Reflection: Reading and Writing

Many great writers say that to be a writer, you must first be a reader. I tend to agree, to an extent. I feel that a lot of them tend to overstate the importance of reading to a writer. I largely write to tell a story. Reading other peoples’ stories can help me to better tell my story, but in the end, the story is mine.

The challenge of writing is telling a story in such a way that it is clear enough to be understandable to the reader, detailed enough to give the reader a sense of the world, and yet not so detailed as to distract from the story. Reading other peoples’ stories can give me a sense as to how other authors do, or fail to do that, so I better know what to do, and what not to do, in my own stories.

These days, I don’t read quite as much as I used to. High school English class had the unfortunate effect of making me not feel safe to start a new book, as my teachers have tended to assign others with very little warning. I read more short stories these days, but I have been definitely reading less lately, preferring to focus on my writing.

Additionally, I sometimes have trouble getting into a book. Until I’m many chapters in, and more hooked, I find myself reading slower, less frequently, and finding less time to read.

Because of this, I find I prefer series to standalone novels. Because the earlier books hooked me, when I was reading the later books in the Harry Potter series for the first time, I found myself going through them very quickly.

However, realizing my problems getting into the story made me ask the question of why. This may have been part of the reason I added the prologue for “The Cromm Conspiracy”, and why I made a huge event take place, bringing up a lot of questions. Considering how the first couple chapters probably would not have hooked my interest if they were the beginning of a book I was reading, I feel adding the prologue was definitely the right choice.

Reading does indeed expand my vocabulary, as new words I learn may help me to make my future stories better. Additionally, sometimes descriptions I find in a book may inspire my own works.

T.S. Eliot said that “good writers borrow, great writers steal”. This means that it is not only okay, but actually a good idea to use somebody else’s ideas, concepts, even the same words. But this does not mean it’s okay to steal entire sentences or pages from somebody else’s work. That is just plagiarism, and as per rule number 8, plagiarism is wrong. Take inspiration from somebody else’s work, not the work itself. Take their ideas and try to put your own spin on them. Make it better!

I think I’ll expand upon the difference between good stealing and bad stealing in a future reflection. Plagiarism is one of my biggest pet peeves, so expect passion!

However, ideas can come from many places other than books. Ideas really come from stories, and TV shows, movies, video games, comics, and other forms of media all have their own stories too. Ideas can come from any of these places as well. Then there’s the best source of all: the things you actually experience. If I have actual experience being in the same situation as my characters, I’ll be better able to write about it, in a way I could not learn from a book.

Well, I feel I’ve said my share on this topic for now. White Rakogis is signing off!

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