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September 4, 2013
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Have you ever set down a book for good because you found something in it you don’t like? If you want to write, I suggest that bad habit end now.

Why, you ask? Because everything you read—and I mean everything–has positive value for you as a writer. Stephen King, and any author worth his or her salt, is a huge advocate of writers reading massive amounts.

Again you ask, why? How can everything be useful? There are a number of reasons and I’ll cover as many as I can.

Reading bad literature teaches you about yourself and shows you what to avoid—or at least how not to do something—in your own work. If you run across something that you don’t like, stop and ask yourself why you don’t like it. Is it just a personal preference? Was it out of place or poorly executed? Does it contradict something from earlier? As soon as you figure out the “why” of something’s badness, you learn a little about yourself and your craft.

You could learn a preference you didn’t realize you had. That preference could have subconsciously translated into a writing “rule” in your head and you’ll be able to break down that silly association. With that out of the way, you’ll be able to expand and diversify your writing and make it more appealing to more people. Also, you’ll be able to focus on that preference and sharpen it to a keen edge, maybe resulting in a signature element in your writing.

You can learn new tricks for writing. If you notice wording or development that’s clunky, awkward, or confusing, you’ll know not to use that approach in your own writing. You’ll also have a better idea of how to do it yourself. By learning how something shouldn’t be done, you’re able to focus more on how it should be done. If you can figure out where, and even how, the mistake happened, you’ll walk away with a greater understanding of the writing craft.

Ultimately, you’re learning from the mistakes of others and the others of the world are far more numerous, and generate far more mistakes than you. You get a greater sampling of mistakes by looking at those everyone else makes. Everything you recognize that’s wrong in what you’re reading nudges you a little closer to the “right” path, whatever that is for you.

Reading good literature is just as beneficial, though in different ways. If you find something that’s particularly striking, stop and ask yourself why. The author clearly did something right and if you can identify what, you can learn from it.

You can learn to write more effectively. If you notice you’re having a reaction to something you’re reading without any apparent cause, stop and look back over what you’ve read. The answer’s there somewhere, tucked cleverly away. It could be the order the information’s being presented. It could be the author’s choice of wording. It could be something you’re reading into the text or even a slow accumulation of details coming to a head. No matter what it is, if you find it and like it, try to emulate it!

You can learn what works for you. If you like something in what you’re reading, it’s clearly been done right. Figure out what it is and how the author did it and do it yourself! You’ll learn about yourself and where your interests lie. You might even get a better idea of where you want your skill to go!

You can open your mind. No one knows everything and no one can conceive of all the ideas that humanity has come up with. Let what you’re reading open your mind to new possibilities that you wouldn’t have thought of before. Maybe you never considered that two protagonists, best friends for life, could have irreconcilable differences that split them up permanently. Maybe you never considered the effects of low or zero gravity on the bones and muscles of space-faring characters. Maybe you never considered letting cultural taboos have a dramatic effect on a story. No matter what it is, good literature is going to have ideas you wouldn’t have thought of before. Embrace that. The more you know and the more you take into consideration, the greater your writing is going to be.

No matter how good or bad something is, read it. Analyze it. It’ll probably take some time to get used to this, but the results are worth it. Trust me. Some of the greatest things to happen to my writing occurred when I read The Old Man and the Sea and The Darkest Night.
I realized last night, with the help of my muse, that I have a serious flaw. I seek instant gratification. As such, my experience here has been diminished. This is something that needs to be fixed and I will work on it through writing guides. Judging by the amount of views and faves of my other guides, there is a healthy population of people here I can assist. And besides. I want to be an editor so I can help authors fulfill their potential. How is this not part of that goal?

On another note, I know I've surely missed things and I'd love to hear back from you guys about what those things are. What other benefits can come from reading good and bad literature that I haven't covered?
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:iconmirrasae:
You pose a great case for constant reading. This has always been my struggle, as I get so easily frustrated by poor prose or flimsy plots. It can be hard to swallow those, but your points make it easier for people like me to keep plugging away at that recommended reading list everyone's always offering. I have come to understand, slowly, over time, the value of reading anything and everything, and this writer's resource deals well with the 'whys' of reading what's out there, the good and the bad. Thank you.
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:iconkeixayaka:
keixayaka Oct 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Nice advice. Though personally, I always try to finish every book I read 'cause I think that even the most "poorly" written stories have something in them that make them unique and interesting. I try to give any written material I encounter a chance to be read completely. But then, I can't read every thing, and that just makes me sad and frustrated.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! :)
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:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Oct 17, 2013  Student Writer
I always try to finish reading everything I start, too, but there are some things I just can't stomach. I tried reading "The Source" by James Michener (it's now late back to the library by, like, three years) and I love the history part, but his storytelling ability is SO HORRIBLE I can't stand it. It's dry, boring, and he doesn't know how to make paragraphs shorter than a page long. :crazy: I plan on noting the page I'm on before giving it back to the library so I can give it another go another time.
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:iconkeixayaka:
keixayaka Oct 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, I know the feeling (it's like wadding through Fifty Shades--I don't know about you but I really don't like the writing style of that book although I want to finish it because I think that's somewhat of an achievement). I haven't heard of that book, maybe I'll find a copy and give it a try. :) And wow, three years? If I didn't return a book that long in our library I'd have a really expensive late fee. Hmm, I think I know an author who has one and half page paragraph and it was historical, too, but I can't remember the name.

