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To be or not to be...


GaryKelly

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A writer friend is a compulsive reader. "I even read labels on jars." I'm a lousy reader; I simply do not have the patience. I spend hours trying to operate an electronic gadget rather than read the user's manual. My English teacher insisted that one must read if one aspires to being an author. Hmmm. He called me a pathetic amateur who would be laughed out of a publisher's office. However, he did manage to teach me a few tricks despite my stubborness...but I still don't read. So, dear Breth, here's the Q: is reading a necessary prerequisite for writers?

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Yes, I honestly think it is. I am a fan of reading and a fan of writing, but I wouldn't even know what to do if I didn't read stories and get things worked out. Personally reading drives my passion for writing. If I neglect the stories that I have on my list to read then I don't seem to write as much. A good book and writer is a great way to pick up things to help in your own writing. I tend to read stories that develope the characters the best and I picked up hints and good ways to do that for my own writing.

 

 

A person can probably write a story, make it good without being a reader, but I feel that most writers get their passion for writing from being a reader first.

 

 

Krista

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Many people have told me that I have to read to be a good writer.

 

I have always been a passionate reader, but my reading volume has dropped considerably since I've started writing. My problem is that once I start reading something, I want to finish it, and while I'm reading, I'm not writing. I've only got limited time at the moment (because of family commitments), so I have to budget my time wisely. As a consequence, my reading has really dropped off.

 

Having said that, I feel that reading definitely helps with writing. You have the opportunity to experience different ways of doing things and, if you read as a writer, you'll learn. Techniques for tension, techniques for description, techniques for dialogue. Exposure to more ways of doing things gives the writer more options to expand their skill set.

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I agree with both Krista and Graeme;

 

Reading, for me, is irreplaceable as a method of exposing oneself to new methods and ideas, along with the odd bit of inspiration.

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In addition to the points made above, I think the only way to truly develop a writing style, one must expose oneself to other writers. Grammar lessons and natural ability only contribute so much to one's writing. I cannot stress how much my writing, such as it is, has been influenced by the authors that I have read over the years. Even in a totally subconscious way, I have gained a far greater and more nuanced understanding of the English language from reading other authors than from reading textbooks.

 

In short, I think that reading is essential to writing well.

 

Menzo

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I'm not surprised by the responses so far. But, ya know, when Picasso saw for the first time paintings by Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira (who had never met a European artist in his life) said: "That's what I've been trying to do all my life". Yes, folks, food for thought.

 

May I suggest that the more you know about other authors the more you lose your originality? More food for thought. :read::boy:

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I'm not surprised by the responses so far. But, ya know, when Picasso saw for the first time paintings by Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira (who had never met a European artist in his life) said: "That's what I've been trying to do all my life". Yes, folks, food for thought.

 

May I suggest that the more you know about other authors the more you lose your originality? More food for thought. :read::boy:

The analogy isn't quite accurate. Albert Namatjira was steeped in traditional aboriginal art forms, and so had a good solid basis for what he did. It was a form that Picasso didn't previously know, but Albert didn't paint without education or training. No one is expected to know all forms of a type of art before they start producing in it. Bother Picasso and Albert were ignorant of each others forms of painting, but both produced masterpieces. Both were, however, familiar with more than just their own work. They had had exposure to the works of others and that had an impact on what they did.

 

Yes, it is possible to lose originality from too much exposure to outside influences, but working in a vacuum isn't necessarily good either. It can mean that your originality is unable to be properly released because you don't learn the technical side of the craft that will allow you to properly deliver on that originality.

 

With all art, there are two components -- technical delivery and creative insight. Both are required to create great art and neglecting the former is damaging the ability to reveal the later.

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The analogy isn't quite accurate.

With all art, there are two components -- technical delivery and creative insight. Both are required to create great art and neglecting the former is damaging the ability to reveal the later.

 

Of course, I agree...but just don't tell anyone...okay?

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In a way I think it is almost imposible to loose originality because everyone has a different way of thinking. The only danger is becoming convinced that one writer is writing correctly and everyone else is doing it wrong. Then one tries to become that correct writer. Of course imitating writing styles is an art of its own.

 

In order to learn to write, one has to do some minimal amount of reading. After that I am not sure if reading is a necesity. I find it pleasant so I read but I can not prove that it is nescesary. Writing is just one way of expressing thoughts. I think many people get their story ideas from sources other than what is already written. Maybe there are a few writers who can develop their writing techniques from what they hear rather than what they read. If a writer tends to focuss on dialogue listening to conversations may be more usefull for him than reading books.

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Maybe there are a few writers who can develop their writing techniques from what they hear rather than what they read. If a writer tends to focuss on dialogue listening to conversations may be more usefull for him than reading books.

 

Go to the top of the class. B)

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Reading is necessary for several reasons.

 

First, as an author, you should read to learn... research anyone?

 

Secondly, as an author, you should read to research... which type of books do which publishing houses print? What books were the agents/editors looking for in the last two years (yes there can be that much lead time from solicitation to publication). What do they have in common? How are they different?

