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  1. ISalem

    ISalem Member

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    Does reading help improve writing better? Or does writing help improve reading better?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ISalem, Sep 21, 2020.

    I know many good readers who aren’t good writers. I also know many good writers who aren’t good readers. In other words, I don’t think reading helps improve writing as much as writing helps improve reading and writing as well. I think writing helps improve reading much better than that reading help improve writing . I don’t think a good reader is more likely to be a good writer.on the other hand, I think a good writer is more likely to be a good reader. from a different perspective, reading is not as important as writing when it comes to writing imrovment. I think writing helps improve writing better than that reading helps improve writing. I think the more write is, the more our writing gets better and better. Does the more we read, our writing gets better as much as it gets better by the more write. here is another way to look at, if we are in a position where to give an advice to someone who needs to improve his writing, would we recommend him to write more, or to read more.
     
  2. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    IMHO it is virtually impossible to be any sort of writer without reading extensively, and not just in your chosen genre.

    Writing also changes how you read. Reading as a writer is not the same as reading as a reader. The good news is that it still seems possible to do both.

    Watching a movie or an adaptation is very much not the same as reading the work that has been adapted.
     
  3. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with this completely. Ideally to hone your craft you'll do both - write more and read more.

    I can't think of a single musician that would say, "hey, just practice your instrument, but never listen to music." Mr. Kelly has played guitar for close to 40 years and been in a few locally successful bands, and he still spends a significant amount of his free time listening to music, going to shows (well, pre-Covid) and watching videos by musicians that he admires. It's where he gets a lot of his inspiration from, and keeps him informed as to what kind of music he and other people are enjoying. As a writer, reading is the same thing for me - I read a book that I love, and it makes me want to write something just as good by examining what parts really worked for me as a reader.
     
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  4. Kyle Phoenix

    Kyle Phoenix Active Member

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    I'd suggest both, though if you forced me to pick I suggest writing more rather than reading more.

    I am very new to the horror genre, so I really need to get to a point where I sit down and actually read great literature from that genre so I know how it is done. At the same time, I also need to work (continuously) on my own writing so that I can write better whatever I decide to write.

    I think the secret is learning to read and write critically, name that you have a level of self-awareness when you write and that you also become attuned to how other writers construct their stories, portray characters and settings and use words on the page. It's a consistent process of engagement and of continuous learning and self-improvement, rather than an automatic one. Hence enjoying it and having fun are critical to sustaining the exercise over the long-term to develop your ability.
     
  5. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    If you want to be a decent reader, you have to be a voracious reader. It doesn't happen otherwise. Just reading though, that doesn't make you a good writer unless you sit down and put what you've learned in books to the test. You only get better at writing by writing, you only learn how to write by reading. It can't be one or the other, it's both.
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't understand what seems to be some sort of resistance to reading. Of course, reading is going to improve your writing. Surely, it can't hurt. But the point isn't to read because you have to. Writers should like to read and want to read. Reading is as big a part of my life as writing. I am a writer because I read what's out there and wanted to be a part of it. If you're not in love with reading, it's going to be very hard to make it as a writer. I don't understand trying to separate reading from writing or looking for some sort of justification for not reading. When someone is not much of a reader I think it tends to show in their writing. And, really, you want readers, but don't want to be one yourself? That's just silly.
     
  7. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Contributor

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    This statement is kind of self-defeating in my opinion, as has been stated previously. My main contention is that if your writing is kind of shitty because of fundamental issues, all you'll be doing is polishing a golden shit. It may look pretty to you, but it still is what it is to most anyone else. Honestly, I think both go hand-in-hand for the improvement of writing.

    Let's break it down as reading as a writer. Try to look at the fundamentals of what the piece you're reading is trying to do and how they employ different elements of writing. Look at what's successful and reaches you as a reader. If there's shifts in perspective, what do they do? Does the setting mirror the tone or have some other primary function, and why? What characters particularly stick out to you and why? Could parts of the story be left out entirely? Were you drowning in excess diction? Questions like these make the writer look at the details of the work and consider its construction. This helps the writer identify methodologies and sometimes mistakes in the literature. Take apart something you like to read and figure out the baseline parts that you enjoy about it. Look the elements of the story or poem further than the surface level agreement or disagreement and understand what makes you not able to put it down.

    At the end of the day, you should also realize that you really are only going to be great at writing something you want to read. Forcing it is noticeable, so it is good to fully understand why a piece is fun for you and how the author designed it to work for an audience like you. An aspiring engineer doesn't sit at a desk with AutoCAD and a pencil and know immediately what their doing. They study the elements of design and construction, they learn the appropriate materials for the job, they become proficient in necessary calculations before they can even contemplate designing anything functional. Writing is no different. As Cephus talks about, reading voraciously in a necessity. That is how you learn writing. Reverse engineer the stories you like and try to design your own as you learn their styles and methodologies through reading as a writer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If nothing else, reading can open new avenues of engagement and point the writer to tools they would not have known were even there to use.

    There's a thread running right now concerning the perennial question of "Fantasy Story 5 Races" where the question seems to engage the matter as though these 5 races and their attributes are the only things from which one may pick in the whole and entirety of the Fantasy genre. There's nothing else. Nothing. Not - one - thing.

    Yet, I scan the list of High Fantasy books on Amazon and am pleased to see many, many, many offerings where there isn't so much as a whiff of dwarf or elf to be seen from shore to shore.
     
