Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:57 pm

glorybee wrote:The best non-classic books have generally positive reviews—but this comes with a caveat. Reviews on sites like Amazon or GoodReads aren’t necessarily true to the quality of the book. Many writers ask their friends and family to leave positive reviews on those sites, and unfortunately, some writers even pay for positive reviews. In general, the more reviews a book has, the more likely that some of them are from impartial readers. But to be sure, check to see if a book has been reviewed by a major periodical or by well-known writers in that same genre.
Jan, I'd just like to add that reading the 1, 2, and 3-star reviews can be illuminating. Sometimes readers write negative reviews because they didn't agree with the author's views or whatever. But sometimes the negative reviews contain valuable criticisms regarding the quality of writing, the credibility of the plot, the accuracy of the details (very important for historical fiction), and other aspects.

For example, I read excerpts on Google Books of The Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg. Based on the excerpts, I couldn't understand how the book received so many positive reviews. So I checked some of the negative reviews—these readers had spotted the same problems with the book that I had.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by glorybee » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:59 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote: Jan, I'd just like to add that reading the 1, 2, and 3-star reviews can be illuminating. Sometimes readers write negative reviews because they didn't agree with the author's views or whatever. But sometimes the negative reviews contain valuable criticisms regarding the quality of writing, the credibility of the plot, the accuracy of the details (very important for historical fiction), and other aspects.

For example, I read excerpts on Google Books of The Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg. Based on the excerpts, I couldn't understand how the book received so many positive reviews. So I checked some of the negative reviews—these readers had spotted the same problems with the book that I had.

Cinnamon Bear
That's a marvelous point! Thanks so much for including it.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:55 pm

glorybee wrote:...As a person who loves to read, I find myself wanting to urge some titles on you--"Oh, surely you'll love this one!"...Out of sheer curiosity--since you don't enjoy reading very much, why did you want to become a writer? I'm very interested in hearing about that. I'll bet you have a fascinating story!
Jan, first of all, I am definitely interested in hearing of any books you think I might like.

Why do I write? It's not about me—it's about the stories. I have many stories to tell—I seldom suffer from writer's block. I tell the stories from what I believe is a distinctive point of view. Not a unique point of view—merely distinctive. When I first joined Faithwriters, I had a lot to learn, because I was used to factual academic writing. From you and from others at Faithwriters, I learned how to write fiction—how to bring my stories to life.

I have been following all four lessons on voice. I haven't been participating because I don't think I have an identifiable writer's voice. I'm not sure I want one, because it's not about me, it's about the stories.

Today I learned that two more of my short stories have been accepted by Mused Literary Review for the autumn issue. I'm not stating this to brag. Anyone reading these two stories as well as the one that appeared in the summer issue, not to mention my various Challenge entries, might wonder how on earth could the same person have come up with these stories?

I often wonder the same thing myself. :)

Perhaps I was influenced by what I heard about the great short story writer, O. Henry. He had the ability to create a great variety of characters because he believed that everyone is worth knowing. If everyone is worth knowing, then everyone is worth writing about too.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by Laurie » Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:39 am

I write non-fiction. I think I've probably learned more from my past non-fiction reading than I realize. There was a time I read a lot of it.
Last edited by Laurie on Mon Aug 31, 2015 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by glorybee » Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:45 am

I can see that this has put several of you on the defensive. That certainly wasn't my intent--obviously we're all different, and our different life circumstances will make reading more difficult for some than for others. My apologies to those of you who feel targeted by this lesson; I definitely believe that being a better reader will make a person a better writer, but it's certainly not the only way to become a better writer. If it was, then I wouldn't have written all the other lessons!

As far as specific recommended titles--here are a few with exquisite writing, along with their categories (some categories overlap):

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (coming of age)
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger (magical realism)
Mama Makes up her Mind, Bailey White (humor)
The Giver, Lois Lowry (YA)
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (contemporary)

These won't appeal to everyone's taste, just as not everyone likes foie gras or caviar. But I've loved these enough that I've read each one more than once, and I've read one of them at least a dozen times.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by RedBaron » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:12 am

I love to read. I however am very narrow in my reading selections. I went through stages. I read a lot of the typical picture/chapter books in grade school, because that's what the teacher had in the in-room library.

Then I went through a mythology stage, then a Davy Crockett/Danielle Boone stage. Then I was introduced to Nancy Drew (a friend gave me one in the 3rd or 4th grade for a birthday present), and read everything the library had twice, and other mystery series. I ran out of stuff in the kids' section of our library that kept my interest. Dad had a lot of SciFi book, so I started reading his stuff from the 50s and 60s. I loved Science Fiction and read that pretty much exclusively, outside of things I had to read for class. I added fantasy in college (Dad had a bias against fantasy). That lead to my exploring the adult side of the library. The librarians got tired of me borrowing Dad's card to check things out so they gave me my adult card early lol.

I can't stand romance, it just bores me to tears (I can't stand 99% of chick flicks that I've been made to watch. A couple were ok, but they were more comedies than chick clicks.)

We read a lot of classics in school, but there were a lot, like To Kill a Mockingbird (since it's on Jan's list) that I've never read. Eileen read it for class this past year. I read The Giver for a class I took a few years ago, when I renewed my English teaching certificate.

