Writing About Writing: A once-a-week post about some aspect of writing. I’m not an expert; I’m just some guy. Take it with a grain of salt.
If you write, at some point someone is going to ask you to read the stuff they write.
Say yes. Not just because it’s a nice thing to do. Reading for other writers around your level of experience and ability is, like, crazy valuable, for these reasons:
- You get out of your own head and your own writing
- You critically analyze writing instead of merely passively reading it
- You learn to articulate why you like or dislike certain things
- You may pick up a few tricks
- Groups of writers pick each other up
1. Get out of your head
When you’re deep in a project, it’s too easy to think of only your own shit. Everything is your world. Every question or thought you have about writing starts with the phrase “In my story.” No one cares about your story – yet. Get out of your own head for a second.
2. Critically analyzing
Reading published books is great for aspiring writers. But those are polished. Reading a friend’s writing forces you to pay much closer attention while you read.
Plus, you will likely (if you’re not an asshole) feel like you need to have very good reasons if you’re going to point out flaws in a friend’s writing. That is not only helpful to them – it’s also good for your own writing. You might not even realize that you hate long stretches of dialogue because it takes you out of the action too long – until you have to articulate that coherently to a person you respect.
4. Tips and tricks
Any time you read anything you stand to learn some technique or trick you didn’t know before. But, again, when you’re beta reading for a friend you’re seeing a pretty raw draft. So you get to see the gears at work before they’re all polished and clean and sitting inside a clock. You get to see how every comma and question mark works, what it’s doing, why it’s doing it.
5. A rising tide
A writing mentor once told me that groups of amateur writers tend to all get published in clumps. Because they read for each other. They learn from each other. They lift each other up. They improve together.
One of the great things about writing is that there really is no cost to you to be genuinely happy for others’ success. Especially if you helped them get there! You helped lift them up and in the process they helped you lift yourself up.
None this week. Get some friends, nerds!