I used to be a strong advocate of not reading while writing. I was adamant about a little term I coined – something I called “voice bleeding.” I fiercely believed that if I indulged myself in reading the same genre I was writing that I opened myself up to the voice of the other author leaking into whatever ms I was working on.
And, to be fair, I still think that’s a possibility.
But you’ll notice that the blog post I link to above is from 2011. Now, I’ve got four more years of experience under my belt, four years where I’ve been writing professionally, and four years of balancing simultaneous projects while still working full time as a librarian. And to be a good librarian you have to be aware of the market, aware of content, and aware of your collection in order to make good recommendations to your patrons.
And to do that, you have to be reading.
I want to be good at both of my jobs, so I decided I was going to be reading while writing. There was no way around it. At first I stuck to my old decree that reading nonfiction was non-damaging to my creative voice, and while I still think that’s true, it also severely limits my reading choices.
So I went a different route and decided to read the opposite genre of whatever I was writing. That definitely worked, until I came up against a book I really wanted to read right now that happened to also be a dark contemporary. It was GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn and yes, I’m glad I just went ahead and read it.
Ironically, I found that reading the same genre I was writing didn’t stymie me so much as inspire me. I’d read a few chapters and find myself burning to write, instead of having to put down the book I was reading and force my brain to jump tracks over to the genre I was writing. There was less of a lag, and instead of invading my creativity I felt like reading was bolstering it, challenging me to answer with my own voice and words.
I finished up the first draft of my dark contemporary, tentatively titled THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, last week. It’s out to crit partners right now, and while I’m waiting for it to come back to me I’ve got to switch projects and focus on GIVEN TO THE SEA, the first in my epic fantasy series due out in 2017.
How to best make that move?
I think I’ll ease into it by reading some fantasy.