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What're your feelings about reading other books in same genre while you're writing

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by gia, Nov 15, 2016.

  1. gia

    gia Scribe

    I go back and forth on this one. Will someone else's book affect my own creative process (as in I'll copy them?) Or will it enhance my writing (how did they handle POV?)
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  2. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    If I didn't read other books in the same genre as the one I'm writing in, I'd never read any fantasy books. I don't plagiarize, so I figure I'm good. There are bits of my stories that are similar in some fashion to bits of stories written by other authors, but I don't know how one could expect to completely avoid some similarities to other works.
    gia likes this.
  3. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    I do it.

    I'm writing Middle Grades fiction right now, so I'm reading a lot of Rick Roirden and others who are similar in style to my story. It lets me know what is out there already in the market, what agents and publishers are looking for in the genre, what might be missing in the market (female POV's, characters with disabilities etc), and subject matter that is deemed appropriate for the age range.
    gia likes this.
  4. cydare

    cydare Minstrel

    Personally, I find that it helps me. It keeps me focused on what I'm writing, whereas reading books in wildly different genres for different audiences can distract me from my story. Just recently, I was trying to write a middle-grade piece whilst reading a whole lot of adult fantasy. I started lamenting all the gritty things I couldn't add without completely changing what my story was about, and had to stop myself from adding child-inappropriate plot points.
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  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    > Will someone else's book affect my own creative process (as in I'll copy them?) Or will it enhance my writing?

    Yes to both. Especially for the new writer, you will definitely be influenced and you will find yourself imitating (not copying; that's something different). That's okay. The way you find your own voice is by trying out lots of voices. I don't like that phrase "find your voice" anyway. It's not like it's hiding somewhere, waiting to be found. You *develop* your voice, and that cannot be done without influences.

    In the longer run, the imitation will get folded into your own voice, and it will be richer for it. I'm assuming you do not have a crystal-clear idea of exactly how you want to write. So, go ahead and experiment. Write and be influenced, then write again. Be unafraid!
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  6. Malik

    Malik Archmage

    I'm reading 5-6 books at any given time. Pile of books next to my bedside, pile of books next to my armchair, pile of books on my desk, boxes of books in my office. And I'm working on my sequel.

    Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.
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  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Um..you should be reading all the time if you desire to be a good writer/storyteller, especially be reading in your genre and keeping up with its ebb and flows. You'd be doing yourself a disservice otherwise. Reading is the best way to learn how to tell stories. If you don't read, then how are you supposed to know the ins and outs of your genre? How are you supposed to know what readers want/look for/dislike in that genre if you're not reading in it? It's like wanting to write scripts for movies but never watching any.
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  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    I'll play the contrarian... I don't read when writing, in part because I am a mimic (or used to be), and in part because when I am writing I have absolutely no desire to read nor the time. I think the mimic thing is mostly gone now, I'm old and kind of stuck in my ways, but reading/writing are sitting still, and I don't do still very well, so if I'm still, I'm going to write, not read.

    Now I do read bits and pieces of writers/books as study or to satisfy curiosity, but that's it. I'll read more history as study, not genre. If GRRM's next book ever gets pub'd I'll read it... Might read Tad Williams's new one... I've started Malik's book... but it might take me years to finish anything, heh heh. Could say I'm in the middle of reading 30 books.

    As for studying the market and trends? Nope, not going there. It's a bit like a bobcat chasing it's tail. My stories are my stories, they either find a market or they don't.
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  9. Yes, it'll affect your creative process for sure. I can see almost every book I've read recently in my WIP. Writers are magpies--they latch onto anything they like and stash it away, and I'm especially. However, this is definitely not a reason not to read! You draw inspiration from other's books. You do and it's good. Believe it or not no idea is "original." It came from somewhere, whether from your own knowledge and experience or something you read.

    Reading a LOT somewhat mitigates the magpie effect, or keeps it from being obvious. You'll have inspiration from so many places the individual sources can't be isolated. That's what you want, really.

    "Stealing from one source is plagiarism; stealing from multiple sources is research," Ever heard that? It's true in fiction writing.

    Weirdly, your writing will be MOST cliche if youre not familiar with the genre you're writing in, because you won't know what's been already done a thousand billion times. Many cliches are so common because they're so easy to slip into.

    Also--you absolutely MUST read to be a good writer. Reading feeds the creative process. Writing without reading is like watering a bare patch of ground without planting anything there trying to grow a flower garden. To be balanced i reckon you should spend at least the same amount of time reading as you do writing.

    Read. And i would like to emphasize this: read GOOD books. I know, the definition of "good" is subjective, but I'm saying read the masters. Avoid mainstream pulp that makes your brain go numb, and deliberately seek out quality writing. Why? The magpie effect, mentioned above. We tend to mimic. We tend to write slightly worse than we read, and for this reason you should be reading well to write well. An athlete has to eat well to perform well. So does your muse.

    When I read a mediocre writing style, it sounds like a dull buzzing in my head, but a masterful style will sound almost musical. That's kind of how I judge writing style.

