Tuesday, November 10, 2009

read and write

Read and write. That’s how novelists get better. They read a lot of fiction and they write fiction. They try to improve their writing. They admit they have weaknesses, and they try to improve those, and they try to do what they do well better. Did I mention, they read.

I’ve had would-be writers, more than once, say to me, without embarrassment, that they want to be a writer but don’t read.

“Why would you want to be a writer?” I ask because, well, I’d like to know.

“Well,” they sputter,” I-I just do. I just—you know--I want to write.”

Now they haven’t given the most ridiculous answer, which would be they want to be famous and make tons of money and never wear anything but pajamas like Hugh Heffner. Still, I don’t get it.

“But why?”

“I don’t know, I have something to say.”

Okay, I get that. I do. But if a person doesn’t read fiction, they shouldn’t expect anyone else to read their fiction. I’m not talking about cosmic justice here, though, come to think of it, there is that. It’s just that the writer won’t have a clue about even the basics of fiction writing unless they read. I don’t know one writer who doesn’t love to read.

Writing is like learning to be a musician or a baseball player. It’s an art and a skill. You learn by doing and by learning from teachers and your teachers are the writers who have written works that move you.

Or so I think today.

6 comments:

Deb Salisbury said...

A great post! I'm linking back to you.

Tira said...

Nicely written, Brian. I think so, too.

Crystal said...

You're exactly right. I don't get how any "writer" can get better if they never read, or read sporadically. Good post. :)

brian yansky said...

Thanks Deb, TIRA, Crystal--I can get a bit grouchy about the whole "I want to be a writer but I can't be bothered to read" thing sometimes. I know it's just naivete in most cases but it can seem arrogant. Anyway, thanks for the comments

Brittany Landgrebe said...

Wow. Wanting to write but hardly a reader. That's... lame, in my honest opinion. Also extremely difficult. I found I wanted to become a writer because I read so much. I got the idea for my current Work in Progress from rereading a book. It begged me a question it didn't answer, so I came up with my own and began writing a completely different story around it.

The average aspiring writer likely knows only the basics of essay writing, and not much about how to write realistic fiction, especially when it comes to sci-fi, steampunk, or fantasy. And if a 'writer' doesn't read much, other authors won't want to send their MS's to get blurbs, etc. Really, a 'writer' who doesn't read is just shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to the craft *and* the industry.

Great post, so true!

brian yansky said...

Thanks Brittany. I like that--something you read made you think of a question and that inspired you to write. Funny how serendipitous the act of creation can be.