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Thread: What books do you turn to?

  1. #1
    figuring it all out HaHs's Avatar
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    What books do you turn to?

    Recently I've found myself drying up during my writing hours. A few days ago during one of these times I picked up 'A Game of Thrones' and then put it down again to start writing because I felt inspired by George R. R. Martin's writing after just a few pages. Last night when I was writing and felt stuck I decided to take a break and read more of 'A Game of Thrones' but this time I analysed it and went to town on the pages of a chapter with a pencil and sticky-notes (Jon III, if you're wondering which chapter). I made notes on how GRRM makes his transitions from scene to scene and location to location, what he's doing in each section to introduce mood and display character's emotion, how he's gradually revealing more and more world building information through the character's memories. Of course these are all things we're aware of but rarely do I ever take the time to sit and analyse it like this to really pick apart what's making this book work so well. After this I went back to the beginning and did the same thing all over again with the opening chapter, since that's what I myself was struggling to write. I think when I'm finding myself stuck in a rut I'm going to keep coming back to this book and picking apart scenes like this - I find it really idea-inspiring and definitely motivating in terms of the quality of the writing craft itself...

    What books do you turn to when you're drying up and need to give yourself a little boost? Are you into breaking it down on an analytical level to understand why the scenes are working so well or does just reading some of your favourite chapters/author's work get your creative juices flowing again?

    Hugs
    HaHs

  2. #2
    cutsie-pie Curlz's Avatar
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    Now that I think of it, all the books I've read have taught me something. I don't really go back to a particular book for instruction. I'd just slow down reading the passage in the current one if I am in the mood of thinking about my own writing at the time. It's more about noticing a certain detail on the page and thinking, hey, this is really well done. Recently I read a book where the characters were abducted and travelled in the back of a lorry for couple of chapters. If I somebody told me to write that, I'd be stumped to write more than a paragraph. I was in awe It was a page-turner but I read it slowly trying to pay close attention to how it's done, what the characters talk about, how the plot keeps going, how the infodump is made to look like it's not an infodump, how there were no repetitions in descriptions despite that there were several descriptions of the inside of the lorry, etc, etc. Great stuff.

  3. #3
    figuring it all out HaHs's Avatar
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    Goodness! That would certainly be a challenge for me too, I can see why you payed close attention. I think that when I'm reading a book for enjoyment I prefer not to think logically about the writing of the book and just enjoy the experience of it, but I'm definitely going to start going back and re-reading them from the new perspective in future when they're especially good.

  4. #4
    figuring it all out HaHs's Avatar
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    Goodness! That would certainly be a challenge for me too, I can see why you payed close attention. I think that when I'm reading a book for enjoyment I prefer not to think logically about the writing of the book and just enjoy the experience of it, but I'm definitely going to start going back and re-reading them from the new perspective in future when they're especially good.

  5. #5
    figuring it all out
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    I usually get inspired by reading short fiction. They are so, well, short, which makes them quickly consumable and therefore a fast pick-me-up.
    In review--Hotel 13
    WIP 1--Untitled absurd/psychological fiction
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    I tend to read short stories too, if I feel like I'm needing a boost or some perspective. There's no real regular stop but some books that are always handy are anything by Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Ali Smith, David Mitchell. Actually, I used to read The English Patient a lot. Anything Michael Ondaatje.
    Twitter @DarbyHarn

    'In this country … if you’re an artist, you’re guilty of a crime: not that you’re aware, which is bad enough, but that you see things other people don’t admit are there.' - James Baldwin

  7. #7
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    My experience is a bit like Curlz's, too. I tend to read analytically all the time; it's just the way my brain works. So I find that I pay attention to structure and characterization and scene transitions and the revelation of backstory in everything I read; all the more so since I began trying to write a novel of my own. I think it's a wonderful, fascinating thing to do, HaHs, and I'm glad you had an enlightening experience reading Martin that way.

    That said, since I tend toward overwriting, I like to pay close attention to writers who do amazingly evocative things with deceptively simple language, like Shirley Jackson. And when I'm going for tension, for internal conflict, confusion, and guilt, I know of no better model than Patricia Highsmith. Also, I tend to go to Sarah Waters when I'm struggling with sex scenes. Many of my long-time favorite books are classics, but I don't want to try to emulate the style of, say, George Eliot or Thackeray. Spending time with the work of modern (or at least midcentury and onward) writers who have more economy of style has been good for me.
    Last edited by Lakey; 09-22-2017 at 07:14 PM.

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    i like Hemingway short stories, reading Steinbeck, Twain. i'm now reading John Irving. Dickens is so good you just want to put your pen down. i don't read Dickens before i write. after.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    For me, challenging reads such as Joyce, Chaucer or even philosophical texts from Homer or Plato are my go-to's when I need inspiration. Rather than give my brain a 'break' with a lighter read, I find that complex texts which demand that the reader pontificate very carefully over each word used always sends my mind racing off in a million directions, for some reason.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Maze Runner's Avatar
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    I just kind of instinctively know what I need. Right now, I'm reading a simple, little, brilliant novel called Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons. Told from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl, in that language, breaks all the grammar and punctuation rules, leaves nothing but an abused little girl's honest feelings and impressions, it's so cleansing.

  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    As a kid I’d spend five minutes on a random page in an encyclopedia, and I’d get so excited about all the things that there are to know, that I’d be scribbling away for the rest of the afternoon incorporating the content I’d read like flying fish or genetics or dinosaurs (usually into my ninja FBI agent saga). These days I guess I have a similar process— reading near-future nonfiction, or historical accounts of someone I admire, and I get excited about the possibilities and change. I also find I get a jolt reading about one of my heros and want to write about a character that is as brave in today’s world as my hero was in their time.

  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I'm an intense plotter... outline like crazy. So, for me, there are times I will grab a couple books in the genre of my WIP and reverse engineer the bejeebees out of them. I have whole notebooks of reverse engineering. And proud to admit it... I think.

  13. #13
    Life Is Full Of Stories Ink-Pen-Paper's Avatar
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    I enjoy a good murder mystery to get things flowing. Adding to those I just read Every Midget Has An Uncle Sam Costume, Donald Bain. It is his autobiography as a writer, and more important to all of us, a ghost writer. Think of the Murder, She Wrote books, he wrote many of those. The book has great information about the writing and publishing world. And, it is enjoyable. It also got me to write the middle chapters of a novel (which is all that is written of the unnamed novel).
    Projects in work - working titles: Red Line to Shady Grove; I-595 to Annapolis; Orange Line to Metro Center




  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Antipode91's Avatar
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    I don't really get inspired by books, because I'm so busy analyzing them and studying from them (it's kind of the consequence of working within a craft (writing, movies, video game creator, so on). I do love reading Jurassic Park, because it's probably the only book I just allow myself to transport and become jelly over how amazing that author and story is.

    That said, I do get inspired by all other forms of media. The two things that get me are story-centered video games, like the role playing series Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts. They're so deep and convoluted, that it simply excites me. Also, the movie The Village by M. Knight will explode me with the passion and desire to write. That movie--the pacing--the twists--the music--the characters. It's a masterpiece to me.

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