    Personal anecdote: I adore the Harry Potter series, but it's not because of the writing. Rowling's prose is mediocre to okay. While rereading her books I've picked up some bad habits, not least of which is a propensity toward adverbial dialogue tags. My WIP is a slew of them. I kept noticing them in the Harry Potter books and I think that must be why I'm having problems with them now.

    I would as well add that you should read actively, not passively. Get as much as you can out of your reading; learn from it. If a scene made you cry, ask yourself why. If you really like a character, think about how the author portrayed them in such a way that made you feel that way. If you love a writer's description, study it! Be a scientist; put every book on a table and dissect it. Ask why.

    (You can do this with bad books too, to find out what not to do...but bad reading has to be balanced very heavily with good reading.)
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  10. *i'm not exactly following my own rule about reading as much as you write, so i'm a bit of a hypocrite, but I'm getting better at it.
    gia likes this.
  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Mainstream pulp is far from bunk. There are plenty of good reads in the modern pulp fiction world that are far from mediocre. Saying that these works will make your brain go numb makes me ask, "why? Which ones are you reading then?" Clearly none because pulp isn't brain dead literature.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2016
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  12. That is true. I don't want to sound like I'm dismissing an entire category of literature. But in my experience, good writing is really really REALLY hard to find. (Sturgeon's Law is my life quote.) So, you've got to be picky, and sometimes this means going with the stuff that's stood the test of time.

    Like, i enjoy reading YA *in theory* but I can't stand 98% of it because of two reasons: the horrible writing, and the romance-dominated plots. (Usually very shallow and involving a love triangle) I like romance mostly only in controlled doses. and i can't stand it when it's shallow.

    Well. The writing isn't usually horrible, but it usually isn't good either. It just *is*. My brain starts to feel numb after a while, reading it.

    My suggestion to the OP is to deliberately seek out masterful writing. Stuff they can learn from. Read from writers a lot better than you, and outright avoid stuff that's below you. (Not that i don't occasionally read fluff, but it can't be too fluffy or I'll be physically incapable of making it through.)
  13. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Masterful writing is subjective. What readers eat up is story, not prose. There are writers out there doing well for themselves that aren't very skilled in writing "masterful" prose but they have a devoted audience. Why? Because they tell good stories. Authors the like of Stephenie Meyers and E.L. James are looked down upon for writing crappy prose but they're swimming in their money ponds right now. Why? Because they told good stories. That's what matters. Is telling a story that readers want. Everything else from beautiful prose to lack of pronouns is subjective.
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  14. Good prose is very important to me. It might not be as important to others in favor of characters and plotlines. That's ok. I'm simply observing something that's affected me. The OP can choose to take my advice or leave it.

    I could go into whether or not something selling means it's "good..." or if telling a story readers want should be the goal. For me, it isn't. My WIP's would both be hard sells in today's market but i'm okay with that. A money pond isn't why I write. But others are different.
  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    I also recommend reading crap, for study, because it teaches you what not to do. It can help turn on the interior editor brain one needs. Even better than pub'd crap, read people's first drafts that might be great later, but are rough "oh holy cow!" as they sit, LOL. We've all written that stuff, and it's good to see other people's ugly drafts. Being an early draft will make bad things pop out at you even more.
    gia likes this.
  16. I'll admit, I've gotten a lot out of reading crap.

    Whenever I read I analyze: what the writer did wrong, what they did right...
    gia likes this.
  17. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    Ditto, both for reading and writing. If I can't read it, I'll never know if the story is worth reading. No story is worth fighting through bad writing for. If my prose isn't good, I'll never finish it no matter how good the story.

  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    I'm not saying good prose isn't important. It is to me as well. But I am, however, saying that story is more important than prose, and anyone who wants to write books should learn how to tell stories well. Learning how to tell a story is pretty much only learned by reading books one enjoys, back to the OP.
  19. I guess this is our difference--poor prose impairs my ability to enjoy a story as much or more than poor story. I just can't get through it. And often good writing will get me through a story I wouldn't ordinarily like. (Good writing isn't a band-aid slappable on any steaming pile of boring--but it helps, it does help.)

    Please don't read things you don't enjoy, you'll get into a reading slump like I did recently and take months to recover! I knida got into the reading slump following my own advice. But know that reading mediocre prose will make your prose mediocre if you aren't careful. You will pick up the bad habits of writers you read.

    The worst thing you can do is always to NOT read, of course. Better pulp than nothing. And some people don't do well without a little fluff in their lives. (I'm not that person. But still.) Of course, the definition of 'fluff' is also subjective--I know many on here would consider Harry Potter fluff--but let's walk this road no longer...
    gia likes this.
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    The devil's advocate says not so fast my friend. Story is a proverbial cat waiting to be skinned, reading novels is one route... very useful if that's what you intend to write, but in this multi-media universe story can learned and studied (perhaps even more efficiently) via film. One pretty much needs to read in order to learn how to write well, but but you don't even need to know how to write in order to tell a great story.

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