I am a senior lecturer in linguistics at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up mainly in New York City. I also lived in Montreal.

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How Much Should One Read before Starting to Write Fiction?

If one does not read extensively before starting to write, one runs the risk of doing what has already been done. What one might think is original might not be original at all (although there is nothing wrong with a new treatment of an old topic, as long as one is aware of this). Many of our basic story lines go back hundreds or even thousands of years (to the Greeks). One can also learn much about writing fiction by reading a lot of it. However, it is difficult to read all of the important fiction of one country, not to mention the literature of all the world’s nations. How much fiction, then, should one read before embarking on doing it oneself?

  • There's no definite answer to that, keep reading and keep writing. Keep doing both, you'll know when you are ready, one can never stop learning. – iamdharmesh1 5 years ago
  • If one reads just extensively enough, which if it is not clear I am being cheeky, one can only hope to do what is already done. The literary achievements of an Aeschylus, for example, come from a mind of unparalleled attentive faculties as well as the creative brilliance to retell old stories which were fresh on the minds of audiences at the time. If you wish to be inspired by any school of literature that should not be too difficult. If you view things on a large enough scale you can find yourself lost in a textual wilderness. So, my advice is to take things one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time. – jesheppard 5 years ago
  • Reading is excellent for learning how to write. The issue comes when we, as writers, cease to read out of a desire to learn and start to read out of a fear that when we stop reading and put our own words into the world we will fail. – Sophie Bouey 5 years ago
  • This depends on what the writer wants to write about. I think writers should read widely and indiscriminately as often as possible, but should also write every day. When starting out I think it’s good to write anything you feel like. Once you’ve written a lot, you start to know what genre you like to focus on. That’s when immersion in the genre comes in handy to identify any gaps and see what has already been done. It’s helpful to remember that everything is intertextual. No idea has sprung from nothing, and nothing is original. Everything is a reiteration or recombination of what already exists. – KiarnaAnne 5 years ago
  • As much as you can I would say. & it depends.. For some people a couple of books is OK for other not.. I would consider that you folk is love Fiction & would count the number, just read as much as he or she can) – KatynOr 5 years ago
  • I don't believe ones work would necessarily reflect whether or not you've written a great fiction story or not. Reading the works of others is great for learning how fiction, or any genre for that matter, is supposed to flow as well as the what works and what doesn't. It definitely gives the necessary guidelines to help lead you into a more successful path. However, the whole point of writing fiction is to let your mind run wild and get as creative as you can. By constricting yourself with previous pieces you have read, it defeats the purpose of the initial intentions. Overall, I believe you should take guidance from the common factors that make a successful piece but don't lose the personal touch that can help distinguish your work from the work of others. – janaibrahim 5 years ago
  • Interesting question, although the topic seems rather broad considering as a writer, you never, ever stop reading (take it from somebody who knows). Maybe the question hiding under here is, what kind of fiction, or what titles, an author needs to read depending on the voice he or she wishes to create. – Stephanie M. 5 years ago

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Latest Comments

It is not clear to me how there can be a sincere form of reality (or an insincere form of it). Reality just is. We can write about it in sincere and insincere ways, but that is something different.
Both fictional and non-fictional writing are important and valuable, and both can help us understand reality.
I am also not sure that “Change does not come from a fact”. Change just happens — it may be driven by emotions, but it may be driven by other things.

Creative Writing is the Sincerest Form of Reality

It is unfortunate that this piece on writing contains various errors in writing. For example, there should not be a comma after the subject in the following sentence: “The other reason why editing while writing is unnecessary, is because it is the next step in the writing process.” This shows the importance of careful editing (and the sentence just quoted was from the section on editing). In any case, writing is a difficult process.

The "Write" Way

This is interesting. Can we analyze Brexit in the same way? In this case it is not so much about the image or presentation of a particular person (with the possible exception of Boris Johnson), but images are still involved — the supposedly corrupt non-responsive government is the EU.

How Trump Won: Heroes, Villains and Surviving the Apocalypse

I like the sentence “Harry Potter inspired more kids to enjoy reading rather than engaging in witchcraft”. This is very clearly true. However, there may be some books which inspire readers to engage in activities which would be harmful to someone or to society as a whole, e.g. Mein Kampf (mentioned in an earlier comment). I am generally against censorship, but it is not clear to me whether everything should be allowed. I don’t think that there is an easy answer here, but I am very unhappy when religious right-wingers in the US (my country of birth) try to ban important books.

Why Books Shouldn't Be Banned