Can you read while you write?

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E McD
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Can you read while you write?

Post by E McD » February 6th, 2010, 10:57 pm

Do you find that you subconsciously suck up words, phrases, ideas from the things you read or watch while you are writing? Do you avoid reading other people's novels while you are writing because of this? I saw Lois Lowry last year and she said she won't read anything while she's writing out of fear of this. While I know it is impossible to shut out all influences and that there is no new idea under the sun, do any of you struggle with this or have tips/suggestions on ways to avoid unintentional encroachment? :) -Emily
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ThinkBlue
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by ThinkBlue » February 7th, 2010, 1:00 am

I try to stick to literary classics (Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy) because they're more "neutral" and any imitation that might occur can only be good.

jkmcdonnell
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by jkmcdonnell » February 7th, 2010, 2:30 am

oh i so have this problem! i just can't do both.

i think it's mostly a focus thing for me, though, because if i read a book i can't do anything else, and if i'm writing i can't think of anything else. like, ever.

although, i am reading 1984 at the moment, and it almost serves as inspiration for my current YA (which focuses on an all-controlling world govt).

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christi
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by christi » February 7th, 2010, 5:06 am

I can't read while I write because I start thinking 'oh, crap. I'm not this good. What am I doing?' because I constantly question my ability (which I hear is okay since other writers do, too).
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johydai
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by johydai » February 7th, 2010, 5:24 am

Writing while reading a book that has been crafted for months to look as perfect as it's going to look is not good. It makes you focus on all the little things that are wrong with your work, and eventually it will drive you mad. But like some have mentioned, the classic love stories of boy-meets-girl, girl-meets-boy, and they fall in love ain't going to hurt you while you write.

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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Kaitlyne » February 7th, 2010, 5:39 am

Yeah, so I avoid reading anything even remotely similar in terms of style or plot. My last one was a suspense/spy story (sorta), so I wouldn't even watch a couple of movies that came out that were in the same genre. My current story that's a bit easier because there isn't a lot out there I've read that really falls into the same category. I'm okay as long as the style I'm reading is different enough from the voice I'm writing.

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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by casnow » February 7th, 2010, 2:06 pm

Right now all of my works in progress are very different from what I normally read, so I feel pretty safe. However, I can tell you that if I ever try to write a comedy I'm definitely going to stay away from reading any Christopher Moore, and if I try to right a vampire novel I'm going to stay away from Charlene Harris (I think that's her name anyway).
And even though you might find yourself using words that you don't normally use, it's the way you put them together that make the book. Anyone can use the term obsequious, but if you don't surround it with anything meaningful you'll just look like a thesaurus junkie.

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Scott
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Scott » February 7th, 2010, 5:04 pm

I don't normally delve into anything simply because my eyes are already pushed to their limits. But I have sneaked a paragraph or two here and there, maybe a short story, and gotten some help with niggling grammar/prose issues.

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JustineDell
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by JustineDell » February 7th, 2010, 5:30 pm

christi wrote:I can't read while I write because I start thinking 'oh, crap. I'm not this good. What am I doing?' because I constantly question my ability (which I hear is okay since other writers do, too).

Ditto...

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"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Lorelei Armstrong
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » February 7th, 2010, 5:32 pm

Moot point. I can't not read.

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cmrprindle
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by cmrprindle » February 7th, 2010, 6:02 pm

JustineDell wrote:
christi wrote:I can't read while I write because I start thinking 'oh, crap. I'm not this good. What am I doing?' because I constantly question my ability (which I hear is okay since other writers do, too).

Ditto...
I third this one. Although, as others have said, I can read classics or books that are wildly outside my genre. So while I'm writing a vampire novel I've been avoiding vampire novels (and certain urban fantasy), but I've devoured Sherlock Holmes and Sense & Sensibility.
Last edited by cmrprindle on February 8th, 2010, 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

Serzen
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Serzen » February 7th, 2010, 8:50 pm

I certainly read while I write. Without reading, there is no writing. Moreover, I don't allow myself to be influenced in reading choices while I'm writing. Whatever comes to hand is what I am likely to read.

Now, that said, there are certain things that I actually TRY to read while I'm writing. For example, THE ARABIAN NIGHTS or THE CANTERBURY TALES (in the original Middle English, please. Modern translations aren't as meaningful) are excellent material to read while writing. THE DIVINE COMEDY is right up there, too. Without those texts, we would have few enough stories worth reading as it is. These people were great masters of the art, we would do ourselves a great disservice not to see what they can teach us.

Too, the modern masters of language have given us much that we can learn from. Hemingway, Twain, Gibson, Wolfe, Burroughs, Vonnegut, any of those are good to read while I'm writing because they show me what CAN be done, but never what MUST be done. I may never (or, then again, may) use the phrase "so it goes", but by reading the way that Vonnegut uses it can inspire a writer to look at other forms of internal repetition and how they could be appropriate for a work.

Finally, I will also read technical work while I'm writing, particularly studies of anthropology, mythology and combat. By reading a fencing treatise in 19thC French not only does it educate me on a subject very dear to me, but it also strengthens my ability to use English, both because I must cast the French into English and fiddle with structure and because it demonstrates that there are many ways to say the same thing. Sometimes retreat is just retreat, other times it may be break (with 'distance' being implied); by looking at language and communication in this way, it helps make my writing more dynamic.

Nevertheless, to each his own. What works for one will almost certainly not work for another.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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marilyn peake
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by marilyn peake » February 8th, 2010, 4:10 pm

I used to have a problem with absorbing the general style or voice of books I was reading and then writing in that style or voice when I sat down to write, so I had stopped reading books while writing my own. I once heard Norman Mailer say that he only read books in between the writing of his own books, and I had started doing that. I don’t seem to have that problem right now, so hopefully I’ll be able to continue reading books while writing my own.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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charlotte49ers
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by charlotte49ers » February 8th, 2010, 5:33 pm

Yeah, it doesn't really impact me at all. I like to read too much to quit for any length of time! :)
Last edited by charlotte49ers on February 9th, 2010, 2:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

mark.benjamin
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by mark.benjamin » February 9th, 2010, 9:21 am

I can't both read and write novels at the same time...if I'm writing or editing I'll probably read one of the classics, financial books or biographies or something. But novels is a big no no, I'm afraid of subconsciously writing like the author of the book I'm reading, especially if it's an author I really like...
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