Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Reading...reading...

We are advised to read, read, read, as well as write, write, write.
Solid advice. Should be obvious.
Usually directed at "aspiring authors".
Deargod, I hate that phrase - in spite of the nice alliteration - especially as a self-description.
You're a writer, dammit, published or not. No adjectival humility required.
No delicate condescension from the published to distinguish themselves from the unwashed required either.
Because the advice is solid for every writer.
Whatever.
Seems to me there are two kinds of reading according to use or intent: for osmosis and for technique.
Osmosis: the current, the classics, Shakespeare, the Bible, poetry. To absorb in a kind of sub-dermal way the images, ideas, the archetypes, the horizons.
Technique: To notice what works and what doesn't in the fine-tuning form of exposition, dialogue, paragraphs, character names even. I read of one (best selling) writer, who, when she first began, picked four books and took them apart, chapter by chapter, page by page, line by line. I am sorry I don't remember her name - I was shotgunning the blog world that day. I was seriously impressed though, by her determination and smarts.
And let's not have any bullshit about contaminating our "art" by this process. Many of us could use a little "contamination" from the best. Fergodssake, don't worry about submerging your "voice." Your basic voice was set a long time ago. A little imitative over-lay may remain from this process, but so what? It might be a Good Thing.

12 comments:

Onsmi Welcol said...

I've read a cover letter in which a writer said he's an aspiring authors who have found his voice. Far too many cover letters contain one phrase or the other.

I posted another story from Soundings and came up with a name to refer to my fans with.

Bernita said...

viz: Anders, the child genius, right?

Onsmi Welcol said...

"he's an aspiring authors who have found his voice."

There is something wrong with me today, because I keep making grammatical errors.

What about Anders? He didn't write the cover letter I mentioned, if that's what you're asking.

jason evans said...

I find it hard to seriously read while I'm working hard on a novel. For me, reading for 15-20 minutes before bed isn't enough to really feel the flow of a story. The problem is that I have such limited time to write, and if I spend 1 hour or more reading, I really feel the loss of time. I'm trying to get better at juggling, though.

Bernita said...

Neither can I, unless it's mind-trash to sooth and divert. Serious reading is for between projects, or between stages of them.

Bernita said...

No,Onsmi, the name.

ScaramoucheX said...

Bernita, I wrote a new post and wanted to send it to you but you have no e-mail address posted...it's the one about, Tiberius Pope...dig it! And then slaughter me, o cold and rational and artistic type, and junior high school english teaching governess type...go and frown at my words! Shake your head...see if I care

ScaramoucheX said...

By the way, I do like the writing you are doing recently - am enjoying it. Don't let that influence you

paulv said...

Hi bernita. Thanks for stopping by at my blog, and caring enough to comment.

Thinking back to your previous post, "Pearls" etc., I think you might be a bit too negative in your assessment of the worth of past achievements. I believe even agents and editors understand that lives have cycles.

Reading while working on a writing project? Yes, always. Fiction reading? I would, if I could find something decent...

Bernita said...

How about tried-to-teach-freshmen-engineers-english type?
I shall come and look. And thank you, scaramouchex.
I don't know, paulv, it sounds so bloody ostentatious to tout old credits.
Glad you dropped by.

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