Careful what you read while you write (#IWSG Blog Hop)

Careful what you read while you write

At the beginning of this year, I was ready to write the last 60,000 words of a novel. Me, my laptop, and my research were tucked away in a tropical paradise, but the words I was writing, they were reading like they’d been spewed out of a meat grinder.

I decided to take the day off and finish the book I was reading instead. A few pages in, I realized I had no interest in finishing the book in question. The prose was uninspired, as was I. I DNR’d it and spent the evening scouring book reviews and trialing first pages using Amazon and B&N’s preview features. Not all books in their online catalogs let you to do this, but most allow you to click a corner of the book to try before you buy. I settled on two books in my genre, recently published and lauded by both critics and readers. And most importantly, I loved what I was reading.

The next day, I read a chapter of each, then opened my manuscript. I’m not saying the new stuff I wrote didn’t need revising, but I felt so much better about my work.

Careful what you read while you writeMy point is, if you’re having a low self-esteem writing or revising day, maybe you’re not the problem; maybe the book you’re reading is. A lot of authors invest time in curating song playlists to accompany writing sessions. I posit that we should put some of that energy into curating the stories and prose we fall asleep with ahead of big writing/revising days.

Have you ever paid attention to what you’re reading while you’re writing? Does curating a reading-while-writing list sound like something you’d like to try? Talk to me in the comments. πŸ™‚

I wrote this post for the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To continue hopping or to join the hop, clickΒ here. (There are more than 200 of us, and it’s fun!)

98 thoughts on “Careful what you read while you write (#IWSG Blog Hop)

  1. Wonderful post. This is something I thought everyone did. I read tons of prehistoric fiction books when I’m writing, although I’ve run out and now focus on gritty living ones like the Wild West. If I read outside my genre, I am not as interested because it’s not where my brain is at the moment.

    Thanks for this affirming post.

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  2. I love to read as I revise. And I am very careful about my reading choices. What’s hard for me is when I think I have a good book and the opening is so great then the writing starts to fall apart. Sigh. But reading as I revise helps me too. It gives me courage to keep going. Great topic and happy IWSG day!

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  3. So perfect. And so true. Reading admirable books you want to emulate (albeit with your own voice, story, words) is like calibrating the mind, in a way, yes? Happily, I recently spent way too much through an Alibris promotion and am looking at an 18″ or more stack of the right stuff. Thanks for the post, and the reminder!

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  4. Interesting. I read while I write but it’s not always something related to my own writing. Right now I’m binge reading highland romances even though I’m writing paranormal/kimani romance.

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  5. My current read is definitely a big influence even in my everyday life. My internal monologue will sometimes shift to the style of dialogue used in the book. That only happens with really good reads though. Sadly, those are few and far between.

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  6. I try to read the same kind of books as the story I’m writing. It keeps me in the right mindset, and my words flow so much better. OF course, if I read a book that has really great writing, I sometimes feel intimidated when I compare my words to theirs. So it’s kind of hit or miss.

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    1. Interesting. I think that’s happened to me before. I was reading something so excellent, it was all I could do to not go back to the beginning of my book and edit everything before I even finished the book.

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  7. Interesting!
    I definitely have very few qualms about abandoning a book that is dragging me down – and I have some “comfort authors” I go to when I need a boost! πŸ™‚

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  8. Awesome question. I find that what I’m reading puts me in a mood, and if it makes me grumpy, watch out everyone and everything. My hubby regularly tells me I should just put a book down because of this, but so often it resolves in a way that leaves me happy. Anyhow, I digress. I used to be very careful about what I read around writing, but I’m typically engrossed in 3 to 8 books at a time, so I find it doesn’t bother me so much anymore.

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  9. Good post Raimey, and good food for thought. I don’t read as much when I’m in the middle of a writing a novel, but I will occasionally turn to my favorite authors for inspiration if my writing stalls.

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  10. I read a lot always have. But sometimes my characters demand I make them a playlist. I had one song that inspired the creation of two characters and their story. Those characters are still strong in my mind and I am able to recreate them for whatever genre too. The song also triggers those characters emotions in me when I hear it. Great post, happy IWSG.

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    1. I love that you find songs so inspiring. I’ve seen that on the #MSWL hashtag from time to time, agents/editors wanting books based on specific songs (their specific songs, not the author’s.)

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  11. I will read for pleasure, but I try to avoid books that might be similar in what I’m currently working on myself. Like when I was writing about my married couple, I didn’t read any of the few romances I could find about married couples working things out until after I’d completed my own WIP. Research after the fact I guess to see if I’m at least in the right ballpark with things.

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  12. This is interesting! I guess I haven’t really paid attention. For me reading gives me ideas. I had written a prologue which I thought sounded cheesy but thought I was being hard on myself. Then I read a historical romance that I thought had a cheesy prologue so I deleted mine lol. It’s rare that I put down a book even if I am not enjoying it. If it’s taking me more than a month and I am not half way through it then I put it on the DNR list. I personally am starting to feel I should not read while writing just because it becomes a great distraction. I guess I need more self discipline in my writing :).

