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Anatomy of Fiction: Reading Group For Writers

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Heliotrope, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I kind of have to agree... When Helio posted the first list of suggestions I was interested, because my tastes are pretty narrow and I actually haven't read a lot of the big names in fantasy--Sanderson, Rothfuss, even a lot of Pratchett, I'm ashamed to say. So I'd be up for the reading-for-fun aspect, and some discussion as far as inspiration for our own writing, gushing over parts we liked, etc. What I'm not really into is the prospect of having to write really long posts of lit dissection...or even into reading that. And anything Literary or hard sci-fi or way off-genre isn't what I would sign up for.

    It'd be fun to have a conversation about these books, but if it sets out to be super academic or effort-heavy I feel like it'll be a difficult conversation to get involved in. However, my goals might just not line up with this endeavor. I'll see how things go for you guys.
     
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  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    @Heliotrope, I wore out the seat of my pants long ago. How about using me as a backup, if one of the prime movers needs a break?

    @Chessie, there are lots of reading groups for fun--check out Goodreads. I rather like the specific writerly focus of this thread. Not merely analyzing a book (=college Lit class), but analyzing it from an author's POV, that we may learn and improve.
     
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  3. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    hmmm, interesting perspective.

    Ok, I'll really try to reiterate again, this is absolutely NOT a collage lit course lol! I have not read any of the books on the list for this month (ashamed to admit) and I'm no expert on writing comedy. Neither is Devor, which is why we picked that as our first theme.

    There will be NO heavy literary analysis required. There will be no homework and participation is as much, or as little as you prefer.

    Basically, this was how the conversation went with Devor as we were planning:

    "Gee, it would be nice to have a reading group where we could read books and talk about them from a "writers" perspective, instead of from just a 'reader's' perspective."

    We both felt that writing comedy was something we struggled with and wanted to learn more about. So we decided to choose a few comedy books to discuss them from a writer perspective.

    If in a few weeks someone says "Hey, I would love to read some books that have examples of really great dialogue because I really struggle with dialogue." Then we would do some research into some books that fit that mold so we could read and discuss.

    No one is telling anyone how to write. No one is saying "you must write a certain way."

    Dover and I simply thought "Hmmmmm, we get told all the time to 'read, read, read'... wouldn't it be nice if a group of us read the same books so we could chat about how the author does certain things?"

    That is the purpose of this group.

    Please, feel free to simply read the conversation and not participate if that is what makes you more comfortable!

    No one is claiming to have any answers or "teach" anyone how to do anything. All we want to do is read books together and discuss how and why the author made certain choices so we have a bigger arsenal of tools when it comes to our own writing.

    Everyone will be asked to share any articles they have read on writing comedy, or any advice they have on how they do it so that we can all learn and grow together.
     
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Talking about articles and podcasts earlier might have gotten a little overboard.

    I wanted to do a "theme" like comedy, and list three books for that theme, because I thought it would make a stronger article series. "Your Reading Quest" for the next two months is to read a comedy book. I thought over time if you read one book from each 3-book selection you'd have covered a pretty good survey of the genre, which is a good reading plan for people who want to be a fantasy writer.

    I think that's a solid strategy for an article series, but it's kind of confusing the discussion group a little.

    Just bear with us a little as we figure all of this out. I think the big goal is to encourage everyone to read more, and we definitely don't want to kill anyone's fun. If the books sound too off-genre, or the themes too weird, or the discussion too heavy, thank you for letting us know. We can figure out how to tweak the plan to get it right.

    But don't count us out yet. We're listening and want to do this right.
     
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  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Okay guys, how about . . . .

    We were planning to do this every two months because (in another thread) somebody suggested a month to read, a month to analyze.

    So let's go with that.

    The discussion goes live early January, and for the first month, while you read, you pop in at any time to basically react to the book, however you want. "This part was really cool! Who else is reading Good Omens and on chapter 9?"

    Then comes February, we start with some light discussion questions, keep it friendly.

    Around mid-February, we post some heavier "How to write comedy" discussion topics. If you want to drop by this point, hey that's fine. If you only want to jump in at this point, that's cool too. If the discussion dies or carries on long after the next series has begun, hey that's fine too.

