Monday, January 30, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group - February Writing Prompt


How Writing Is Changing This Reader

Crazy as it may seem, I'm about to make yet another commitment. Each month on the first Wednesday a website called Insecure Writer's Support Group invites insecure writers to submit a blog post to be included with other insecure writers' posts in what they call a blog hop. 

This month, February, the question announced as a little prod to help us beyond a blank page is "How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?"

I almost instantly thought of several ways I'm being changed as a reader as I become more serious about getting words down on paper and eventually into a electronic document of some sort. I find myself paying closer attention to sentence structure and even punctuation in what I read. I figure if a miracle occurs and I find myself with a good story it would be a shame to have my sentence structure or punctuation distract the readers so much they giving up on the story.  

I've been told I use too many commas. Now I'm probably erring on the side of too few commas, but I can pay attention to established authors' use of commas and eventually get it, like Mama Bear's bed, just right. 

I read Strunk and White but the book Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik advised Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is all well and good but contemporary style treats these elements as suggestions, not commandments. So, when reading a novel I now pay attention to those times when a great current author gets away with ignoring Elements. I try to discern what it is about this sentence or paragraph which caused the author to deviate a bit from strict rules of style (ala Strunk & White).

 I think I found an example of someone following the rules but losing the reader due to a certain inflexibility. I had started reading a modern novel and haven't got around to finishing it for this reason. It seemed to be following Strunk and White pretty close because while following the rules the dialog came out sounding like something from the end of the 19th century though the story was set in the 1960s. I often found myself thinking, "Nobody in the 1960s is going to say that in a conversation." 

Right now I can only think of one further way writing may have changed my reading habits. I had been actually reading fewer books but listening to more and more audio books. When I started getting more serious about writing I began to go back to holding books in my hands and using my eyes to read instead of my ears. Actually in my case I need to say "ear". I've only got one working ear right now. Did you know there's a ear bud called "One Good Earphone" which sends both sides of the stereo sound to one ear?  I felt I needed to look at my reading in order to master my punctuation, sentence structure, and be able to decipher choices authors made as they jump back and forth between strictly following the rules and deviating from the rules. 

I have changed my reading habits in at least these ways and probably others I'm not thinking of now as I write. 

I fully intend to modify this blog post as I think about it, learn from others, and find more typos. 




10 comments:

  1. Following the rules exactly leads to some really dull and stilted reading. Even more modern rules, such as not using 'was' or any 'ly' words. I actually wrote my last book with no 'ly' words. I had a critique partner beg me to put a couple in so it would read smoother.
    I recently got back into audio books when my own were converted to audio. That's cool there are headphones that convert stereo to one earbud.
    Welcome to the IWSG!

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    1. Man, there you go, giving me more perfectly modern rules of which I never before was personally aware.

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  2. I've become more lenient about commas lately. I think I used to use too many too. Why? For fear of some editor reading my story and thinking, "She's a professional? I don't think so." LOL. Good thing for IWSG.

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    1. I think, it is possible, back in the day when a English major-type friend gave me the critique, I was writing my sentences with far too complicated structure, structures going on and on, much like some of the translations of the Apostle Paul's epistles.

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  3. Following all rules makes life does make life stiff in so many ways, doesn't it? We all need to let go and live a little :)

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    1. Writing is difficult enough. We need to make it a party as much as we can. Terry Pratchett says writing is the most fun a person can have alone.

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  4. I listen to podcasts but rarely whole books. I read some things on my iPad/Kindle app, but I'm really still a hold-the-book-in-my-hands kind of girl. :)

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    1. My advisor in graduate school recommended listening to podcast when I can't get to sleep, especially listening to one I'd already heard. I applied the same principle to books on CD and, sure enough, I usually would get to sleep. Unfortunately, I so looked forward to listening to books on CD I would go to bed earlier and get less studying done. On the other hand, I probably was healthier for it, no burning the midnight oil.

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  5. Welcome to the IWSG, Larry! I haven't listened to many auditory books because I'm so visually geared, but I might try that because I often struggle with insomnia. I have a friend who always listening to audio books when she's feeding, watering, and grooming her four horses and mucking their stalls. She gets through a lot of books that way!

    Strunk and White is a staple for me. My writing is all scrambled by growing up Canadian, moving to America, and teaching second and third graders for a quarter century. Toss in a rapidly evolving language, and I throw up my hands at dealing with commas!

    Happy writing this month!

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  6. We do use far fewer commas than we did even when I was in school. Not sure why! I find that through reading good books, I'm able to pick in instinctively where commas go. I was never very good at diagramming sentences!

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