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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Writing but not Reading:

For those of you expecting to see a featured author in this spot, just a note to let you know I've finished that series for the time being. I'm working on a new series with more directed questions and featuring only those authors whose work I have read. Watch this space.


Writing but not Reading:
Most readers harbour no wish to write, perhaps feeling that the ability is a mix of gift and application they may not possess and happy to enjoy the fruits of others' efforts. But, and here lies the shame; many writers display no wish to read, justifying their attitude with the feeble excuse that they have no time: they have time only to write.
The output of most of these non-reading writers is, at best, poor, and often unreadable for any discerning reader. The idea that a craft so complex can be properly learned without reference to those who've gone before is, to me, inexplicable. Would a reliable plumber or electrician consider himself a skilled artisan without the rigour of a time-served apprenticeship? Would a painter exhibit his canvasses without at least an initial study of the masters who preceded him? Would a fashion designer deck her models to propel her clothes along the catwalk without first demonstrating an interest in the garments worn by her potential customers?
Of course, the answer to all these questions isn't a firm or unconditional 'no'. But we all know that anyone who fails to learn from those who have preceded them is destined to repeat their mistakes. It takes a certain type of arrogant ignorance to believe that you can perfect a skill alone and without instruction.
Such ignorance is responsible for poorly developed characters, plots that mirror the works of others, and the depiction of situations identical to those already well known to readers. It's insulting to those who'll read your work not to be aware of what's already been written in the genre. Of course it's not possible to read everything: with too many books published every year, it would require more time than is available to absorb all that's been written in our chosen genre. But it's quite possible and, I'd argue, essential, to glean an idea, a flavour, of what's already been done.
Those who have no wish to read, but who would write, do their readers no favours by their cavalier attitude. They almost invariably produce work of a poor standard. Their refusal to sample other stories, far from ensuring uniqueness, generally results in poor versions of tales already well told. How can a writer learn to construct sentences, to bend the rules of language effectively, to express an idea succinctly yet evocatively, if he's never exposed himself to the work of others? And those who believe themselves natural geniuses are, almost without exception, deluded fools who merely clog up the works with their poorly made pieces. They make it all the more difficult for the real artists to be heard, drowning the unique voices with their ill-devised and poorly-executed offerings.
So, if you want to write, please make sure you read. Read extensively within the area in which you wish to excel, or risk mediocrity and unintented repetition. There; that's another irritation off my chest.

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