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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 2 years ago
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  • 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 2 years ago
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  • 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 2 years ago
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  • 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 2 years ago
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  • 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 2 years ago
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  • 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 2 years ago
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  • 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. 2 years ago
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