October 13, 2013

Reading about writing

Dear M,

For a writer, writing is important. Reading is even more important. And most important of all (if I may say so) is reading about writing.

There is so much to learn. And unless we learn the basic rules, we will not be able to apply them properly or break them beautifully. After all, rules are meant to be broken. But the how-to of breaking is also important - if you don't break it well, then the result looks graceless.

You can get to learn about all kinds of writing rules: don't use adverbs (look how many I have used so far - sigh, I never get that one right) or adjectives, show not tell, don't use the same word repetitively, break down complex sentences to smaller ones, etc. etc. But if you read good authors, you can see how they have gone against these rules and yet created extraordinary text.

Sometimes it scares us to read all these, we'll get discouraged that we will never be able to apply these rules. What we do not realise is that, the more we read, the more these things get ingrained on our brain. Slowly they come out into our writing, initially making a mess out of it, but gradually managing it better and better.

It's essential to read all that we can get our hands on. But concentrate more on the good books. Bad writing influences us as much as the good ones. If you come across any, purge it as soon as possible. It's like the way we talk in offices or with friends. After a few days of listening to a weird usage (in any language) or a new term, we start using it too. Soon it becomes a habit, and then it refuses to leave our blood stream.


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