Writing and Reading

Read and write, write and read. These are the only words of advice I would ever offer anyone who wants to write. Read, so you learn how other writers go about telling stories.

Not a day goes by without encountering at least half a dozen blogs offering advice or links to books that will tell you, how to write. These frustrate me so much. Every writer is wracked by self doubt. Believe me, everything written could be written another way because, well, every written thing can be written in a different way.

Start small, learn the basic skill of writing and telling a story. It’s called communicating. Don’t just describe something to a reader, tell it so they can feel it. That’s writing.

The right way is often measured in dollars, pounds, euros, yen, roubles or whatever currency you can imagine. It is measured in readers, too. So people who self publish in digital books, promote their book’s publication to generate pre-orders, they give away pre-publication copies, free,  to garner appropriate online reviews. All this creates demand and boosts sales figures that they hope will create more demand, until, like a descending snowball, their book sales become an avalanche.

That’s the nitty gritty of self publication; as the publisher, you take on the role of promoter and marketeer and, if there’s a way to do it, then it will be done.

There was a time when publication was largely predicated on the value of quality of the writing. That doesn’t apply so much, anymore. Publishing is a tricky business and there is enormous risk involved with regards to the cost of bringing a book to market. Publishing companies take these risks, relying on a good return on their investment.

Publishing houses used to rely on their own judgement and depth of experience and market to choose those writers and books they felt worth that risk. They had in house editing staff who were capable of judging a book’s merits. Nowadays, that role has been usurped by agents, who, while representing the writer in securing as good a deal as they can manage from a publisher, will also make the decision on the writers they will represent, on the earning potential of their writing. It’s a harsh world.

The unfortunate reaction is the rash of ‘how to write a best seller’ tomes, as though writing, like a mathematical formula, has an inevitable outcome.IMG_0837

I came across a blog in my ‘reader’ this morning. It was by someone who wants to write but was unsure how to start, what to read or maybe, what to write. I wrote this comment.

Read and write, write and read. These are the only words of advice I would ever offer anyone who wants to write. Read, so you learn how other writers go about telling stories. The more you read, the more you will differentiate styles. Then write. Write everything that comes into your head. If you have a story in mind, write it down. Sit in your local coffee shop and watch people. write about the people you see: give them a life, an ailment, good or bad news, let them wait for someone, plan a deed, give them a heart attack or trip them up. Maybe they have children or a pet? Then read what you’ve written. Keep doing these things. Reading books about how to write doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The only thing that makes sense in writing. And Reading. Then reading and writing.

Fellow blogger and tireless short story writer, Mathew Tonks adds,

Write and then read, and write some more, read stuff you normally wouldn’t, examine and grow, lose yourself, lose the idea you had, lose what you forced out and start again, this time let the characters take over, and in the end they will know better than you.
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17 thoughts on “Writing and Reading

  1. Write and then read, and write some more, read stuff you normally wouldn’t, examine and grow, lose yourself, lose the idea you had, lose what you forced out and start again, this time let the characters take over, and in the end they will know better than you.

  2. Excellent advice! I’m glad you added the encouragement for writers to read out of their comfort zones. I hear a lot of advice about reading everything popular in your genre.Personally, I think that is the last place to spend too much time. Read everything! Become a greedy reader. If you write fiction, seek out good non-fiction, especially good history books and autobiographies. Ask writers you respect for book recommendations and follow through with reading their suggestions.

    Btw, Dermott, thanks for the recommendation on The Moon is Down. I have added it to my next order.

    This is the best writing advice I have read since I started blogging.

    • I can’t take credit for the added advice. That came from Mathew Tonks, a prolific short story writer I follow. He’s spot. Funnily, this all began with me commenting on someone else’s blog asking how to write?

      • I would also encourage young writers to do a lot of “living”. I loved the point you made about observing people. You have to get out there – shops, theater, music, family, friends – and live, then go back and explore that life in words.

        It is a privilege to be a part of dialogues like this, and I will check out Mathew Tonks as well. Thank you!

      • I would’ve thought he’ll have several volumes of short stories by the time he’s finished. You can link to his site in this thread of comments. He’s quite a visceral writer

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