1. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    Stephen King about reading a lot

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by aguywhotypes, Oct 22, 2015.

    I know we all know the famous quote from his writing book that states if you want to write you must read a lot. I do agree with that, however; I find that when I need an idea I tend to take the ideas from what I've read and feel that I'm not coming up with anything original or of my own.

    How do you handle this?

    Does anyone else feel this way?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't usually take ideas from books I read, instead I look at techniques.
     
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  3. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    >_o Yes and no.

    I'm not a big reader (perhaps my prose shows this, I don't know), but when I do read, I notice the quality of my writing improves substantially. In a way, I do need to read to be able to write, but it has nothing to do with what I read -- the author's technique and the story itself are both irrelevant, I think it has more to do with exercising whatever area(s) of the brain are required for storytelling.

    edit to add: Your experience may vary. o_O
     
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  4. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Reading "a lot" only serves to further the foundation of my disdain for said genre. I do not personally dislike King, but I am not a fan.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think King means you should read a lot of King, just that you should read a lot of everything.

    In terms of the OP - when I first started writing, I quit reading almost entirely for a few years, and I think that helped me develop my own ideas. Now, I'd been a voracious reader for my entire life up to that point, and after the first few years of writing I started reading again, at an almost-as-voracious-as-before rate. But after I'd developed a few ideas of my own in writing, I found that most of my ideas for future writing came from previous writing - like I'd write a minor character of a certain type and find him or her intriguing, and in my next book I'd borrow some characteristics from that character, flesh them out in a different direction, and explore and expand on my own idea instead of someone else's.

    All that said, as long as you're not taking the ideas in their entirety, there's nothing wrong with being inspired by the writing of others. That's essentially what genres are - using the structures or general ideas of other authors and expressing them in new ways.
     
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  6. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    To be clear - reading other fantasy works serves only to increase my disdain for the fantasy genre! It is extremely rare when I can find a good sci-fi book - most are utterly non-nonsensical to me. Large worlds and settings are often covers for a shallow existence where the characters act upon a stage. I do not want a stage - I want a world.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I've always picked up a lot more books than I ended up reading. Read a few paragraphs or chapters, don't like it, put it down and get a different book. Don't we all do that?

    I tried reading the Divergent series and the Shadowhunters series. I couldn't get past the first chapter of either book. But I loved The Young Elites and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I can't wait for the next one in The Young Elites series. They're both fantasy genre. It's not the genre that's the problem, it's just one's taste in books.

    And maybe your taste does exclude all fantasy. I gag at dragon stories. I won't pick up anything about zombies.

    I don't see it as an issue that we have particular tastes in reading.
     
  8. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe you need to change what you read. If you are reading fiction and science fiction stories and trying to write fiction or science fiction it would be hard not to "borrow" some concepts. If you read some non-fiction stories and try to envision how that story could have ended up you might find some of the originality you are seeking.

    From another post I know you were writing a story about some people journeying into the Earth. If you read some science tidbits about how the inner Earth is constructed, previous actual explorations, etc. you might pick out some particular aspect and think what-if, if it was not that way, but this way? I guess I am saying use your reading time as broad based research, then put your own twist on it.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I try not to read any one genre. I like to keep it mixed - a couple of gothic romances, a horror, an old YA. Plus I mix in some non-genre - general fiction, poetry and some non-fiction. And the classics.

    I think some writer's under estimate the power of non-fiction in helping you flesh out an idea even if it has nothing to do with your story. You could be reading about quartz or gems and suddenly you decide the alien race in your new book will grow in the earth like a mineral and voila.
     
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  10. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    I wonder about how essential it is to read for the sake of quality writing. I am an odd case. My family has no culture that promotes intellect. The first book I've read was The Hobbit, at age 15, now I am 18 going 19, and I've not reached 30 books. I just can't, it's hard when not growing up with the hobby. I do take certain pleasure in being a reader and leafing through pages and settling into words, but it is not without some kind of mental and physical strain, which I am not used to because I am relatively new to this.

    Now I do write a novel, and I've prepared myself to write in English, which is not my native tongue, via a daily delving into the free dictionary, cosntructing and rerunning words and grammar in my head. I did that for half a year.

    What's interesting is that whenever I think about construction, of stories, characters, techniques, etc... I find that whatever conclusion I came down to in my head through logical thinking is actually simillar or even sometimes identical to the advice posted on the internet, both in professional helper books and posts from readers\writers, not to mention the opinions of my English teachers. I don't want to sound boastful or anything, but I honestly feel as if nobody can add anything new to my way of writing.

    Granted, I have not yet finished my novel, which means it may live to be failure, success or in between, but as to the way of writing, I guess logical thinking does the job. There is the matter of simple well-versed-ness in a genre: what is popular, what is considered cliche, what stories are not original, characters, etc... All of those questions may be answered by "reading a lot".

    30 books is not much to take from, so the story I am writing must either be influeced directly by those less than 30, or from a source that is not books. The other option being that I think about the massage I want delivered, then think about what setting, characters, senarios, and so on should best convey the essense of my story. The rest is the fruit of personallity - which is where diversity and originality comes to play. So overall we have the combination of personality and logical thinking as the basis of story construction.

