Reading while you write

October writing goals.

Amusement Writers' Strange Names

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Tim James

Mar 16, 2018
Berkshire, UK
I guess like many writers, I am also an avid reader. I read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction, in a wide range of genre and I always have at least one fiction book and one non-fiction book "on the go" on my bedside table.

But, and this is the point of my post, I never read fiction of the same genre as I am currently writing. For example, I'm currently first-drafting a near-future techno science fiction type novel. So until I have finished at least the first draft, I will be avoiding reading any other sci-fi, techno of a similar type.
The reason is I don't want my book thought processes to be "tainted" or influenced by someone else's book. Does that sound odd? I sometimes fear that subconsciously my plot or characters might come to resemble what I'm reading at the time. A sort of unintended mimicry. So to avoid any possibility of that I studiously avoid reading the same genre as I'm writing.

So my question is does this sort of thing bother you? Are you happy to be reading say crime fiction while writing your own crime fiction? Or maybe you don't read at all while writing a first draft.
I'm interested to hear other writers' takes on this.
It doesn't sound odd at all. I think my reading did used to influence the way I wrote, less so now. And no new ideas under the sun, but your voice, crafting and alchemy - that is the writer you could become that no-one else could be.

Books on my bedside table. I just found a book, non fiction, by an American poet called Paul Pines.

Trolling The Fisher King.

There is something about it strangely congruent of the MS I've been working on a long time, and am polishing for submissions starting soon. The story is complete, and this book can't distract or undermine anything, but there's some echo that might help with positioning the pitch perhaps.

The wounded Fisher King is a character from the Arthurian legends. Paul Pines, who has died this year, suggests the Fisher King is all of us.
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I returned to creative writing in 2013, following four years of depression in which I did little but read. I devoured a novel a day, avoiding the world. My own writing was forced on me by a logjam of ideas pressuring me into doing something about them...sentences, titles, book cover designs, even entire conversations between fictional characters I didn't know my brain had devised came to me day and night.

So, I sat down at my keyboard and wrote and wrote, everything from children's poems and adult verse to short stories and novellas. If I ran out of ideas in one form, I jumped onto another. One day I wrote 6,666 words, which felt a bit spooky! :eek: During this period, I avoided reading fiction, worried that my own voice wouldn't emerge. I dipped into reading poetry and non-fiction, which felt like maintenance feeding of a 60-year addiction to books. The thing was, I needed a stronger dose. I felt bereft without reading other authors' stories, so it was joyful for me to return to my local public library's shelves.

About half of the novels I read are in the crime genre, which is my area of writing. Without meaning to sound arrogant, if anything they influence me by how they fail to convince me as a reader. Some have plot holes big enough to drive a tank through, making me wonder what the author was thinking and did an editor actually read his manuscript? Occasionally, I get ideas from novels. I was reading a crime novel last night, in which the protagonist realised he was getting older as it took longer to heal from wounds. This reminded me to mention how my detective hero faces up to ageing, as he needs to get reading glasses; I jotted a reminder in my notes for the sixth Cornish Detective novel, which I'll begin writing next summer.

The joy I get from reading inspires me to write my own stories. We all have our own way of seeing the world.
I read a lot, I usualluy have at least 4 books on the go and have never consciously noticed my fiction mirroring the styles of other writers, but once, a long, long time ago, when I was reading a lot of Jack Kerouac, I wrote a piece for a well-known current affairs magazine entirely in the style of On The Road - seriously, no joke. Mercifully, it wasn't on a deadline and got to read it through and see what I'd done and do a thorough re-write before sending it off. The horror still lives with me.
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October writing goals.

Amusement Writers' Strange Names