1. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I read...but I read the wrong things.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Youniquee, Dec 31, 2010.

    For the past 5 months or so, I've just been reading fan fiction (some of them are pretty good and well written by the way) I don't know if this will make my writing worse or better but I can't seem to get head into a real, professional book. So I'm asking, does reading unprofessional work make your writing worse?
    Thanks :]
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Not necessarily. If the work is well-done, despite being fanfic, then you can learn from it. If it isn't done well, you can learn from that as well, by identifying the mistakes the author made (similar to when you review/critique work).

    I don't read fanfic, so I can't comment beyond that. Actually, I did read one - Steven Brust's "Firefly" fanfic. A rare occasion of an established, professional author writing a fanfic. It was good.
     
  3. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    I don't think it should matter. Someone can perfectly pick up a LoTR fan fiction story and start reading it, then move on to read The Hunger Games, and end the day by writing the opening paragraphs of an original mystery crime short story. What is the problem, exactly?
     
  4. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Being able to read and analyse work of any standard can improve your own. I read a couple of books recently from a well-known franchise as a break from having my brain work on complex plots and subtle messages, and the writing... well, it wasn't fantastic. As I read, I was working on the prose in my head, tweaking this, that and the other, effectively editing it.

    Try picking a book up now and reading a chapter. There will be good things in there - pick up on those, work out what the author has done well and why it works. There will also be bad things in there, especially if it's a more recent work (sadly, the standard of editing at many publishing houses is down thanks to the rush to get out commercially viable novels - these days, manuscripts no longer seem to undergo the extensive revisions editors used to perform on them, with Lester Del Rey being famous for doing just that). Again, pick up on the bad things, work out why they're bad and what could have been done to improve it.

    Then apply that to your own work. As you'll see, it doesn't matter what you're reading so much, so long as you're giving your creative mind a workout. But I would recommend reading beyond fanfiction (and not because of the generally fairly low quality of most of it), simply because you'll then be exposing yourself to more styles and more ideas.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think that reading unprofessional work (exclusively) would necessarily have a negative impact on your writing. But your inability to read professional work should be a concern. You may want to take a step back and ask yourself how serious you are about writing.
     
  6. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    Read what you like. Let your own instinct guide you. Then write what you like.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are definitely things you can learn by reading unprofessional work, but reading works by seasoned writers will probably do you more good. Is there any particular reason why you don't like reading works by pro/experienced writers?
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This was my reaction, too. Why can't you read professional work? That's a concern.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm curious--what kind of professional books are you trying to read? If the problem is that a full book is too much of a commitment, how about short story collections? If the problem is that the books are too dense and hard to read, how about looking for some fun junk? If the problem is that you're bored with the subject, how about changing to a different subject?

    ChickenFreak
     
  10. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    It's funny, I don't read fiction really at all. So my opinion would have to be that it is not important.

    It just seems to me that you should read what satisfies you. While the inclination is to read something that is good for our writing, remember that reading is for enjoyment first. If you are enjoying fanfic, so be it.

    Life isn't always about the craft but also about enjoying the time we have. I love going to movies and go often. Seeing a movie like Duvall's 'Get Low (best movie of the year...) was very satisfying though serious, can be offset by the silly dumbness of 'Get Him to the Greek'.

    Not every thing needs to be serious...enjoy.
     
  11. J_Jammer
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    J_Jammer Banned

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    I don't read fanfic. I did write parody like fanfic. On a forum I was on I created superheroes out of posters and each section of the website was its own city. That's as close as I got to fanfic because I gave them powers of certain X-Men or people from the Marvel Universe.

    I also did that with friends and family...as well as workmates when I work at a restaurant.

    As for reading it? I don't think that's bad. I think that it might spark creativity in you. It's like reading work that's not published...that's not bad for you.

    But just like eating sweets may not kill you, if you do it too much it just might.

    You are out to get published? Right? It would be wise to find someone you like to read that is.

    Don't stop eating sweets, though. Add some variety. :cool:
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I've learnt more from reading bad fiction than good. With good fiction, the writing tends to be invisible to me; it just works. With bad fiction, I notice what the writer is doing (wrong), and can learn from it.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I honestly don't know - I read pretty much everything. I have read fanfiction - I loved the follow ons from Heidi and Pride and Prejudice - I also have read books based of Suikoden, Star Trek, Dr Who and Torchwood. Oh and some based on the Hardy Boys.

    It has to be better than reading nothing, some I love reading and are exceptional stories, well written.
     
