*Warning: Long post | She loves to talks
Hello, Episodians! As I am finishing up my schoolwork, I decided I had some thoughts I wanted to share. Whether you want to work for Episode one day, create short stories as a hobby, become a writer full-time, or post fandom one-shots for fun, we all have to develop the skills necessary to write effectively. It is well-known in literary circles that one of the best ways to learn how to write is to read.
Since I first decided I wanted to write seriously at 13, all of my instructors have been traditionalists. I bitterly remember the first time I asked my teacher to review my work before submission. I got an email back a few hours later: “Focus on mastering your rhetorical devices, analyzing your plot, and building up to your climax before you even consider sending that off and wasting someone’s time.” :// I spent the next few years at workshops, sharing my work wherever I could. It wasn’t until recently that I felt I had tempered myself enough to have a story worthy of submission. I’m not saying this is the “correct” way to learn how to write or even the best. But spending all those years under scrutiny from myself and others did instill in me humility and reverence for the craft. Many new writers tend to do the opposite, however. They’re buzzing with original (or seemingly original to the unread) ideas and eager to share them with the world, but they don’t have the storytelling experience to truly capture them. Have you ever heard a song with a good message, but the auto-tune was killing your ears? Or the movie with a great plot and terrible execution? Your medium matters. You obviously get some of that writing experience through trial and error. You write, and you write, and you keep writing. But to actually improve, you need to be able to write and think critically. That’s where reading comes in.
In my (not-so)humble opinion, if you’re not reading a variety of authors and narratives, you’re only limiting yourself. I write dramas and psychological horrors; that’s what I enjoy. It’s true that those genres encompass the majority of my takeaways from library trips, but I can still learn a thing or two about the inclination of today’s society to equate lust and love from skimming through the occasional modern romance tale or study the grotesqueness of human desperation by reading a civil war biography. There is something to learn from every author, every genre—even if it’s learning what to avoid. With this, trying to read literature from a variety of cultures is always a good thing. I don’t believe in separating art from artist. I think our life experiences, beliefs, and personalities will always seep into our work, for better or worse. If you’re a white American author and you’re only reading works from other white Americans, you’re limiting yourself in terms of widening your global viewpoint as well as in varying your literary techniques and analysis. Such is true for everyone. If you try to tell me Toni Morrison and Shirley Jackson (both two 20th-century, female, American authors whose works delve into female trauma, horror, and social criticism) didn’t have drastically different perspectives, influences, and styles, you’re kidding yourself!
When you open yourself up to the ideas and perspectives of authors from various walks of life (be it sexuality, race, gender, class, nationality, ability), you are giving yourself the cosmopolitan advantage. I see a lot of authors asking how do I represent this gender or this lifestyle or this income bracket? I mean, if you’re serious, read about it. And not just the first three articles you see online either. Listen to as many perspectives as you can, look up recommended stories or autobiographies, go to your local library, and read about it.
A bit off topic, but I’m sure someone reading this needs to be reminded: No one owes you their life story, and you, as an author, are not entitled to personal information about someone for the sake of your work. I assure you that someone in the past has taken the liberty of documenting their experiences for the sole purpose of educating others. As a student, Good Samaritan, or ally, it’s your job to find these resources. Don’t be the *sshole that asks marginalized people to re-traumatize themselves so you can write a ~realistic~ side character.
If it seems like a lot of work, I don’t know what to tell you. Trying to understand a group of people and their history separate from your own is hard work, but it’s worth it. Even if writing is just a trivial pastime for you, once again, expanding your global understanding will never hurt you.
“20 ** Huge ** Mistakes New Writers Make” “!!HOW TO FIX PURPLE PROSE!!” “New Writer’s Syndrome And Its WORST Offenses” All fine places to start in a digital age. But there is no YouTube video that will replace the time-honored task of sitting down with a book and taking notes. Critical thinking is becoming a lost art. You can hire a copy and/or line editor, sure; but being able to recognize and remedy your own shortcomings—that makes you more self-aware than probably 80% of the population. If you’re lost, a solid place to start is “What do I want my work to say?” “How do I best say it?” Reading to write is like eating to cook. You don’t know what tastes good until you’ve tried it for yourself. You may not even have known a certain spice existed until you sample someone else’s cuisine. Afterward, you go home and try to replicate the dish. You perfect it and, eventually, give it your own personal spin. Perhaps you found basil a better fit than paprika and concluded that the original’s finish was all smoke, no flavor. Your goal is always to make something consistently better than the last.