    But anyhow that is just my opinion :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015
  11. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    @Tella - Proper construction does not always imply excellent execution. Having a strong background and command of different styles and techniques will only aid your craft, but it will not actually put words on the page. Being able to tell an entertaining story does not rely on the application of these construction techniques, but it will greatly enhance the product and make it appealing to readers. Being able to create an engaging and enjoyable novel that reads well will require a surprising amount of work, even for established writers.
     
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  12. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Of course, of course :), hell yeah to that! Actually, I can relate. Sometimes when I write I tend to get extremely emotion-driven. On an occasional night from midnight to 6 am I might sit in front of a WIP only to finish up with 3 new lines by morning. I often go back to old chapters to reread and edit endlessly. That is my amount of work, which a lot of time is more emotinoal than logical.
     
  13. Erez Kristal
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    Erez Kristal Member

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    He writes a lot of books, and by stating that you should read a lot, he means read his books. :)
    Which will then in turn more profit for him and less competition, sadly, you learn how to be a better writer by writing, by studying the rules of writing(And then breaking them.) And most importantly by gaining more life experiences.

    I think the key to being a writer can be sum like this, Work hard, get funding and keep your expenses low.
     
  14. RevGeo
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    RevGeo Member

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    As a voracious reader I agree whole-heartedly with Mr. King. When I was a tyke my dad read me to sleep every night. Kipling, Steinbeck, Dickens and Poe were particular favorites of his (and mine) so I was exposed to great writing from an early age.
    Nowadays I typically will be reading two books concurrently. I spend much more time with my nose stuck in a book than I do watching TV or cruising cyberspace. Oh, that I should spend as much time writing as I do reading!
    I am convinced that if I weren't such a fan of quality writing I wouldn't have started writing myself.

    As an aside, I must say I have enjoyed quite a few of Mr. King's works. Dolores Claiborne and Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption, to name but two, are fine books, in my humble opinion.
     
  15. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I sort of disagree. I don't think he cares that people reasons his books at this point. I feel that his advise is real and valid and i think any accomplished writer will tell you that you need to read a lot to improve your writing.

    Yes you improve your writing by writing however you also need to read so you can study techniques and so forth. Its like a movie director saying they just make movies to improve their directing skills and they never watch movies.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2015
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  16. ReproveTheCurlew
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    ReproveTheCurlew Member

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    Well, Eliot once said 'Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal', which, I believe, is quite a succinct way to put it. Yes, the most obvious influence one should have is in one's style, but it is also alright to 'steal' or 'borrow' things from other writers - just not to plainly copy the entire thing. You could have a similar story with interesting tweaks and changes - why not? As long as the writing is your original work, and the story isn't the same, it should be valid. Influence is not necessarily a bad thing - on the contrary. Just don't plagiarize.
     
  17. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @aguywhotypes Writers who copy other stories don't copy the parts that they don't like, they copy the parts that they do like.

    If you find yourself copying too much of any one story, then you are focusing too much on the aspects of that story that you like, and you might want to spend more time focusing on the aspects that you don't like.

    ( If you can't find anything in the story that you don't like, then you're not trying hard enough ;) )

    If you can't mentally separate the parts of the story that you like from the parts of it that you don't, then you won't be tempted to copy the "good" parts anymore because they don't look as good as they used to.

    If you can mentally separate the parts of the story that you like from the parts of it that you don't, then you're still not "copying" the good parts of the original anymore, you're making them even better than the original :D
     
  18. Mckk
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    It's ok to think that as long as you never stop learning and critiquing your own writing :) I'm a little like you - full of confidence in my own writing - even when I was 13 I never questioned that my writing was excellent. (at 13 my writing was crap, but I was 13 and believed it to be excellent :bigcool: ) And to a certain extent, I don't see this as a bad thing. I think as writers we need to believe in ourselves and our ability.

    As long as you keep reading and keep learning, never dismiss advice/critique without consideration, then you're fine! :agreed:

    But keep learning is key. At 30 books, I don't think you can say there's nothing to add to your way of writing just yet :ninja:
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Especially when writing in a language not your own, it's important to find a way to understand the feel of the language, the way that native speakers expect it to be used, etc. Based on your post here, you could use some more development of that understanding, and reading is a good way to make that happen.

    Your story and characters may be great regardless of what language you're writing, but that's not all there is to writing a story.
     
  20. PapaGhanda
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    PapaGhanda Member

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    Does studying ones character on a day-to-day basis not count as reading?
     
  21. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    what do you mean studying a character? Are you writing non-fiction?
     
  22. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Reading motivates me to write. The difficulty is find a good book. I buy a lot, but struggle to read them, even ones by established, praised authors.

    Currently I'm reading 'ready player one' and it is superb.
     
  23. thespian
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    thespian Member

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    Writing draws ideas from the richness of your emotional and everyday life. Reading helps when you want to tell your own story because it gives you perspective.
     

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