History has been trademarked as dry and boring, but I take it you've read other historical novels enough to say that his book is lame? I'm slightly envious that you can continue reading a long abandoned book at the last page you read. If I leave a for half a year, I always start from the beginning of the book. OC much, haha.
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:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Oct 18, 2013  Student Writer
I've yet to read Fifty Shades, but I plan on it one of these days. I don't expect it to be any good, but its popularity demands I try to figure it out. Similarly, I need to read the Twilight books... The bile rises just thinking about it.

I haven't checked my library account in ages. I'm sure I owe them a small fortune by now. :giggle:

I haven't actually read any(?) historical novels, to be honest, so Michener might be on-par with everything else out there. But I enjoy the crap out of history textbooks for sure and The Source was just miserable. He had the setting down, definitely, but everything else lacked in a grand way. Characters (including dialogue), plot...

Any other book, I would start over or at least backtrack a little. But The Source is 900-some pages long and is so boring I want to beat my head against a wall. There's no way I'm suffering through, again, anything I've already read.
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:iconkeixayaka:
keixayaka Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
When you read Fifty Shades, prepare a pillow to throw so you won't throw the book instead. As much as the writing sucks, books shouldn't be thrown to the wall or outside the window. Haha. I've read Twilight but didn't finish the entire series. Twilight is better written than Fifty Shades though. My only complaint about Twilight is Bella and her lack of characterization, but it may expand when I finish reading the entire series.

Hm... I can't really say anything since I haven't read The Source yet. I guess I'll just have to find out myself, heh. But to give you a good reference for historical novels, I'll recommend His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. The gist: dragon exists and are used in warfare in the Napoleonic Wars. It's a series, and I enjoy it very much so far.

Wow, that's pretty long. Almost like a manual. I wouldn't want to read that from the beginning, too. (Though I might if it's any good, but based from your reaction... meh. Haha).
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:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Oct 23, 2013  Student Writer
Oh, I fully intend on needing safe rage outlets when I finally get to reading that. It'll be the same for Twilight I suspect... I've seen several of the movies and I just hate, hate, HATE the characters and plot! They're vapid, disgustingly petty, selfish, and incapable of logic or context! :angry:  The Nostalgia Critic on YouTube describes Bella as the worst villain of movie history, and I'm tempted to agree... :crazy: Ahem...

I might just have to look up His Majesty's Dragon. In fact, I am going to jot it down so I can remember some day in the future... James Michener actually has a very interesting approach to his writing. He will actually go to the area he's going to write about and stays there for years (I believe). I think he even gets involved with archaeological excavations. Because his books (or at least The Source is) are actual stories centering around archaeological digs and what they find. Michener then tells the historical stories that might've caused the evidence dug up. It's a fascinating approach and I do enjoy the historical information he provides. I just wish he didn't suck so bad at storytelling.
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:iconkeixayaka:
keixayaka Oct 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Uh oh. The Twilight movies are somewhat loyal to the book, I heard. The only movie that wasn't was the last one. I guess it has something to do with the acting... It always does. :P I haven't really watched them yet seriously, just peeks. But I guess the characters with their flaws didn't evolve much, based from your reaction. It would've been okay to have a selfish character if they had some sort of justification or change that will make them, well, less selfish. If they didn't evolve throughout the story then they're not the best written characters.

Gasp. If you hate Twilight characters because of this, then how will you survive Fifty Shades? Haha.

But wait what, Bella? Villain? :lol:

Oooh. That is interesting. It's sad though that he sucks at storytelling. But I'll read that someday. When I'm bored. And have nothing to do.
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:iconcrazy-aika:
crazy-aika Sep 13, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
OMG! I should take a note of this... i remembered that i was reading a book but i stopped reading ir in the middle because it became boring, now i should remember why it became boring for me. 
I just read for pleasure but maybe i should do as you say, read as a writer.
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:iconfaraleigh:
Faraleigh Oct 17, 2013  Student Writer
I used to read only for pleasure but now everything, everything I read feels like research. It can feel a little like a chore, but eventually it'll become second nature. :) I haven't really read "for pleasure" since I got into college but I worked on correcting that a few weeks ago. While I enjoy it thoroughly, I'm analyzing it all as I go and am making myself better.
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