I wish I found/made more time to read more, I have a stack of books, both physical and ebooks, on my To Read List. I didn't think I'd like ebooks, but I have found that I do. But nothing takes the place of the smell of an old book :D. I think we even had a conversation one time that ebook readers should come with an old book scent, maybe like an air freshener or scratch and sniff technology :D.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by Shann » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:30 am

I found it interesting that you can read a book a few times before looking at analytically. When I started critiquing and editing, I found it very difficult to enjoy reading. I'd be yelling at the book, "No that should be a comma not a semicolon. Seriously, did you not have anyone check for typos? The order is all off. She has to walk to the mailbox before she reads the letter. That's all telling and no showing!"

Don't get me wrong. I think it's virtually impossible for an editor to catch everything. There's bound to be some things that even the best miss. I had to learn to turn off my editor's mind. I've discovered it's easier for me to read with an editor's state of mind first. If the book is good and pulls me in then, I reread it just for enjoyment.

I do learn so much while reading. I've often said that I think what has helped me most is when I challenged myself to read all the weekly challenges. For about two years I read and commented on each one. I learned that a dream sequence (the MC wakes up and it was all a dream, but she is clutching a rock in her hand--the same rock that was in the dream) left me feeling cheated. I learned that you can write on topic without using the topic words. I learned so much.

I have several books that I've read over and over. Anne of Green Gables was a souvenir my mom bought me when we toured Prince Edward Island. I went through those three books at least 20 times from 7th grade on. I didn't realize there were more Anne books until my daughter was born. Discovering them took me back, and I read the first three again as I went through all of them.

It's interesting how people are so different. I'm not a movie person at all and don't think I've ever seen a movie that was better than the book (with the possible exception of Forest Gump). I love Harry Potter, but don't know how someone could understand the movies without reading the books.

It's good God made us all unique. After all, we are special in his eyes. If we were all the same...

Oh, I receive an email from book bub several times a week recommending books that are free or a dollar or two. I picked my genres and it's a nice way to see what's out there.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by Anja » Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:18 pm

I can't really add anything that hasn't already been said.

I read. I read a lot. I schedule my day to get all my chores done so I can read.

I read "real" books. I also have an e-reader. (Kobo) I have both Kindle and Kobo apps on my smart phone. I download free books, but my main source for ebooks is my public library. Saves SO much time... browse at home, take out and return books at home, no gas, no time driving (library is 30 miles away), and NO trying to park our one-ton pickup in a parking lot made for Honda Civics. No fines because I couldn't get to town to return books!

If we are in town doing errands, and Dan is busy at the farm implement dealership or getting salt for cattle, I take out my phone and read. (I have my ereader and phone synced so I never lose my spot.) If I'm bored at the bovine seminar, I take out my phone and read. When I can't sleep (not often), I turn down the backlight on my ereader and read without disturbing the snoring person next to me.

If I'm ever caught without my ereader or phone, sitting there in the chainsaw store parking lot, I go into withdrawal, hyperventilating, and in desperation, will read the farm report magazine.

On my first day of school, I came home angry and bitterly disappointed because I couldn't read.

I would challenge you non-readers, and I hope I don't offend, to consider Jan's analogy of the chef. What if he were to just slap a pile of potatoes and asparagus and meat onto a plate with no thought to cooking technique or seasonings or garnishes? No julienne slicing or braising or sauteing in butter or sprigs of whatamacallit to make it presentable and taste delicious. To make people want MORE.

When I read, it is exactly like that to me... well-written book (no matter the genre) tastes good, like (fair trade) chocolate. A vine-ripened tomato. Smooth like honey. I wonder HOW did the writer get it to "taste" like that. WHAT did she do that was special? WHAT is it about this writing that makes me feel full and satisfied? Just like good and delicious food, it catered to all my senses.

On the other hand, a poorly-written book makes me feel as unsatisfied and disappointed as eating a piece of burnt toast. Raw turnip. Wilted spinach. The writer had a wonderful story to tell, but didn't hone her skill or develop it a way that would make it presentable and palatable. I have put down books that within a few pages "turned my stomach" for its undeveloped and predictable plots, run-of-the-mill characters, smarmy dialogue, lackluster aroma, and disappointing flavour.

Gotta go. I have 15 shirts to iron before I get to read today.
Ann Grover Stocking

"What remains of a story after it is finished? Another story..." Eli Wiesel

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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by JudySauer » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:20 pm

Cinnamon Bear, I read your PM last night right before I went to bed. Now I cannot locate it. It's not in my regular PMs.

Your thoughtfulness and kindness are greatly appreciated, and I plan to follow through. Now if I can just find that PM.

I have Ocular Myasthenia Gravis (form of muscular dystrophy) which only affects my eye muscles. They are constantly moving which makes it hard to read which is why I went to audio books.

Do you know if there is a separate PM system in Forums than regular PMs? Despite being a member since 2006, I don't know all the ins and outs of this fabulous sight and its forums.

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Judy
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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by JudySauer » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:23 pm

Cinnamon Bear
I found it!! DUH! Message link was right where I never looked before.
Judy
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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Mon Aug 31, 2015 5:14 pm

Dear Judy,

I received your PM, and I just responded using your email address. :)

Virginia Bliss

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Re: Be a Better Writer--BE A BETTER READER

Post by glorybee » Tue Sep 01, 2015 1:46 am

I'm without a computer for the rest of the week, and using the forums from my phone is annoying and inconvenient. I hope to be back here to reply to any further posts by Friday. Keep up the discussion, though!
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