The Reading Like a Writer Series #3

Read like a writer #3

We’re not quite at the nitty gritty of what to do to read like a writer yet, I wanted to cover ‘when’ to read first. Everything I’ve ever read about how to write, says to read your genre. Read DEEP into your genre, read everything you can get your hands on. For lots of reasons.

1. Know your market – you need to know what is typical and atypical for your chosen genre, you need to know whats popular, and what works. But more importantly, what wouldn’t work.

2. Know your audience – reading your genre gives you a sense of what your audience are looking for, the types of plots, pace of genre, style of story they would like.

3. Know what’s been done – so that you can be unique.

But here’s the thing. For me, when I am in writing mode, I stop reading, almost completely. At least, I stop reading my genre.For me its dangerous to continue to read my genre when I’m are working on my WIP. But why?

When we write, everything we do/see/participate in during the day affects our writing, it seeps into our subconscious and buries itself somewhere ready to pop up when we least expect it. What you don’t want is for it to seep into your own writing. You don’t want to end up sounding similar or worse plagiarising published authors in your field. Now I know this is probably unlikely. But mimicry can be subtle, you might not even realise your doing it.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that you give up reading all together. In fact the complete opposite. But when you are in writing mode, I advocate reading completely different genres. If you write mystery novels, read fantasy or a romcom. Avoid other mysteries like the plague. Read non fiction, read about writing, read anything but other mysteries.

Another reason for avoiding your genre when in writing mode is because you don’t want to focus on someone else’s work when you are still developing and building your own. Just focus on your own WIP, your own characters and your project, save for getting disillusioned with others.

Thanks to Dylan Hearn author of Second Chance and Absent Souls for the comment below, which I am now adding to the list. Don’t read anything other than your preferred and currently writing POV, incase you end up with whole chunks of paragraphs and pages to rewrite.

What do you do when in writing mode? Do you still read your genre? Do you read another style of story?

25 comments

  1. Rhe one point I’d add is to make sure the book you’re read is written in a he same perspective as your own. I normally write in the 3rd person and once read a book written in the 1st person while writing my second novel. It was only during the first edit I realised I too had written a couple of chapters in the 1st person. It completely screwed with my head.

    1. That Dylan is a REALLY good point. I wrote a bit of a rant about the third person a few blogs ago. I can’t do it and it drives me insane. Funnily enough (whilst writing my current first person novel I read this third person book and it messed my head up too!) thanks for the point though when I get a chance I shall add your point to this blog and link through to yours 🙂 to credit you for the point 🙂

        1. Apparently we do! Well I’m going to get your book for my flight to NYC in a couple weeks – I also have to read Keith’s (another blogger) too. But love the sound of yours right up my alley. 🙂 so very much looking forward to it.

  2. Interesting perspective. I read anything and everything – and all the time.

    I like your blog. I like the way you express yourself. Thanks for following my blog; it gave me an opportunity to see what you do here.

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely compliment. 🙂 I found your blog through Keith as it happens, and what a lovely blog too. Really enjoy your personal fiction posts too, I like your descriptive style, I shall watch out for more of it 🙂

      I would be interested to know, do you think reading whilst you write has any effect on your writing? I do read whilst I write, I just change genre, or read non fiction (how to write better) kind of things.

      1. I’m not sure how to answer your question, Sacha, as I’m not really married to any genre at present. I just write what I like, and I enjoy experimenting. My husband says that it is something I need to address. He is always telling me to stick with one genre. Sigh… he is probably right. One day I will have to figure out which genre I most enjoy. Right now, I’m having fun.

