The discussion is age-old. Some writers say they can’t read, or can’t read in their genre, when they’re writing. Others say, “If I had to give up reading in order to write, I’d give up writing.”
Wickeds, do you read when you’re writing? If not, why not? If so, what do you read? Is your reading restrained in any way? Does it make a difference whether you’re writing a first draft or doing a polish? When do you read for research?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Liz: Love this topic! I find reading depends more on my overall mood than what I’m actually working on. Since most of what I read is mystery/crime, it varies between cozies, thrillers and other types of crime. That said, I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I would like…but that’s really the only limitation I have when it comes to reading. I can read any fiction, any time. I read for research as the need arises, or as the mood strikes. Sometimes I veer off into the world of business books, but I quickly return to my beloved mysteries.
Right now, I’m catching up on my cozies – recent releases from my fellow Wickeds and a Natural Remedies Mystery I’m blurbing. Next up – the new Tana French book. Can’t wait!
Edith: I find I have such little time for reading, if I didn’t read while I am writing, I’d never read. I certainly read for research both while I’m creating and while I’m polishing: Whittier’s biography, or the history of Brown County, Indiana, for example. But I also read cozy mysteries, New England-based police procedurals, suspense novels. They don’t seem to interfere with my writing or revision process, other than making me look more closely at my own work to make sure it’s as clear, lyrical, and deeply drawn as I can make it.
Right now, in final revisions on one book and starting revisions on another, I’m fittingly sitting in Maine reading Kate Flora’s new (Portland, Maine based) Joe Burgess mystery, And Grant You Peace.
Julie: I try to read while I am writing. BUT I find that the ability to just read, and not dissect, is gone while I am writing. For example, I am reading the Longmire books in preparation for Crime Bake. Craig Johnson is the Guest of Honor, and I am going to interview him at lunch during the conference. First paragraph, my “oh he writes in first person. Wonder how this works in a long series…” kicks in. It is hard to turn the writer off.
Edith: Agree with you on the dissection habit, Julie. It’s given me no patience for poorly written books. There isn’t enough time in the universe to read a book I see glaring writing errors in – point of view hops, too much telling not showing, and so on.
Jessie: I used to only read non-fiction when I was working on first drafts. I was really concerned about unintentionally matching the tone of what I was reading in my own work. As time has passed my confidence in my own voice has gotten stronger and I no longer worry about what I read. Like Edith, I read a lot of books for research and I do tend to read those voraciously whilst creating a first draft.
At any given time I am in the midst of several books. I get a little panicky if I don’t have at least a few books waiting in the wings. As a matter of fact, I bought a house next door to a public library partially influenced by that concern. Currently, I am part-way through a Swedish crime novel, a book about the relationship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle and a book on the history of the tarot.
Barb: If I couldn’t read while I’m writing, it would be a close and agonizing call, but I would probably give up writing. Reading, after all, was my first love. Being a professional writer does crowd your reading time. There are books for research and books for blurbs. If you’re moderating a panel or conducting an interview at a conference, as Julie is, you’ve got a lot of books to read. Somehow or another it all piles up. But to be my best and happiest self, I have to read books I love, books that I wish I could have written. Kate Flora (I love the Joe Burgess novels, too) has a tradition where she allows herself to read anything she wants between Christmas and New Years. I’ve taken this tradition and expanded it (I’m a slow reader) to anything I want between the New England Crime Bake (Veteran’s Weekend) and New Years. It’s the ultimate luxury. Up this year will be Deborah Crombie, Louise Penny, Craig Johnson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and (fittingly) Kate Flora.
Sherry: Of course I read when I write. I read lots of thrillers and mysteries. The only thing I try to stay away from is any book that has a similar theme to mine. I agree with the other Wickeds that reading good books makes me a better writer and makes me work harder. Right after I read an early copy of Clammed Up I had the opportunity to write the proposal for the garage sale series. I loved Barb’s character Gus and I think he influenced my character, Angelo. The good news is when I told Barb, she was surprised and didn’t think I’d copied Gus. Angelo is quirky in his own way.
Readers: What’s your take? If you’re a writer, do you read while you’re writing? If you create other kinds of art, can you absorb art by others while you’re creating?