Writers Read Better: 50+ Paired Lessons That Turn Writing Craft Work Into Powerful Genre Reading, by M. Colleen Cruz
I was very disappointed by this book. On the one hand, as someone who both reads and writes prolifically and well, and who enjoys deliberate efforts at craft work to hone both of the tasks of reading and writing, this is the sort of book that should be easily appreciated by a reader like myself. Yet there was something fundamentally wrong with this book that demonstrated that the author’s agenda(s) did not necessarily involve encouraging people to be better readers and better writers but also had specifically political angles that were ill-considered and poorly chosen. The author’s frequent references to “fake news” and trying to make leftist fact checkers out of her readers sat very poorly with me and made me view a book that could have had a fairly narrow and very praiseworthy function as being a sort of trojan horse in how to create self-righteous hypocrites who judge the writings of others with the biased perspective of the author but fail to consider the ways in which that biased and often mistaken worldview prevents them from being able to truly rely on “reliable sources” or the writings of journalists one regards as being a sufficient grounds for truth.
This book book contains 28 paired lessons divided into four parts. The author begins with a lot of preparatory material, including a list of videos, acknowledgements, an introduction, and a discussion on how to use the book. The first part of the book discusses lessons for generating ideas and interpreting the author’s purpose (I), which includes lessons on considering sources and the author’s expertise (1), writing about what is taken for granted and learning unexpected things from familiar topics (2), understanding the relationship between an author’s passion and stance (3), narrowing down broad topics and understanding topics and subtopics (4), understanding structure (5) and using it to convey and understand intent (6), as well as some information for digital classrooms. The second part of the book discusses lessons for drafting and understanding the writer’s craft (II), including outlining texts one reads as well as writing placeholder text for later facts and researching and drafting with an audience in mind. The third part of the book discusses lessons for revising for power craft, analysis, and critique (III), which include explores how author’s weight information, how the author’s values can be identified and questioned, and switching strategies when text changes its approach, as well as the author’s attempt to deal with bias and the slipperiness of facts. The fourth and final part of the book then explores how to prepare for publication and the scholarly world of texts (IV), after which the author includes acknowledgements, resources, references, and an index.
Do writers read better, and do readers write better? Often that is the case. Speaking personally, my writing has led me to improve reading as a means of research for writing, and my reading has inspired my writing and shaped the sort of tone and structure and approach I take to writing, especially when one finds good models to aim one’s writing after. There is nothing inherently wrong or troublesome about seeking to pair reading and writing together as a means of improving both by doing both in a disciplined fashion. That said, the reliability of the texts one reads, and one’s own perspective, is always up for question. What we consider to be our truth may be nothing more than our prejudiced and not very well-informed or well-grounded opinion, and what we consider to be reliable sources may be nothing more than biased and completely unreliable sources with terrible flaws in logic and evidence, to say nothing of moral grounding. As human beings, we must always approach the task of improving ourselves with a sense of humility, recognizing the sad reality that every text we come across, and every text we create has agendas, some of which are not openly understood even by the creator.