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Should we read while we’re writing?

Should we read while we’re writing?

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”?- Walter Wellesley Smith

Some people warn you about is that if you’re reading while you’re writing then you can end up using the ideas or the styles of the authors whose work you’re reading. There is truth to this. We are influenced by all our experiences, so by reading the works of others authors, the writing could affect the content of our books. However, things that happen in our daily lives can affect the content of our books. TV shows and movies have their influence. Therefore, while novels may be a more relatable medium, they are not our only source of stimulus. Should we lock ourselves in a room and ignore all other influences until we’re done writing?

One of the reasons I chose to start writing is because I love to read. The books I grew up with inspired me to put my own ideas out. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. If someone told me to stop reading for the months it will take to knock out a novel, I’d look at them like they were crazy. That’s like asking me not to eat during that time too. It’s not going to happen.

Reading other novels has definitely had influences on my writing. I’ve been engrossed in many a novel and thought, “It would be so cool if my character went through something similar.” Is this good or bad? How many novels have you read where the characters are different, but many of the situations are similar. Sometimes I’d think, “My character would never act this way in this situation.” Then I’d start coming up with ways to get them in a similar situation to show that. Ideas we read can spark other ideas for our books. Sometimes reading a passage has given me an idea that has nothing to do with what I’m reading, but somehow the reading has been the catalyst. It’s amazing how ideas can come to us.

Don’t forget that topics go through popularity phases? For a while it’s high school angst, then it’s vampires, then it’s vampires going through high school angst. I hear angels are the next big thing. People read a great book which starts a copycat fad. While many of the new novels aren’t as good as the one that started the fad, some are great and a few may surpass it. While every book keeps with the theme, though, they each tell a unique story.

So, sometimes emulation is a good thing. The more you read, the more you learn, the more you have to draw from. We are the sum of our experiences, but every person processes these experiences differently, so every person ends up with their own style. As long as you aren’t directly stealing ideas from other works, your novel may end up being similar to some, but it will have its own personality. As long as you’re dedicated to telling a great story and not just cashing in on what you think people want to read, you’ll produce work you will be proud of. While you’re doing that … read!

“Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.” Daniel Pinkwater