 

And, I think, most important, as an author, if you only write and do not read you become out of touch with your craft. This sounds odd but persons in most professions attend conferences and read professional publications. Why shouldn't authors?

 

Finally, concerning dialogue... listening is a key to that. To determine if your dialogue is working, have it read to you. If it sounds weird, it probably is not real. Go to a public place (bar, mall, coffee house) and LISTEN to how people talk. Practice writing it down. Look at how the spoken language is different from the written language and figure out a way for the two to merge in your own writing.

 

 

happily writing,

Lugh

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May I suggest that the more you know about other authors the more you lose your originality? More food for thought. :read::boy:

You may: if you don't mind me responding by saying twaddle, and piffle too. You can't create in a vacuum. Our muses need to be fed, and mine's perpetually hungry.

 

Camy B)

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Okay, okay, okay...so I read Camy and instantly a character is born in my head. Camy has a way of giving voice and expression to his words, few though they may be. Perhaps it's fair to say that I do read, but not books (except for a few, including Steinbeck's 'Travels with Charley'). However, I do observe people and question/analyse their behavior instinctively...always have. Dialogue comes from my radio background and as a writer/producer of comedy. I have a knack of 'hearing' words on paper as opposed to seeing them.

 

Meanwhile, if it's true that one should read if one writes, then take your own advice and READ MINE! Or I'll come over there and stomp on your nib. :-P

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(since nobody else suggested this, I cannot resist...) I would find it hard to string coherent words together if I could not pause occasionally to review the string of odd markings I had created.

 

Oh wait! You all mean read other people's writings! What, pray tell, would be the point of our sharing anything we wrote if we did not believe we transform others in some small way? Without reading... I would invent my own language, personal symbolism and figurative imagery. The result, disconnected from the fundamental archetypes of our ancient culture and the recognized idiomatic basis of our language, would be chaotic.

 

For unto Him say what Will;

Zo, to wish the Thrim nothing,

Went out to swagger among the

Thorn Brambles:

Came to the hill

-- known well --

And fell out of step

To arrive at Significance

Drastic import yet!

All for naught

Was it so...

Could it ever Be Otherwise?

The Thrim knows,

As it should

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I speak Aussie, mate, wot the hell you talkin' about? :P

He's been taking lessons from Dr. Seuss. :P

 

On a more serious note, he's pointing out that unless things are presented in the context of modern writings, they can be almost unreadable. Anyone who has tried to decipher Old English will appreciate what I mean....

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He's been taking lessons from Dr. Seuss. :P

 

On a more serious note, he's pointing out that unless things are presented in the context of modern writings, they can be almost unreadable. Anyone who has tried to decipher Old English will appreciate what I mean....

 

 

Yes indeed. It may not seem like it, but I feel writers are involved in the great primal storytelling around the campfire still. The stories share our lived experience. Some stories may exagerate, others -- well you all understand the great range of genre and style. We welcome the fresh voice with a new story, but (huge sigh here) there are no new stories. There are just a seamingly endless variation on the familiar archetypes of human experience and relationships -- gay ones included. The more I read, the more I know I have "heard it all" as it were. The more I read the more I feel I need to read the endless echoes and variations on the themes of my life.

 

So why sit around a fire and listen to (read) the stories of others? We read so we know we are not alone.

 

My youngest son is an artist with the guitar. Not a great one... no more a composer than I am an author. He and I bickered frequently when he had formal lessons (he's 18 now). What was the point in playing other people's music he asked, he wanted to create his own. Well he does and he bravely posts it on the web and more bravely sits before a hundred people and plays his music (I post anonymously as it were). He is no Mozart. Well I won't get started on musical critique. There is the possibility of something and I like what I hear. I know if he would take the time to learn from the experience and style of other guitar players, at least try once to sound like one of the greats, he would be able to understand what it was he wanted to do with the music better.

 

Social Learning Theory boys and girls; we all model our behaviour from role models around us. This is our nature. We watch the dance, try the dance, learn the dance, and then we make the dance our own. Usually we take the dancing of others and synthesize something. It is the synthesis that seems fresh and new. I write with my own voice. I could not hope to match someone else's. This is one reason don't care to attempt writing Harry Potter spin-offs, et al. These characters are grounded in Rawlings voice and I could not match it.

 

I started writing without conscious analysis of who I might be modeling. After three years in the effort I begin to recognize a few of my heroes coming thorough. John Steinbeck is one. Another is a Canadian poet named Earle Birney. I am just beginning to discover them all, but lets face it, I probably incorporate a little of every writer in my work. So do you.

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While it's easy to think each author has a certain gift for writing I think it's fair to say; good authors are made not born. I guess I'm saying, if you never read a well written story, never become inspired by the words of another and never see what it is to vividly express yourself via words and text; then how can you do so yourself.

 

 

That said, i avoid doing much reading while actually working on my own stories. For the purpose of not being influenced by other stories.

