Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I Read and Review

I have frequently commented in various posts that I am trying to read broadly to improve my writing. I am reviewing so that I am consciously doing something more than just enjoying the story. In doing so, I hope that I can also offer some guidance to other readers, but that is not my primary goal.

   Part of my creative writing course with Griffith University has confirmed this practice:

The kind of reading practice that is beneficial to a writer involves something more complex than simply enjoying the story. As beginning writers, we may be content to read in our preferred genres, whether that is crime fiction, romance, spy, war, science fiction or fantasy, biography, memoir or other non-fiction writing. But if we continue to read only in our preferred genres we run the risk of reproducing exactly the same kinds of writing, necessarily devoid of the creativity that variety brings...

   Maybe you've heard people say of Picasso's cubist or surreal periods that 'my daughter could have done that'. But the truth is that Picasso used these styles because he chose to, not because it was all he could do. He was an accomplished painter of conventional works [as well]. He was master of his tools and could paint in any style he chose.

   Think of your writing skills in this way. The skilled writer is not the one who can product only children's books, or poetry, or reviews. The skilled writer is one who has mastered the skills of writing.
   And, like a painter, you can expect that as your writing life progresses you will move from phase to phase, developing your technique as you go...
   To achieve this you must step away from the comfort of what you know. If your favourite reading is science fiction, examine how thrillers use action and pace to drive narrative forward. If you favour biographies, explore the character development techniques of good historical novels. If you read only prose fiction, try a book of contemporary poetry to learn how other writers manipulate both language and structure...
   Each new genre of writing you encounter, each foray out of your comfort zone into unknown territory can help you think more critically about your own writing, and give you new tools, ideas and techniques with which to improve your writing skills.

So my blog is less about the books I read and the reviews I make than my own writing. By reviewing others' writing, I am developing the skills to critically review my own writing, and develop more techniques and tools to improve my writing skills.


  1. I agree with you. Reading widely, in varied genres, can help any writer. True, certain genres might more closely resemble our personal writing style, but we're going to be able to take something away from any well-written novel.

  2. What an excellent post! I agree with you- the more we read and delve into other genres, the more we grow. It helps us to continue to sculpt our style!


  3. Thanks Jess. I recently read a blog that said that writers or aspiring writers shouldn't review other people's writing. I didn't agree. If the review isn't overly critical and vicious, then it's constructive.