  14. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I can read professional work (I have done lots of times)
    But I picked up His dark materials by Phillip Pullman, which I loved years ago but now I can't even read past the second chapter. :S
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    you got about as far with dark materials as I did lol Needed to force myself past the first chapter for my husband's sake. So not my kind of thing. I love fantasy but only thing I loved in Dark Materials was the name Lyra - I was pregnant at the time but my husband wouldn't let me use it :)
     
  16. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Lol but Lyra is quite a nice name xD I think part of the reason was because I saw the film a few years ago, so I can't really use my imagination any more. Takes the fun out of the reading book...
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is possible it is why I refuse to watch any of the Narnia films. JK Rowlling is one of the few that pulled it off visually for me but suspect it is because she kept such a strong creative control over the movie herself - think she turned them down several times until they understood she didn't want more money she wanted conditions on how it was handled.

    Have you tried maybe reading the Pride and Prejudice fan fiction? it may help you go backwards to the original book? Some of the Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr Who type fan fiction is really good, they have amazing plots, they are beautifully written.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I like His Dark Materials a lot. The film was horrible :)
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My very general answer is yes. Now let me explain.

    I think that if you only read work that has not gone through the rigors of the editing process and has not passed the many hurdles necessary for publication and this is the writing that you use as the meter by which to measure what is good and what is not, then absolutely, this is going to weaken your writing.

    You don't hand draw a number of rulers and then hand them out to be used for a construction project, right? No. You need to know that the measure you use is a standard and is acceptable to all. You may not care for the standard, just as some people prefer English Standard over metric and widdershins likewise, but a standard must be come to which all agree upon. If your end goal is to get published then you need to look at the standard that is currently being used by those willing to hand over money for your work.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to be a good writer one must first be a good and constant reader of good writing... if you read bits of junk along with the good, that will simply show you the difference...

    however, reading only poor writing can not make you a good writer...
     
  21. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    But not all Fan fiction is badly written. >.<
    If I only read the bad ones, I wouldn't survive half way with the grammar mistakes and bad spelling.
     
  22. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, not all fan fiction is badly written. But the majority of it is, because often fan fiction writers are teenagers without experience in writing and who don't edit properly.

    Getting exposed to a broad spectrum of different types of writing is crucial if you're serious about being a writer. By day, I'm exposed to law reports, journal articles, case digests, newspaper reports, etc. By night (for want of a better phrase), I read SF by the bucketload, but it's not exclusively SF. I'll read classics, contemporary literature and bestsellers (these less so, admittedly), other genres. I'll read short fiction and long fiction. As a result, I've equipped myself with more tools to make my own writing work because I've been learning from writers more capable and significantly more experienced than myself.

    So don't stop reading fan fiction, not unless you want to. But go out there and read other things. If it's a matter of cost, join the local library - and if you do, get the librarians to recommend something to you. Experiment.
     
  23. kaylynwrong
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    kaylynwrong Member

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    I like Harry Potter fanfiction and I read it because it interests me. Other than that, I read lots of YA books.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with fanfiction. In fact, there are plenty of fanfic authors who write much better than published writers. There are also published writers who began as fanfiction writers.

    However I am picky in what fanfiction I read. I tend to read stories by certain writers that I know to be good. These are generally writers I would like to see creating their own original fiction and becoming published in the future.
     
  24. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    I fully admit to enjoying the guilty pleasure of fan fiction.

    One thing I want to warn you about, though, is the fact that there are common tropes in fan fiction which wouldn't be considered acceptable in edited, published work. The problem with primarily reading fan fiction is that you will see certain things done again and again, which makes them seem not only acceptable but almost expected. If you are unaware that these habits are to be avoided in more serious work, it's easy to fall into the trap of including them, and you will eventually get torn to pieces by a serious editor.

    I'm talking about stuff like referring to characters by their occupation/hair color/eye color/whatever instead of their name or a pronoun. Or using the word "orbs" to refer to eyes (or even worse, female anatomy). Or describing body parts performing actions as though disconnected from a human being. These are just a few off the top of my head.

    In general I say read what makes you happy and yes, there are definitely well-written fan fiction stories out there. But if you're serious about writing, you should definitely read more than just fan fiction (unless you only aspire to write fan fiction). At the end of the day, 99% of fan fiction is not written or edited to a publishable standard, and immersing yourself only in those types of stories will almost certainly normalize bad writing and bad habits in a way any future editor who works with you will lament. :)
     
  25. Agent Vatani
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    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    Steerpike said it. You sure can learn from it, I read some fanfic's and some whereso good they can have been a book writer. But other not so good. But you can learn reading them or read your own reading say from last year.

    I learn from reading books, fanfic and my past writings.
     

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