Wednesday, October 2, 2019

To Read or Not to Read: The Balance of Consuming the Works of Other Writers While You're Writing Yourself!


Long time no see, fellow Cosmonauts! Fall is officially upon us, the season that motivates me to do all the things before the year wraps up. I had a terrific time at Salt Lake City's FanX event, and now I'm getting ready to participate in Anime Banzai in a few weeks. Hopefully my foot will be better by then (I had a losing argument with a flight of stairs--long story). I had something in mind to share, but the IWSG post for this month is a great one that's really worth exploring:

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https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/Oct question - It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Ah yes, the writer who does not read. Or the writer who reads so much that no writing gets done. I dabbled both ends of this pendulum, and have personally concluded that I'm something of a sponge when it comes to reading. Case in point, my second novel. I read the entire Lord of the Rings while drafting and, in the editing process, I realized I had a problem when my characters introduced themselves by genealogy in a sci-fi novel, especially when no one ever did this in the first novel. Not that this way of introduction is wrong, but it clearly had a Tolkien flare to it.

I found myself with this issue again when I picked up The Chronicles of Narnia. And again with the Mistborn series. I was borrowing the voice of other authors without ever trying. It's all about voice, right? And I wanted my writing to reflect mine. So I did an experiment with my 8th project: read nothing until it is finished. This wasn't always easy because I wanted to read (and did), and at this time I had joined a critique group, so I was reading some WIPs, but I limited myself. I found more originality was had after a brief distancing, and my first published novel came as an eventual result of this experiment. Ever since, I've adopted this balance of Read when I'm NOT writing and Limit my reading WHILE writing. I'm not saying this is the recipe for getting published, but I've found it helpful to keep the voices in my head straight. Even better are audio books while writing, because listening to a book is a different process that, for me, doesn't mesh in my head the same way print does. It kinda makes me want to get serious about producing some audio books myself ... Do you have audio books? was the #1 question I heard at the FanX event.

But that's another topic for another time, my friends! :)

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Update: Inching ever closer to finishing up my second zombie novel, however it's on hold again because I got my edits back on my dragon story. They're awesome, so I'm going to self publish it sometime early 2020! I'm in the process of formatting and landing a cover designer now. I'll share more details as they become available. Back to work!

I appreciate your visit to my corner of the interwebs!

Have you found a balance between reading and writing? What is your opinion on audio books? Recommendations for a cover designer?

I'm David, and what book should I ask for my birthday? ...

37 comments:

  1. Hi David, in the begining of my writing career, I too adopted the policy of no reading while I was writing my first draft, as I felt some writing influences were creeping into my work. I still try not to read too much while doing my first drafts, after that I go berserk with my reading.

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  2. Listen to audio books - now that's an idea.
    At least you caught those things creeping in.

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  3. I read at night before going to bed which doesn't interfere with my writing. I only had problems with imitating other writers I admired when I was younger and wanted to emulate them. But the stories never turned out like I wanted or expected. Now I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin, but then I've been fiddling around with words for a long time now.

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  4. I mostly listen to books on my Kindle in the car. If you need a cover artist who isn't too expensive my Facebook friend Al Sirois does stuff like that. I don't think he has a website but you can find him on Facebook.

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  5. The biggest problem I see with this strategy is – Is there ever a time when you aren't writing? I feel like I'm always writing … and reading. And I don't necessarily mean writing a book or reading a book. Sometimes I'm just writing a blog post or reading an article in the paper. But I still feel that little things like that, reading article after article or writing things completely unrelated to your main piece can throw you off.

    I do like the idea of listening to audio books. Those are definitely different than reading a book. They feel much less intrusive.

    With Love,
    Mandy

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    1. That's a great point. For me, article reading doesn't throw me off the way reading another's narrative fiction does, and perhaps I should have emphasized what I call "passive vs. active" reading and writing. Yes, I'm almost always doing both in a relative time frame, so if I am actively reading, I'll do more brainstorming or chapter planning, blog posts, technical writing, etc ... whereas if I'm actively writing I may read more news, posts, or just a chapter every other day. It's a balance, and I encourage modification if one would like to use this strategy. Thanks for visiting! :)

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  6. Can’t read the audio version of a book alone, although I buy the audio when on a journey. I need to see chapter openings, sentence length, paragraphs, repetitions... all the things we writers assimilate from a print version.

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    1. Very true, which is why I generally reserve audio for times when I want to keep up with what's out there when time doesn't allow. Amazing how many books I listen to while commuting to work. :)

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  7. I never have that problem, but I read a mixed bag when I write. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  8. I love reading and writing, but I go through phases like that - for a few weeks at a time. Currently, I have a pile of non-fiction books from the library and I have been writing more fiction, more regularly. So ... I think there is something to be said for reading a different genre than the one I'm writing.
    I haven't done any audiobooks yet, but I have been asked by people for them. Sigh. One more thing to do. But on the upside, at least there is interest!