    Would that seem about right for everyone?
     
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I think that might be making things even more complicated.

    My original plan was "hey, who wants to read books and discuss them with me so we can see what great writers do and hopefully learn some stuff?"

    I'd like to keep it simple.

    I think I'd like to revisit my original plan of one book from the "big names" in fantasy that I haven't read every two months and keep discussion writerly but simple.

    Let's vote on one of the three books to read and discuss, casually, as a group.
     
  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I apologize. I didn't mean to cause a stir or complicate things. Upon further consideration, this isn't right for me and that's ok. I hope everyone has a lot of fun reading though. :)
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Devor's proposal sounds fine to me. I do okay with structure. Heliotrope's version is fine as well. I do okay without structure.

    I definitely do want to look at specific techniques, and talk about what works or doesn't work. I'm also fine with out-of-genre books. The main thing, for me, is to get down to specific examples of humor, and to talk about how we might use that in our own writing. I do agree with the Founders (you're both Founders now) that the generic and general advice of read, read, read is somewhat less than helpful.
     
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  9. Thomas Laszlo

    Thomas Laszlo Sage

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    Same! I'm gonna order books soon! I get paid Friday!
     
  10. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Thanks Chessie and Skip :)

    Ok, so, I think we should try to keep things as simple as possible for now. I really want to keep the discussion open round table and not put time limitations on when we can talk about certain stuff. If someone knows a great resource on writing comedy and they want to share it then I don't want them to have to wait to share. I'm really eager to just be able to talk to you all about the themes so that I can learn as much as possible.

    As for book choice, though, I know Devor wanted to do three so he could write about them in his article. I do think three might be a tad ambitious, though? I know I can't (won't) be reading three books. Maybe one, possibly two. I fear it will be hard to have meaningful discussion if we are not reading the same book, though?

    Thoughts on that?

    Finally, I walked away from this concept in May because it got slightly bigger than what I was willing to handle. I'm glad Devor is taking over the article team stuff because I really just wanted a group of people to read with and discuss books with from a writer's perspective. If we can keep it simple that would be best for me.
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm fine if you'd like to take a vote on which book to read for the reading group. But I think I need three and a theme for the articles to work.

    What about ‚Äč(fantasy) heists for the second theme?
     
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  12. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    I am more than interested in this. I probably won't do every month but I'll try. I've already read one of the three for January but I want to read the other two as well. (I hope no one minds if I bring the perspective of an audiobook listener to the discussion; I kind of think it will be even bigger in the future and writing for audio can have a big, and usually positive, effect on your writing. I'll still get hard copies though, so I can notate the parts I think worth discussing).
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2016
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  13. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    I think I'm a bit more on-board now, mainly with the "reading as writers" thing. I do see characterization, exposition, world-building, description, dialogue, etc, as I read; it's not really something I can turn off. I'm good with talking about my perceptions of those things...less with analyzing them down to the bone, then rendering rules or advice on "how to write x" from that. It sounds somewhat like most of that will be funneled into the articles? Whichever way, that's the extent that I could see myself participating.

    As far as voting on a book goes, I think I like the idea of the three different books, read as many as you like... Having someone else discuss a book I haven't read or perhaps don't want to read would at least teach me a little more about the effective parts of that book. For this one, I haven't read Good Omens but I've heard all the buzz, so I would like to tackle that one. I'll probably re-read Princess Bride as well, as I haven't read that one in my twenties yet and book-perceptions change over time. (Which I love. I re-read things to death, squeezing a little more out every time...) I've definitely read Hitchhiker's Guide before but I'd like to stay rooted in fantasy for the time being, so I'd give it a pass but it would be interesting to see people discussing the nature of its humor.

    Regarding themes, I'm not particularly keen on heists, but seeing how I like my fantasy fairly free of thieves and assassins (Vlad Taltos gets a pass) I may not be the person to ask. I'd love to read to a theme of really good magic systems, or fantastic descriptive prose, or myth/fairy-tale retellings, or, heh...romance. Two cents for the wishing well.
     
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  14. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    All great suggestions Nimue, and since magic systems is a topic that comes up a lot on the forums I think delving deep into how the masters handle it would be a great idea!
     
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