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  9. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Here's the trouble with only writing and not reading -- you're going to use movie patterns instead. It's a given. Some movie patterns are okay but they're not great, they're designed specifically for 90 minute storytelling with a heavy emphasis on music and visuals. And with movies able to be anywhere from G to Unrated a lot of symbolism that was used in old movies has been abandoned so the current writer may not understand how to layer, use symbolism or subtly to connect theme to character and setting. It could result in writing a dry overly familiar story that can be timestamped to this decade.
     
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  10. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It really doesn't make sense to me wanting to be a writer without loving to read. I breathe in all the greatness I can get.
     
  11. Underneath

    Underneath Member

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    If you want to know how something is done — you study how the best do it. You can read a book and be absorbed by it and walk away having read a fantastic story, or, you can break it down as you read.

    How do they use dialogue and action tags? How is their prose constructed? What tools do they use to weave their world together, how do they make their dialogue flow the way it does?

    One reader walks away happy with their reading of a fine book. Another walks away happy that they’ve learnt a new trick or technique in their reading of a fine book.

    In music — there’s a saying that being a musician will ruin music for you. It’s partially true. You can’t sit down and listen without analyzing how everything was done — where vocal tales were switched, how the mixing focused on certain freq’s, the behind the scenes magic to bring a finished product. I’d say the same is true of reading.
     
  12. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber <[:>)-|---< Contributor

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    Why would you want to produce a kind of product, at such great cost to yourself, that you have no interest in enjoying?
    Honestly I can't say I've ever heard of that being the case. I've never heard the saying either. I'm sorry for you if that's how you feel about music--it must be hard? Knowing something about music hasn't done anything other than increase my enjoyment of it, I think.
     
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  13. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    What's a good reader? Someone who can pronounce really long words? Someone who can read really fast? Read for long periods?

    I'm not being obnoxious (for once), just curious to hear your definition of a 'good reader'. That said, I think I understand. I'm a terrible reader. If I can make it through a single chapter in a day I've done well, and that's not even an exaggeration.
    I'd recommend neither because I'd be advising they do both, especially reading. How can you learn how to write if you don't read?
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  14. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    I wish I could double-like this. Can somebody do me a favor and add a like up there?
     
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  15. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Contributor

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    I got you. Like SENT!
     
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  16. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Or all of the crap sometimes. Reading extensively not only tells you what to do, it also tells you what not to do. Reading some bad books can be just as instructive as reading good ones.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
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  17. JuliaBrune

    JuliaBrune Member

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    I agree with all the above but I would add one thing. Beyond technical skill (and that's no small leap), reading current stuff keeps you in the loop.

    I have a friend who writes poetry and only ever reads early 19th century poetry. And what he writes is mostly early 19th century style poetry but worse because obviously all the mediocre poets from the era are long forgotten and he competes with the very people who pushed this style the highest.

    (I don't blame him, I wrote a lot of golden age SF but worse in my days).

    Anyways, read the old masters, read your contemporaries, write and repeat
     
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  18. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Contributor

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    This is knowing your audience.
     
  19. Veloci-Rapture

    Veloci-Rapture Member

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    Another thing that reading does, in addition to exposing you to the structure of a plot or a story, is expose you to the structure of the **language**. Where the commas go, what a semicolon is used for, what a good sentence reads like and looks like on the page. Every book you read, your brain is absorbing not only the storyline and the dialogue, but how all of these words are hooked together mechanically. Without that constant exposure, your writing is likely to be mixed in between a jumbled mess of dots and squiggles. Even a college class can't make up for a lack of immersion in your written tongue.
     
  20. Underneath

    Underneath Member

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    By all rights and with no offense meant — I’m not referring to hobbyists. I’m talking about the producers, artists, songwriters, A&R’s etc. within the industry. Signed to a label/publisher or operating either independently successfully or operating their own. It’s our jobs to do these things.

    There’s a different beauty in analysis. You can say it sounds like it diminishes enjoyment, it does not. It makes the impressive spectacular by comparison, but also makes the mediocre dull. You can appreciate wondrous talent more but, the cost is despising the average. I imagine the same is similar for writers with careers under their belts. But I cannot comment on that, truly.
     
  21. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I've personally always disagreed with this. While I understand the merit of extensive reading, and that it's undeniable that reading helps develop writing, stating that you have to read a lot to be a good writer, and you can't be a good writer without reading veraciously, is not true.

    I don't read much, or often. To be honest, most books bore me. But I read enough quality writing to get a sense of how to put things together. I wouldn't consider myself a bad writer because of a lack of reading, but it's hard to see it yourself. Read my stuff and make your own judgement.

    I don't feel you need to read a lot. I think you need to read the right stuff, and then break it down to understand how it works and why. It's not quantity. It's quality. Like someone else here wrote, to see how anything works it helps to break it down to see how each component functions. But if you're not mechanically minded, you can break down as many engines as you like and still have no clue.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  22. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Maybe that's why most books bores me. I'm looking for works that inspire, and I'm a tough critic. I'm looking for works that make me go wow, I want to make something like this. I hate reading a work where I can't help but think: this is shit, I can do better. It does make me write, though.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
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  23. LadySilence

    LadySilence Member

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    You can't be a good writer if you're not an avid reader.
     
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  24. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    bullshit.
     
  25. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber <[:>)-|---< Contributor

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    You referred in your post merely to musicians. Forgive my misunderstanding.
    I think we agree...I was saying that knowing something about a subject hasn't decreased my enjoyment of it. Knowing that the country songs on the radio I kind of like are just vi IV V I over and over doesn't bother me...knowing why someone like Guthrie Govan is such a monster only increases my enjoyment of his music. But I'm only a hobbyist.
     
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