Thursday, August 20, 2009


Most of my blog entries are about writing. I give all sorts of advice (or more appropriately, just tell you what I've figured out about myself, since I'm in no real position to give advice at all), and hopefully that encourages all of you to write better, keep writing, find time for writing, prioritize writing, etc.

And that's all well and good, but don't forget reading. If you're stuck in some writing project--or even if you aren't--reading can be so good for you. For one thing, it's FUN. Different places, interesting characters, magic, adventure, extraordinary events... it's all there for the taking.

But I'm not just talking about reading good stuff. All sorts of reading can be fruitful, even if it doesn't have the FUN payoff. For instance, if you read a book that ends up being dreck, try figuring out what you hated about it. Maybe it was one glaring problem, or maybe it was a whole laundry list of ghastly awful errors. Even if it was terrible, it can offer you insight about what to look for in your own writing. Who knows? You might actually be committing some of the same faux pas yourself.

I also find it fruitful to read other writers' rough stuff. Perhaps they venture into a genre I haven't tried, or do something magnificent with a scene. Maybe their insight helps me figure out a problem in my own writing project. Even if their stuff isn't good at all, helping them by offering feedback and marking errors not only helps them, but also helps me edit my own writing more effectively. Since the stuff is rough, and feel more able to note what scenes falter, to see where the momentum shifts or drops out completely, where characters disappear for too long, or where scenes aren't descriptive enough (at least for me). 

Reading work in-process helps me see how to affect my own process more, how to make my work better once I return to it. As an added bonus, it means other writers owe me, that I'll have faithful, honest readers to offer me feedback when I need it. That is probably the best result. 

I finished my play this morning (hurray!), so now I'm off to read a long list of other writers' drafts. And I'm looking forward to it. I should learn a great deal from the experience.

How long has it been since you've helped out a fellow writer?


  1. I have no idea. I rarely refuse to help and frequently offer to read someone else's drafts but, truthfully, I have few other writers I hang with that much. I look over flit's stuff frequently, but, at least as she's going for her Ph.D. that's usually term paper stuff and the like.

  2. I have never read anyone else’s work, being tat I just started to read books 2 years ago. And just started writing 7 months ago….

    But I would be more than willing to read anyone’s work and give them an honest opinion. Now I can’t edit grammar for nothing. But I have a good idea of what a good story is. Or what I would pay money for, or what market the book would be best for.

    As far as reading even though you are writing is a great idea… I have not done this and maybe it would help to let my mind wonder for a bit…

    I never thought of reading like a lesson/ or research on what not to do. This might help to see the flaws in our voice or bad character building. Or whatever the flaw might be, great advice. Reading to see what not to do… excellent

  3. Truly, the only reviewing I have done of another's writing was solely for completing an assignment. I can't say all of the experiences were good ones, especially in my last English class. People can be oddly protective of their writing and take suggestions far too personal. It is part of the assignment for goodness' sake! However, I do like to have my papers reviewed. I find it very interesting to see my work through another person's eyes. Also, it is quite helpful in furthering my skills as a writer. After all, I need all the help I can get.

  4. I could not agree more about the importance of reading in terms of becoming a better -- or at least, more self-aware -- writer. If nothing else, it helps increase your vocabulary!