Reading for the Craft

by Neeks

I subscribe to “Poets & Writers.” It’s published bimonthly, and is full of articles, illustrations, contest info and publishing info. I keep them in the library (aka my bathroom) and eventually read them from cover to cover. There are always plenty of good interviews with new and established writers and poets. Editors and publishers endlessly debate eBooks vs. big house printing, writer’s retreats vs. conventions and other such notable subjects.

Contest winners explain their thought processes, points of view and work ethic. Different articles point out writer’s fests and book fairs as well as give advice from editors, agents and publishers. I’ve found the magazines to be helpful enough to continue the subscription. Normally I will find a deal on a magazine and subscribe for that year. When the time is up I cancel the magazine and pick another one at discount. If you keep them after the discount period you have to pay the normal full price. Being laid off last year and having a college-aged teen that I’ve raised as a single parent has impressed upon me the need to be creative. This is the only writing magazine I’ve found (in the discount arena) and interestingly enough – the only subscription I’ve ever let continue to the second year. The things we do for our craft.

Entering a short story contest last year garnered me an honorable mention which thrilled me. I was quite happy being one of the top 21 out of 500. One of the perks of getting that mention was a subscription to the site’s online writing magazine. It’s not as handy in the library but I’ve found plenty of other opportunities to read it. It’s full of tips and ideas too. I don’t do a lot of reading on my computer though, preferring to do that on my kindle or on paper, so I haven’t taken advantage of this as much. But it’s there anytime I want to check it.

I find these things interesting and I suppose compelling to read. I’m not sure it’s helped my writing in any concrete way so far, but I feel more informed and up to date being able to discuss with some intelligence things like the future of eBooks or the decline of paper ones. I find opinions I can agree with as well as those that I don’t, but we’ll find that with anything we read or see out in the world today.

In addition to the magazine and web publications, I also read books on writing from time to time. I believe we should all strive to continue our education – be it in a classroom or in the self-help forum. Not striving for more leads us to lethargy, boredom and ultimately – bad writing. My aim in all of this is to publish more. I need the supplemented income and it provides me with a much-needed creative outlet. I guess I’ll continue the magazine next year too, sooner or later some of it has to rub off on me, right?

Do you subscribe to any writers’ magazines as an educational tool?  Should you?

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20 Comments to “Reading for the Craft”

  1. Ooo great post Neeks. I don’t actually subscribe to any writing magazines, but you’re inspired me to go and source one! Thanks. 🙂

    • There are lots of them out there Beth, be sure the one you pick has credentials. Any amount you pay for bad advice would be money wasted, right? I picked one that had been publishing for a long time and had some big names in the NY literary scene. The honorable mention thing was a fluke, I had not read the prize awards and didn’t know that I would get anything at all, so that was cool. 🙂

  2. Interesting post Neeks! I used to subscribe to Writer’s Digest but can’t afford to at the moment.

    One writer that I read constantly for inspiration is Chuck Wendig (by the way you should try his Miriam Black urban fantasy books). He has written a number of books on writing and I shelled out for “250 Things You Should Know About Writing”. I also follow his blog which is very inspirational http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/

    WARNING: Both his blog and his books are VERY sweary!

  3. Writer’s Digest would be nice, I can’t afford it either. I’ve read some instructional work by Chuck Wendig before, I can’t remember where from. Probably the writer’s digest site? I’ll check out his blog, thanks!

  4. I subscribe to writers digest and my wife is a hunter of deals. If I can find a cheap link I’ll post it here but I have found that helpful for most of the same reasons above. Also, I have just started reading Self Editing for Fiction Writers. It is an EXCELLENT book. I think writing comes in three levels, drafting, copy editing, and content editing. Copy editing is very mathematical, move this comma there, remove the prepositional phrase, etc. Content editing is where I have trouble because I have always thought it was a high brow attitude I just didn’t understand. Thinks like when to use narration vs dialogue, how to show and now tell, how to write crisp dialogue that flows well and sounds natural. I would really recommend that book to anyone writing fiction. I am even incorporating that at the writers conference I am speaking at next month.
    Good post, thanks!

    • Thank you Bob, Self Editing for Fiction Writers sounds like something I need! If you do find a cheap link please do come back and post it, I’m sure there are lots of folks who would like access to that info! Have fun at the writers conference. 🙂

  5. I subscribe to Every Day Fiction, an e-zine. I love that a flash story is delivered to my email inbox every morning. I also get Writer’s Digest (seems to be a recurring theme here), and I get the SCBWI Bulletin as a member of that organization. Sometimes it’s information overload, as I either get tired of reading about craft, or I simply haven’t got the time. So I’ve learned to read what interests me, and skip what doesn’t.

  6. Another Writer’s Digest subscriber here, but that’s the only one.

  7. I always have a writing book going…right now it is: The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron. I just finished “Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity” by Susan K. Perry. I always get SOMETHING out of the books. I definitely think it is worthwhile to keep reading books about the writing process. I use Poets and Writers online…You can read some of it for no charge, although they do ask for a donation. Good choice of magazine, by the way…

  8. Thanks sued51, I have a long history with poetry as well, though I haven’t written any in years and years. To be honest, it’s the only “writing” magazine they offered at discount, but it certainly turned out to be a good choice and I’m glad I subscribed. You get it too? Well you know what they say, great minds think alike!

  9. I don’t for financial reasons, but it does make sense. Congrats on the honourable mention!

  10. I’m a huge fan of Poets and Writers too! And it also stays in my library waiting to be read at an, er, opportune moment. (As do Writer’s Digest and The Writer) 😉 I read books on the craft and attend conferences. I’m always on the hunt for new tips, methods, or approaches to writing and publishing.

  11. Oh yes, I read all kinds of books and periodicals. Reading both published works and articles/books about writing help me to become a better writer. Whenever I read a novel or short story, I pay as much attention to how it is written to what I’m reading. I look for voice, style, sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, etc. If it is a piece that I enjoy, I try to figure out what makes it good; if it is something that leaves me cold, I try to figure out what didn’t work for me.

    Reading makes me write better.

    • I agree Lorna, and it’s good to hear from you! I haven’t been on here as much lately as I used to be.

      I do that analytic thing with the books I read as well. It’s as though you just can’t help it. I’ve gone as far as highlighting passages in books that particularly strike me in some fashion, though I don’t do it anymore. I like having the Kindle, I can bookmark and make notes easily without messing up the book. 🙂

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