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While it's easy to think each author has a certain gift for writing I think it's fair to say; good authors are made not born. I guess I'm saying, if you never read a well written story, never become inspired by the words of another and never see what it is to vividly express yourself via words and text; then how can you do so yourself.

 

 

That said, i avoid doing much reading while actually working on my own stories. For the purpose of not being influenced by other stories.

 

Nicely said and I share your reluctance to read too much during active periods of writing. I guess for that same reason I avoid working on multiple projects. I just don't compartmentalize all that well I guess. It seems enough to keep my work and hobby seperate!

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  • 5 months later...
I think an author doesn't need to read to be able to write and write well. I'm sure it helps to inspire and all that, but I don't believe it's a necessity. Certainly not if you're referring to reading stories, anyway. I do think exposal to language is helpful.

 

I was taught, as a writer, to read mostly for technical reasons. I enjoy reading for the pleasure of reading, but I also read with a watchful eye. I want to know how the author handles a certain subject, constructs dialog, uses adjectives and adverbs, constructs sentences and paragraphs, and all the other tools a writer needs to get the story across.

 

I feel my reading helps my writing because I was not given, at birth, the ability to write stories. It's a learned skill. I do know I have the inherent talent to tell stories, but to construct an enjoyable story requires a knowledge base amply supplemented with the reading of other's stories.

 

Carl :boy:

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I'm not surprised by the responses so far. But, ya know, when Picasso saw for the first time paintings by Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira (who had never met a European artist in his life) said: "That's what I've been trying to do all my life". Yes, folks, food for thought.

 

May I suggest that the more you know about other authors the more you lose your originality? More food for thought.

 

yeah i'm going to have to say, that quote didn't do much. it sounds like something an artist who takes himself too seriously (i mean picasso, not you) would say. and i notice there's no context really provided for it.

 

as far as long originality, i'd disagree. a lot of amateur writers sound the same. only through maturation and exposure can a writer really develop a style to call his own.

 

my friend steve and i are both big on creative writing, but this past year i've been blowing him out of the water. it's not because i'm naturally better or anything. it's because i've read 43 novels since christmas while he's only been writing and scrambling around trying to find websites to take his stuff.

 

i cannot express what reading has done for my writing.

 

i will say that i agree that it's necessary to read to become any kind of worthwhile writer.

and i'm sure there's some crazy exceptions about some wildly famous author who hardly ever reads.

but statistically, i think you'll find most great writers spend a lot of time reading.

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i will say that i agree that it's necessary to read to become any kind of worthwhile writer.

and i'm sure there's some crazy exceptions about some wildly famous author who hardly ever reads.

but statistically, i think you'll find most great writers spend a lot of time reading.

That agrees with almost every reference material I've ever read, and with many other people's opinions that I've heard.

 

My only problem is that I know my reading is way down now that I'm righting. Even when I do read (and re-read), I rarely read technically -- I read to enjoy. Sometimes I remember to look at how an author has expressed something, but most of the time I just read and let the story (rather than the words) run through me. If I'm picking anything up, it's the art of story telling, not the technical aspects of how to write.

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  • 2 months later...
On a more serious note, he's pointing out that unless things are presented in the context of modern writings, they can be almost unreadable. Anyone who has tried to decipher Old English will appreciate what I mean....

 

First of all, I do and it's a pain and a half trying to decipher it. I created a dictionary once just to understand an english assignment.

 

Anyways, some writers don't really need to read since they get their inspiration from everything around them. But, it is suggested you find books that you enjoy and read them. Take your time. It's not a race to finish a book. Sometimes, you'd be surprised at the stuff you can learn from reading a book that you so utterly enjoyed that you need to read it again.

You can learn how to captivate a reader, what details to leave out and which ones to keep, ect.

Good luck with your writings to.

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I believe in the whole nature AND nurture thing. If you're given a talent, you have that raw telent, right? But it can never really go anywhere unless it's nurtured probably, through learning and training. No one is good without talent, or if they are, it's rare and takes more work. Same goes for the naturally talented; there are always ways to improve or hone their talent and skill. Another thing that comes to mind: Can you run without knowing how to walk first? Because running is ultimately the same motion as walking, only faste and more knee lifting, lol.

 

That was a roundabout way to answer the question, but yes, I think reading is necessary in order to write. However, it's not the rule. It's helpful; it's inspiring, and eye-opening. You do become exposed to unique styles and learn a grammar skill or two. Although, you could always consult a grammar book (I've come across many of those in school), but reading leisurely and letting it sink into your brain is more fun than looking for references.

 

I don't think writers lose their originality when reading other author's works. I started reading Nifty and came across great writers, most notably DomLuka and he was inspiring. Then I thought- hey, maybe I can do this too, maybe I could write something. But I didn't copy his story or work off his model. I came up with my own ideas, but in terms of knowing how a good piece is created and supposed to look like, well it helps. Then as time goes on and you learn more and become more experienced, you inevitably develop your own style that someone else can pinpoint right away.

 

Tiffani

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