Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG: On Reading and Writing



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The first Wednesday of every month is the Insecure Writer's Support Group posting day, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Check it out here and join if you want support with your writing. 
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.


Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 
Remember, the question is optional!
October 2 question - It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?


The awesome co-hosts for the October 2 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!



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I have to admit that I'm a bit shocked by writers who don't read. For one thing, why do you even want to write if you don't like to read? But it goes deeper than that. I learned what a good story looks like by reading stories, good and bad. I learned what good writing was by reading writing good, bad, and indifferent. As a child, I didn't distinguish and didn't even find many books I didn't like, but as I matured, I began to look at what I read and to understand why this book was a truly moving book, that one thought-provoking, this one an engaging bit of brain candy and that one really not worth reading even on the beach.

I also learned good grammar and sentence structure by exposure, which is not 100% reliable but is perhaps more reliable than trying to memorize a bunch of rules.

As for the worry about influences and mixing ourselves with the writers we read, any student of literature knows that influences can be traced to and from the greatest writers: Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare both cribbed tales from Virgil and Ovid, and endless writers have borrowed from those two. I have learned not to worry about undue influences on my writing: as I have learned to be a writer, my own voice has become strong enough to grow and improve as I read and think about other books, without being overwritten.

To me, that is the essence of reading as a writer.

Now, then, there's also just reading for fun. Turn off the author brain and enjoy a book for it's own sake, too!

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This post has gone up automatically. I am currently away from cell coverage, but will return all visits as soon as I can, and hope to visit a few more besides, before next month's post comes around!

20 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you; just didnt have the time to write that!

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  2. Good point about learning sentence structure, etc. through reading and not just actual lessons. Our brains absorb so much even when we're not aware of it!

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    1. Oh, yeah. I think that growing up with people who spoke well and used good grammar helped at least as much, but reading is huge. (I shifted to thinking about the language ones hears when I realized that my kids have a similar ability to write well without having read anything like the way I did as a kid, though we read to them until they started high school).

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  3. Hi,
    I learn the most by looking at the sentence structure of other writers. Especially with complex sentences, I look at how it is done by others and then write my sentences out.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange


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    1. Yes—sometimes when I really am struck by a sentence or paragraph, I just stop and look at how it was done, why it worked so well. I also have been paying a lot of attention lately to plots in the cozy mysteries I’m reading—how the clues are laid, the red herrings, etc.

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  4. I just realized I totally failed to talk about my writing in this post! Guess I’ll hit that next week. I’ve had some good news.

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  5. Honestly, I don't get those writers. Why are they so afraid of a little influence? Since when was influence from other books bad? I've had stories I've written that were influenced by what I was reading at the time. They aren't stories I've published, but they were learning experiences.

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    1. Even in stories that are “all mine” there are influences. And if writer’s weren’t influenced, what would the lit crit types have to do? Tracing influences and references is their bread and butter!

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  6. That turning off the author brain is interesting - I find that I'm way more nitpicking about how a story is made these days - the plot structure, the character arcs, etc. - as opposed to the actual story. It bugs my wife to no end, because I say things, "Oh, that character is doing that thing now because it needs to hit X beat," not because that's what her character would want to do. :-)

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    1. I’m still able to turn off the author brain—but not so much in my own genre. For one thing, whenever I’m reading a mystery, part of what I’m doing is seeing how they handled the things that I struggle with. And that’s darned helpful. Though sometimes it detracts from the reading experience.

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  7. Yes, read for fun! I still do that, and while I can't always turn off the writer brain, I don't mind. I catch myself saying, "look how she did that!" The more we read the more we learn!

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  8. You've said what I tried to say - and more. I started my writing adventure attempting to copy Tolkien but then found my own voice. I've even side-stepped from epic fantasy to mysteries. But I've kept reading and, as you say, learned from all I encounter in books.

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    1. Doesn’t everyone start by trying to emulate Tolkien? Certainly every fantasy since then is influenced by him, whether the author ever read LOTR or not!

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  9. I agree! I can't image not reading. I read a lot and am still (mostly) able to turn off my author brain and immerse myself in someone else's world.

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    1. I love it when an author has done such a good job my inner editor falls asleep for lack of anything to do :D

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  10. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Sorry it took so long for me to reply.
    I love to read just for fun; thanks for saying that's okay.
    Still, as a writer, I also think it's important to read to hone your craft.

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