Monday, July 6, 2009

The Read/Not Read Conflict . . . NOT

They say that if you're in the majority, you'd better step back a minute and re-examine your position.

I like that as a general application, but I just can't get past this one.

A writer refuses to read her genre while she's writing. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me too much if she refused to read any fiction at all while she's writing.

My first response is, "Why in the world not?", followed quickly by, "Don't you write every day—or try to?"

She's not the only one who has formed this distorted belief system. The rationale lies somewhere in concepts of originality and imitation.

If you don't read in your genre, how do you experience new ideas? How do you grow personally as a writer?

And this is awkward: she's being compared to other bestselling authors. She should be irked, right?

I can't imagine not reading my favorite genre. I can't imagine thinking that would put me ahead of the curve.

Am I missing something?

CR: Anne Lamott's Plan B. She is so real.

It's all better with friends.


  1. OK, Peg, I think I might be able to give the other side to this (or one other side).

    I do not read any fiction at all while I'm in first draft mode. The reason for this--and yes, it may be a weakness on my part--is that I find I'm very susceptible to voice. This has been true ever since I was a kid, writing stories in my head about three little girls on a prairie as I laid aside my volume of Little House.

    In first draft mode, I need to connect with my own voice and my unique approach to story, so I just block out everyone else's temporarily.

    Another reason is that I yearn for fiction so much--really have a daily need for it--that I find if the story I'm writing is the only source of fiction, it becomes that much more compelling. Plus, it really drives me toward the end--as I get closer the thirst for other books gets pretty intense!

    A first draft usually takes me anywhere between three and five months, after which I reach for my stack of To Be Reads like a drowning woman would a buoy. Rewriting or editing works completely differently for me. And I do read during this time, of course, but I focus on either books about craft, or else non-fiction books related to research or what I'm writing.

    Hey, maybe it's a crazy system! Time will tell if it works, at least in terms of publication!

  2. Great comments, Jenny.

    3-5 months without fiction? I'd probably weigh 400 pounds.

    I'm just sayin'.