1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    My superstition: reading good books leads to good writing...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mrieder79, Apr 17, 2016.

    ...and vice versa. Really its the inverse that really worries me. I wonder if reading poorly written books will negatively impact my writing, like a kind of evil osmosis.

    I love Stephen King. LOVE. So I've been reading him exclusively for at least the last four months. My writing has been top notch: the best it's ever been. This may be due to my reading or it may just be a product of experience.

    I know it is important to listen to a variety of authors and genres, but this is where my supersition comes in. I am afraid that reading lesser writers will mess up the good thing I have going. It's sort of like not wanting to wash my lucky jockstrap midway through a winning season.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    Saying it's a superstition implies it's full of crap. So if you know it's full of crap, why believe it? I don't think reading bad stuff makes you write badly unless you don't notice you are reading bad stuff. But if you are worried in the first place you notice so that nullifies that possibility. At the very least you can notice bad writing techniques and reinforce when not to do them. There might be some exception if you have never read anything good and only know what bad stuff reads like, but at that point if you recognize it's bad the prospect of being a writer would probably be discouraging because writing as a whole is bad in your reality. Yeah, I guess the lesson here is that vice versa doesn't imply to everything in life.
     
  3. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I think what you read influences it, I find it difficult to believe it wouldn't, but not easily and not largely. It's more of a matter of whether you have enough exposure to good writing to learn what they did right rather than whether it's what you always read and shove your brain full of. You can read corny stuff and not pick it up because you understand that's not the kind of writing you want to do.
     
  4. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    There are lots of popular books with less than stellar writing. This is one demonstration of how the story is more important to the reader than making sure all the commas are in the right place or if the tenses are erratic.
    If you can see and recognize the mistakes for what they are it's probably not going to be a problem for you, instead it's a learning experience.
     
  5. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just keeping careful notes about why you feel that a particular work is poor should be enough to keep you from doing the same thing.

    "It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls."
     
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  6. Pauline
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    Pauline Member

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    Don't know on that one. But if sticking to just one author is giving such top notch results, isn't there a worry about emulating their style? Maybe there's something to be learned from both good and bad? Terrible writing is more than just poor grammar and spelling. Anyone can hire an editor.
     
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  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that might be true in some ways. When I was younger I read a lot of successful writers, mostly romance and the likes, and especially one, I noticed, affected my writing to a point where I'm still today trying to wash away the signs of those influences on my writing. Even though I've read a lot more good books since. BUT on the other hand, If I've been forced to read just "good literature" and classics and stuff like that when I was young, I'm not sure I would have developed that love of books and reading the same way I did.
     
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Reading bad books is beneficial because it teaches you what not to do. As long as you read all writing with a critical eye and a willingness to learn something, you should be fine.
     
  9. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    I think reading any books should lead to being a better writer because you're, well, reading, rather than not reading. The only thing that will make you a better writer than will reading a lot is writing a lot.
     
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  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Also discussing theory on this site has helped me a lot.
     
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  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read Mad magazine when I was a kid - maybe that explains a lot?
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to go through a long example about private pilots and black cats crossing their paths, but I'm going to leave that out and say that (1) I don't believe that reading bad books can actually harm your writing but (2) I believe that a productive creative streak is a fragile thing. If you believe that reading a bad book can harm your writing, then doing so might produce doubts and anxiety that COULD harm your writing.

    So if it's going well, keep going. If you feel a need for a change, that's the time to make that change.
     
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  13. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    There's two views on writing: one is that it's all 'craft' the other is that it's all talent. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Reading good books can help you see how the craft can be well applied. You can learn from how they write natural sounding dialogue or pace their story. You can also learn from seeing these things done badly. Things done poorly enough that it's glaringly obvious is a helpful learning experience too. But this stuff only gets you so far. Even if I tell you exactly my idea for a book you will write it different to me, even if we have the same 'craft'.

    If you need to work on your craft reading a lot can help, especially if you actively read. If you need help with the intangible spark in your work you'd be better served walking away from the books and just living a little.

    Edit -

    Sometimes I forget that other people don't exclusively write under the influence - Does it really happen to y'all that watching the wrong tv show will stop you writing? Because that sounds... Weird.
     

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