Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lessons picked up from other writers

I used to avoid reading for pleasure while I was writing, in the fear that (a) it would take too much time away from writing and (b) other author's styles would somehow seep into my own writing. (a) is not really an issue lately, since I write every day at lunch and just know that I can't read during that time. (b)? Not worried so much about that, since I started writing in my own kitchen-sink style.

So I've been reading. And I've discovered that there can be a wonderful symbiosis between reading and writing, when you're writing every day. Though I don't pick up author's styles, I do notice what's succeeding, and what's not, in their books, and I try to note those lessons for my own work. Here's what I've learned from the last 3 books I've read/am reading (yes, I'm still reading HP. About halfway through).

--From Trangressions, by Sarah Dunant: Don't answer the central question of the book two-thirds of the way through. I really didn't care if I ever picked it up at all after that point--the rest was just floppy plot, of no interest. And make sure that the story delivers on the promise implied by the book's jacket. I was (obviously) quite disappointed in this one.

--From Vicki Pettersson: Pay attention (probably on later drafts) to every word, every phrase, you put on the page. There probably is a fresher, more character-specific way of describing something than the first phrase you clunked down. Vicki is a master of original descriptions and turns of phrase, and I love that in her writing.

--From the latest Harry Potter: Complexity is okay. It's also okay to not explain everything for your readers; let them guess. Let them figure it out. Allude to things they don't really need to know about, but the characters do. All this makes for a detailed, real world. Also, let characters speak as they really would, with pauses and awkwardness and occasional swearing. (I did know this, but it's great to see it in print again.)

(forgot) Whadjya eat? Child and I were on our own, so she got to choose. Grilled cheese sandwiches, cantaloupe (her absolute favorite), and veggies with ranch dressing. :)


Julie Elizabeth said...

Wonderful insight on looking at others' writing as a learning tool. I'll have to keep that in mind as I read for pleasure, something I've been doing a lot more of recently!

Susan Adrian said...

Julie, it's you with a different name! :)

Thanks. HP does inspire more reading.

Julie Elizabeth said...


Yup, I recreated my blogger, since my domain seems to have kicked me off ;) Ah, well.