        I’m so glad you decided to follow me – and I appreciate your lovely comments. 🙂

  3. What an interesting point of view on the situation! Personally, I could never stop reading in my genre. The whole reason I write is because I’ve been inspired by books in my genre – they’re a constant source of motivation and ideas, and to cut off that supply just seems sad, especially when I’m trying to write 50k+ words of it. 😉

    1. Ah no I don’t mean it to be sad, just to stop any chance of subconscious plagiarism i guess. Obviously it’s not going to work for everyone, but for me who is still a fledgling writer trying to find her voice I don’t want any chance of my voice sounding like someone else’s. You know? When I’m confident in my writing maybe it won’t be an issue? I hadn’t thought of that until your comment, maybe I should expand this post it’s proving quite thought provoking for me. What’s your genre? What do you write? Thanks for the comment 🙂

      1. I see what you mean there – but then, I think different strategies work for different people, so there’s that, too. 🙂 I write pretty much everything YA. My first two novels were fantasy, second was a contemporary, third was a horror… the list goes on! It would be so hard for me to divorce myself from such a widespread genre, even just for six months.

        1. Of course different strategies will work for different people – hopefully I alluded to that in the post :s – wow that’s a lot of novels im still just writing my first one.

          So here’s what I mean, if I was writing a YA fantasy novel I would read YA romance or horror or mystery I would just steer clear of fantasy for a few months whilst writing. But that’s me. And writing my first novel is taking a long time too ive had breaks from writing where I’ve gone back and read fantasy. So it’s not like ive throw my genre away. Plus I read an awful lot before I picked up my pen. Congrats on writing so many novels. What an inspiration you are 🙂 have a fab weekend and thank you again for stopping by.

  4. I’m trying to write in 3rd person as I have different points of view in my story. By chance I was reading 40 Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. Totally different in many ways to my genre but it helped me realise how shifting viewpoints can work. An amazing book too! Then the same style with My name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. So for me continuing to read books I want to read has helped! I can understand not reading a too similar genre though. Look forward to reading some of your work.

    1. I love when that happens – when you’re reading a completely random book and you come out the other side having learnt loads! BEST books ever :D.

      It’s funny, but since I wrote this post, I have actually continued to read books AND in the same genre. It appears I can’t take my own advice!

  5. Prior to my daughter being born nine years ago, I’d been a pretty voracious reader. Then about three years ago I decided I was going to start writing again and finish the novel I’d started writing all the way back in 2001 but set to the side. I really dove in hard, deadly serious about finishing this thing. You see, I’d attempted to write a novel a couple of times over the course of my life, but always became ambivalent about where to take it in the middle (yes, I was a terrible pantser), and then end up setting it aside and never completing it.

    I knew to improve my writing it was imperative that I start reading again, but I had the damnedest time getting into reading again. I’d spent months before I ever picked up the metaphorical pen again trying to bridge the gap between reader sensibility/experience and writer sensibility/experience that had always left me horribly dissatisfied with whatever I wrote (another reason I also tended to stop writing after a while). So when I started reading again — or trying to — I distracted myself so much with analyzing, trying to solve this eternal mystery, it that I couldn’t really get into any story. If I *did* manage to start to appreciate someone else’s work and start to feel even a little inspired by it, I’d get impatient with myself and think, “Hey, why am I doing this instead of writing?” or I’d quickly crash, thinking, “Shit, why can’t I write something that could compete with this?”

    It was maddening, and it took re-reading a very long series by a well-known author that I figured would be a sure-enough thing in terms of my enjoyment that it could withstand all my writing neurosis. I felt I could reforge something of my old enjoyment of reading if I could just reconnect with it again. Sure enough, it did the trick, and all of that nagging stuff eventually burned itself out. I did eventually finish the first draft of my first novel, and these days I can study, analyze, and appreciate as necessary, and none of those functions get in the way of each other anymore.

    1. Hi there, sorry it has taken me so long to reply. Thanks for such a lovely comment. I really feel your pain. I have been teaching myself to read like a writer instead of reading for pleasure and I do find that it now takes a REALLY good book to stop me analysing and just dive into the story for the sake of the story. I actually went back on what I said in this post and ended up reading the same genre when I was writing, partly because the writing takes me so god damn long I can’t bear to be away from my fave genre for so long! But I feel your pain on the comparison thing too – I get that so often – I always think I’ll never be as good. It’s awful and you’re so right it IS maddening!

      thanks again for stopping by

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