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Reading Too Much

August 20, 2009

Even though I’ve been writing for years, I’m still fairly new to the publishing side of the field. What frustrates me the most is all the advice. The line between what’s right and wrong are blurred most of the time. I often feel confused. The latest confusion is reading too much.

Writers tell you to read when you are first starting out. You can learn so much from those who have succeeded in writing: techniques, approaches, etc. I read an article by Noelle Sterne in The Writer about not reading too much while your writing. I can understand the point of that. You don’t want to become too envious or start writing in their style. You strive for originality. My question is: When are you suppose to read?

I write horror. Developing an original idea in this genre is very difficult. So much has already been done. Reading is kind of crucial in this case. However, if you’re someone who is constantly producing material, when do you fit in reading time? When you need inspiration for a scene? Is there really a such thing as reading too much? If so, do you think reading deprivation is crucial in finding our own voice?

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Andrea reposts her article from February 2008 in honor of completing the “Read 12 Books in 2009” book challenge. And for those interested, her grandfather is doing much better now. Thank you for the well wishes.
  1. August 20, 2009 1:38 am

    I’ve heard this kind of advice before and largely, I think it’s nonsense. I can understand that reading can often lead to copying or mimicking someone’s style, but I don’t think the solution is to not read.

    I think the solution is to read diversely and it’s by this that you create your own voice that isn’t dominated by one voice you end up mimicking. That’s my opinion anyway.

  2. Kitty Taylor permalink
    August 20, 2009 10:04 am

    I think the problem with not reading is that it in itself often causes writers to stagnate. I, for one, find it really difficult to write if I’m not reading something. It doesn’t matter what I’m reading, but as long as I’m enjoying it I’m much more likely to enjoy my writing (and produce something worth reading), which in the end is a good outcome for both the reader in me, and the writer.

    Classic literature always makes me feel like I want to write, and far from making me feel inadequate it often inspires me because I aspire to be like these authors who I admire so much. Sometimes, yes, reading can cause some unwanted copy-cat errors, but like Benjamin has pointed out, the solution is simple: read diversely and enjoy what you’re reading so much that you don’t adopt author’s ideas so much as admire the craft of them and wish to create something equally stunning of your own.

  3. August 20, 2009 12:52 pm

    I agree with Benjamin that the solution is to read diversely. But I also found, when working intensively on my novel, that I wasn’t _able_ to read fiction: my brain just wouldn’t wrap itself around a story other than the one I was working on. (I’ve blogged about it here.)

    So there may be some making-a-virtue-of-necessity at work with this advice. Mind you, I was writing very intensively at the time: I wrote a 120,000-some word novel in two months. If I’d worked on it more slowly, I might have been able to read other stuff.

  4. August 21, 2009 9:08 pm

    I don’t feel like reading alters my own voice too much but it does affect my writing in a different way – it distracts me! All writers know that the best way to find and develop your own voice is to just write. I often find myself reading when I could be using that time to get more writing done.

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