Or, What I Read While I Write vs. What I Read When I Edit.
This is the opposite of a how-to post. This is closer to a poll. Why? Because I’m extremely curious to hear what other writers have to say about it.
I was having dinner with a writer friend last night and, not surprisingly, we were talking about books we’d read recently. Many of these were written by people we knew. Something he said stuck out:
“I can’t read Author X’s book yet because I know Book #Z of my series will also be in the same genre.”
Now, I bring this up not because I think it’s weird (I don’t), but because it got me to thinking about my own reading “rules.” It also got me wondering about what writers read while they write, and when they don’t.
I don’t read mysteries while writing a mystery. Most of the time, I’m doing research or reading nonfiction that’s somehow influencing my current work - or the next one. True crime, historical pieces, whatever. Why do I avoid other mysteries? Simple: I don’t want to lose my voice because my reading has become immersed in another writer’s. It happens. You mainline an author’s work and next thing you know, your sentences have the same cadence. Your dialogue starts to read like you didn’t write it. It’s weird.
Now, a little influence here and there is fine - it’s organic. We’re all products of the books we read. But I don’t want to push it. If I’m rolling along on a piece of fiction, and I have the voice and style down, I don’t want to lose that because I just got hooked on a new author. It keeps the work somewhat pure, and, I think, consistent.
So, when do I read fiction? The rest of the time. While editing, while revising, between major projects and on trips and such. Even then, I’ll hop between genre fiction and true crime or nonfiction as my tastes guide me. I’ll read a music bio or some political stuff, too, to provide a change of pace.
I guess, now that I put it on paper, my only rule - and it’s not really an unbreakable, hard and fast one - is that I try to avoid books in my genre when writing a new book. What’re yours? Why do they exist?