Can you read while you write?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » February 9th, 2010, 11:55 am

I read all the time. Doubt I could stop if I wanted to. But I don't worry much about contamination or writerly seepage. I think once you find a lot of confidence in your voice and your craft the fear fades away. The words are yours... take charge of them and you don't have to worry about the words of others. At least for me. Every cat's got their own colour.
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marilyn peake
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by marilyn peake » February 9th, 2010, 3:47 pm


For me, that was exactly it - identifying my own voice. I think it was always there, but it would waver after reading books by other authors. Now, I'm a lot more familiar with my own voice. I've been writing for so many years now, I guess my writing voice just feels like second nature to me. I hope that doesn't change - I enjoy reading so much, I'm really happy to finally be able to read 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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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Simpatico » February 17th, 2010, 1:24 am

I had this problem when I first began writing, but don't really suffer from it now.

As a matter of fact, there are certain books that motivate me. When I feel like I can't write, I read a chapter or a few pages and they make me feel like getting back in the ring again. I think maybe the feeling they inspire in me - the enjoyment, the sense of wonder, the fascination - instills in me a desire to do the same for others, and causes me to rush back to the world I'm creating.

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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by victoria » February 17th, 2010, 6:34 am

Oh i so agree with this - especially when it comes to editing - reading great, strong writing motivates me to keep chipping away, deleting those unnecessary words in hope that I can create something remotely close to what I've read.
Sharing my research on how teens read and applying it to the process of writing.

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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by hannah_dreamergirl_3 » February 17th, 2010, 7:11 am

I can do both, in fact I tend to be reading several books at a time and it has no effect on my writing. What I do struggle with is keeping my current emotions out of my writing...if I'm sad, my charcters are sad etc.
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'Good writing is to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon'


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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by craig » February 17th, 2010, 12:39 pm

I MUST read while writing -- reading recharges my creative batteries and keeps me going. I never worry about picking up the book's style or unintentionally mimicing the author I'm reading or that reading the book will make me feel inadequate about my own work. They do affect me, but in a positive way. Whenever I read something that truly sucks me in, I tell myself that I want to write books that make my readers feel the same way I just did.

I don't really read a lot of stuff that is similar to what I read, so that could be part of the reason why it doesn't really affect me. But with what I read (and watch on TV), I have a running list in my mind of things I've learned from these pieces of fiction.

The ending of a recent book series blew me away, so I looked at how the surprise ending was actually very clearly laid out and should have been totally expected -- so this is a lesson I take, how to totally surprise your readers but have them look back and think, "Oh, it all makes sense". My favourite sci-fi show, which sadly only lasted one season, had a lot going for it -- I loved the mood of the show and the intense complexity of the story and the phenomenal characterisation -- so I've taken lessons from this show and looked at how I can amp up my writing to be on par with that, mostly in the area of creating a visually dark mood with only words. There's another sci-fi book series I love for its intense characterisation and high calibre writing -- from this, I'm learning how to suck my readers in and not let go. (At least, I like to think I'm learning that!) And, also, from various middle grade action novels, I'm learning how to write intense edge-of-your seat action in clear, plain, and simple prose.

So... reading helps me set the bar higher for myself and makes me work all that much harder to get there.

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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by jessicatudor » February 17th, 2010, 12:44 pm

I have to read. It fills my creative well not with specific ideas but with art and inspiration in general. It's how I recharge. I always write better when I'm reading. Oddly, I read mostly genre (fantasy) but I write mainstream (which I read, but not nearly as much as genre.) I want to read MORE of what I write to make sure I'm not rehashing.

Besides that, I'm always working on a novel, so if I only read when I wasn't writing, I'd never read. I subscribe to the two rules for writers being 1. Read, 2. Write, in that order.
'The world is but canvas to our imaginations.' - Thoreau

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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by LydiaSharp » February 17th, 2010, 1:41 pm

I'm shocked by how many people here admitted that they don't read regularly, or can't read while "working on a novel." What? Reading is an occupational requirement. That's like a screenwriter saying they don't watch movies. You want to be a novelist, you better be reading novels. Lots of them. Regularly. In addition to writing your a$$ off.
Lydia Sharp
Science Fiction * Fantasy * Women's Fiction

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Remus Shepherd
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Re: Can you read while you write?

Post by Remus Shepherd » February 17th, 2010, 1:59 pm

I agree with Lydia. You have to read to keep the language parts of your brain active and thinking about words.

I force myself to read while I'm writing, although I do try to select books appropriate for the current book. My last book was about a dark, insane future, so I tried to read dystopian sci-fi. My current book is more lighthearted and funny, so I'm reading Pratchett. :)

My biggest problem is in turning off my editor while I read. If a book is only fair, I end up critiquing it, making notes in the margins, and predicting the plot twists. Conversely, if a book is wonderful I read through it quickly and learn nothing, but hopefully my subconscious paid attention.

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