I read will be one of those I can't put down. I'm looking for another series I can be obsessed with. Loved the Hunger Games, liked most of the Hush Hush series as well. Can anyone suggest any can't-put-down novels?


If I have a lot of time involved in reading a book and develop the "love-hate relationship" you speak of, I may skip 20 or 30 pages to see if I miss anything important to me. Usually I don't but that probably means I really don't care enough. Sometimes books start of wonderfully then just get dull, don't keep to the initial few chapters, or the writing or character development is lacking. I don't typically finish a book I don't like and don't think that I'll learn anything from the agony of reaching the end because I've read enough bad books in my life to know that time spent isn't worth it.

Your reading preference will change with your age too. I used to love "the great romance" but now they make me ill. Now I like more of a psychological mystery or book that makes me think about life and people.

As far as recommending reading you have to find the types of books that resonate with you or that reflect your questions at the moment. Read the books that when you're finished, you think about the characters for days. And if you want to re-read that book, go ahead.
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby James A. Ritchie » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:55 am

Novels are too personal to suggest any you can't put down. A book I find wondeerful may bore you to death, and the other way around.

I do disagree with maia about bestsellers, however. I think most are written by very, very good writers, or, more accurate, by very, very good storytellers, and they hold my interest well, as long as they're in a genre I like reading. There's a reason they're bestsellers, and that reason is millions of people enjoy them.

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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby gesler0811 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:16 pm

The title of this thread is "reading to write better."

I think we need to differentiate between just reading a book to see if it interests us, and reading a book because we are looking to improve our own writing. The difference may be subtle, but you may notice it influences your selection somewhat. For instance, there are plenty of books I want to read that are not similar enought to what I am trying to write right now, to justify me reading them at this time. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, being a prime example.

That being said, reading a book to see what not to do, I think is a bad idea. I would rather learn what to do instead of what not to do. Giving me the wrong answer to a math problem doesn't really help me find the right answer. But if you give me the right answer, maybe I can figure out how you got it, emulate it, and learn to solve the next problem myself.

It goes without saying. Read in your genre. Find authors with a similar style to your own, or close enough. The ones who seem to know what they're doing, anyway. Read them. Why does their work connect with you? What kind of reader are you looking to attract? Put a face on this person. Imagine yourself writing for that person. What does that person think about these books you're reading? Which books is this reader going to like, and which ones is he going to put down? Why? Focus on the ones your ideal reader likes. Isolate what your ideal reader would like about these books. Now you're on to something.

Just my two cents, anyway. You might learn some techniques that will elevate your craft.
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby Alienscifi » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:01 am

I read comic books and I listen to audiobooks. I have Dragon Speak Software. And I have a good idea of what science fiction is suppose to look like. I'm looking for a ghostwriter but a I can make a good synopsis.

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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby mammamaia » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:19 pm

Alienscifi wrote:I read comic books and I listen to audiobooks. I have Dragon Speak Software. And I have a good idea of what science fiction is suppose to look like. I'm looking for a ghostwriter but a I can make a good synopsis.

...is there some reason why you don't read books?... do you have a physical handicap that dragon speak helps you to overcome?... what is it you want a ghostwriter to write for you?... a novel, or something else?...
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Alienscifi
 
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby Alienscifi » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:03 pm

Is is okay to use kindle and audio books?

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mammamaia
 
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby mammamaia » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:40 am

of course it is!... why do you even have to ask?

i was only curious as to why you don't seem to read actual books...
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Re: Reading to Write Better

Postby updog » Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:01 am

I think if you want to improve your writing you should read widely. Not just books in the genre you're writing in, but good books from many genres so you can bring something new to your genre instead of just copying what's already been done.

I write YA, but I read and learn stuff from many different genres. I read books written in first person, third limited, and omniscient POV. I read past tense and present tense. You should be able to learn something from every good book you read. Are your own stories starting too slow? Having trouble with pacing? Try reading some YA. Are you info dumping? Need to learn the art of slipping subtle clues in at just the right time? Read a mystery. Need to up the tension? Try studying a thriller. Are your readers complaining your characters feel too distant? Want to learn how to really get inside a character's head? Read some literary fiction.

Chuck Wendig had a good blog post today about reading like a writer, and I thought it might be helpful to link to it here. Be warned he uses a lot of what he calls "naughty language", so if that kind of stuff offends you it's probably best not to click. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/02/19/how-to-read-like-a-writer/

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