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  9. I read all the time, writing or not. And yes, it's not hard to pick up an influence along the way. The important point is that you've recognized an obstacle in your own writing process and taken steps to address it. The inconsistent voices can probably be worked out in revision, when you're not under the siren influence of other works.

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    1. That recognition has definitely improved over time and practice, that's for sure. Thanks for visiting! :)

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  10. I don't believe I've put in elements from what I'm reading, but it's always a possibility. Of course now I read such a variety with submissions.

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  11. I'm afraid your technique wouldn't work for me, because I'm always writing. And I do hope to pick up influences from writers who do my genre well--not that I would ever plagiarize, but there's a rhythm and flow to a good romance novel. Reading widely in my genre helps me internalize that rhythm, and reading in other genres adds freshness to my writing.

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    1. No worries. Like I tell my clients, whatever approach is going to be helpful to you, go for it. Thanks for visiting! :)

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  12. I'm always writing and always reading (and always doing so super slowly...). When I'm writing fantasy, I try not to read too much fantasy, but when I was working on my romance WIP, I did read some romance novels to help me figure out the genre itself, as it was so far out of my comfort zone.

    Hooray for making writing progress, by the way!

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  13. I agree with limiting one's reading while writing, though for me it's mainly due to time. A good book will nearly always take priority for me - I become obsessed with it until I finish it. So it's very easy for me to get distracted from writing to read. But I see your point in limiting reading while writing to prevent other authors from becoming TOO much of an influence.

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  14. So you don't write all the time? How's that work? Hmm...

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    1. On the contrary, I write every day. Lots of notes to write as a counselor. Lately my weekends is when I'm able to shift gears into fiction. Thanks for visiting! :)

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  15. I've been reading a lot of audio books lately when I walk or work around the house. It helps me read more. I have to watch out for reading too much and then not having time to write.

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  16. I find that my ideas form from inspiring books such as Lord of the Rings or books from favorite authors. I agree that free time is valuable and hard to come by and I prefer to write than read but when my muse is out to lunch, I read. it's a good balance, I suppose. :P

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  17. I've definitely caught a few moments in my writing that's clearly influenced by something else. There's actually a line in an early chapter that I'm pretty sure I'm going to cut because it feels kinda stolen.

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  18. I totally understand. A word or phrase here and there that sticks in our minds can make its way into a writer's novel. I also take the approach of not reading the exact genre that I'm in the course of writing, but I do read.
    But now that I haven't started a new novel, I'm reading like crazy.

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  19. Did I read dragon story? Well, that sounds magical. Nice to see you around again.

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  20. That's interesting. I guess at a certain point one does imitate what one reads. I would think that you'd grow past that eventually, but maybe not just yet.

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  21. In interesting take on the question. I like that you say writers still need to read, but understand what influences them and when. Reading is so important.

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  22. I think each writer finds the process that works for him or her, David. I must read, so not reading isn't an option for me. I am an intensely visual person, so I don't find much satisfaction in listening to a book. Good luck as you finalize your dragon story!

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  23. Hi David - I struggle to write stories ... perhaps because I just don't think it's in me ... I write my blog posts, read articles, investigate areas I'd like to write about, keep up with various subjects ... I find I struggle to settle with a book - but I read ... and thoroughly enjoyed Woven. Cheers Hilary

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  24. I think that your reading/writing plan is a good one. I don't think I'd stop reading/listening to books completely, but I feel like I need to stop reading other stories for a while so that mine will rise to the surface. I love audio books. I drive often to see my college kids and shows, so I listen to books along the way.
    Happy IWSG Day!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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  25. Really interesting idea that listening to audiobooks is different. I've been getting into them more these days and enjoying it.

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  26. I wish I could steal their voice. They have some awesome voices. LOL.

    But I see what you're saying. I read a Stephen King novel and started using more partial sentences in my story and I picked up on making the prose sound more like the person whose POV I was using. Or at least I try. I guess that's not really stealing but learning from a master story teller.

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  27. Well, please just don't stop writing, those of us who are readers need you!

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  28. I sometimes deny myself reading so I can use it as the carrot to write more hours of the day instead of reading. Mistborn was a great series, wasn't it?
    I don't listen to audio books myself, but I know they're a big market right now. Good luck with your edits.

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  29. It's hard not to be a sponge when we read while drafting a first manuscript.

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  30. What an interesting post. I can understand how reading can influence our voice. Definitely something to pay attention to! I love audio books and listen whenever I can.

    Happy editing!
    ~Jess

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  31. It all goes hand in hand. Reading is the fuel for writing. The more I read, the more I can write :)

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