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  13. I go through fits and starts, and I read a lot for style, absorbing as self ed process. There are two pitfalls. Just because someone you admire did it doesn’t mean it’s okay or not a bad habit, and secondly much of what is published recently has been edited into a uniform conformity where throway directorial action tags carry more weight than the story.
    We can’t allow what we read, good or bad, to wormhole its way into our work. Well, that’s sort of a lie. In the music biz we used to say never steal a lick you can’t use. It’s not illegal to quote your inspirations, but not to lift them.
    And that thing about songs? I listen to zero beat chill, if anything, when I write because a good song that tells a good story pops into the room and I’m screwed until it’s out of my head.

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      1. If published is the goal, for the sake of saying published, all it used to take was a writer’s digest and a stamp budget and you could shove stories about almost anything somewhere, as my father (rip) is proof. Find a genre or a trade rag that is looking for filler of the short sort that one might write and β€œpublished” lands in your vocabulary. He did it for pocket money, and sold rewrites of roughly the same thing in numerous places. Airplane stories over here, obscure cowboy stories there, mixed in with pictures of deadly wrecks in the CHiPs magazine. Published, as a goal, is secondary to a good story. One need only peruse the shelves full of fantasy and dystopia and romance at Half Price Books. Lose your voice, lose your soul.

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  14. This is exactly why I dump a book if I’m not drawn in by the first 20-30 pages (sometimes less). And just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean it’s not good – it’s just not a good fit for me. But I prefer to read the kind of writing that inspires my own writing.

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  15. I have thought about this, yes! That’s why I’m very careful what the books I read while writing because there IS a correlation! I’ve never thought about pre-planning books to match up with what I’m writing. Interesting idea πŸ™‚

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  16. Great post, Raime. Good books could definitely inspire better writing, but sometimes, the opposite is true as well, at least for me. I would read a wonderful book and think: I could never be so good. What is the point of even trying? Or I would read a lousy book and think: I can do better. So it would become an inspiration of sorts. Strange isn’t it?

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  17. Great books are an inspiration in so many ways! I hadn’t really thought about turning to one of my favorites when struggling with my own writing – but now that you’ve brought it up – I realize I do that sometimes. Thanks for a great post, Raimey! Have a great month!

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  18. I’m with you on that, Raimey, I have to read while I’m writing and revising. I choose certain books for certain writing projects, because I know who I want to be inspired by. Fantastic. Keep going! πŸ™‚

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  19. What a great insight. I’ve always felt some sort of obligation to finish reading any book I start, but I can see how it could have a negative impact on my writing and that is plenty good enough of a reason to DNF. Thanks!

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  20. Great minds think alike! I deliberately read a good mystery writer when I’m writing a mystery and so on. It does help keep you sharp and competitive, like having someone workout next to you on the elliptical. You just work harder.

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  21. I tend to read really light stuff when I’m fully engaged in writing or revising, or else re-read lots of old favorites. Especially the re-reads: they don’t require a lot of energy on my part, and are as comforting as hot cocoa. I worry more about what I read in the in-between times, when I feel that I should be reading higher quality writing, in hopes that it will rub off on me πŸ™‚ Reading in my own genre while I write can be a bit disorienting, so I’m more likely to turn to children’s books or historical fiction while working on a cozy mystery.

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  22. What great advice, Raimey! I read while I write, too. But when I read other writers, I’m mostly focusing on how they move the story forward. Yes, I am following the plot, but I’m looking for ideas and pointers on how to move my own story forward. Thanks for sharing this with your followers. All best to you.

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  23. Oddly, I can’t read and write productively at the same time. I’m either focused on one or the other. But I could totally see how reading something uninspiring would leave me feeling the same!

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  24. You hit on a topic that I am a huge fan of.

    It has become a habit of mine to have a handful of books at my reach whenever I feel the steam going out of my writing. It’s right up there with music. Once I read a chapter or two I’m ready to go again. Those special books of mine remind me why I write. I’d be lost without them.

    This was great. I’m really happy you touched on this topic.

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  25. That’s such a good point about being careful what you’re reading while you’re writing/revising- I’ve never thought about it, but now I think back I can see how some things have effected my mood and made it difficult to make progress. Great post!

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  26. Well there you go, I have just finished a uni semester and would find myself struggling with course assignments until I went back and reviewed the best of the articles, the inspiring ones. The ones which took me back into those historical days, whether plays or journal articles. I filled my hurting head with their thoughts on the play or fiction piece and out came the best interpretation for my Tutor to mark me on. Fingers crossed they will agree with these comments.
    Happy writing guys
    Tassy

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  27. Oh my gosh, yes! This was exactly what I was experiencing earlier this year. I wasn’t feeling motivated to write AT ALL and I realized it was my reading that was the problem. I’m a bit all over the place when it comes to books that inspire me. It’s usually more about the tone and the relationships between the characters than genre for me. I have felt completely stuck in my plot development and after reading a good book was able to break through with fresh new ideas. This is a great topic!

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