1. terrwyn
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    terrwyn Member

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    Reading while writing a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by terrwyn, Feb 26, 2012.

    A while back I read an article about your individual writing style and how to write better. The person stated that it is best not to read any books while you are trying to write a novel because that author's writing style could rub off on you and transfer to your current work. Is this true, or should I be consistently reading as well as writing? Do you find that your writing changes right after reading a different book?
     
  2. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Yes. I totally do. If you're going to read novels while you write novels, stick to the same novels for reading throughout, else there will be a noticeable style shift, and unless you're changing the tune of your novel, that's not so good. But in general I find it's better if I don't read anything and let the words be written in my own voice.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    If you're a new writer, how else are you meant to learn if you don't read any novels while you're writing? Even if you weren't writing, reading novels in general would influence how you write.

    I read while I write and my voice doesn't really change. I take various things from the books I read and place it into my writing in my own style. I think it's impossible for me to exactly copy a writer's style with just one read (which i'm usually interested in just reading lol) If writing style does change, I don't think it matters. As you develop as a writer, it will change over time anyway and differ from your older works and If your on your first draft, it definitely doesn't matter :D

    I hope this helped.
     
  4. AntisocialMoose
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    AntisocialMoose Member

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    What a good question!

    I for one cannot read while I write. I consider them to be similar actions, honestly. They both have stories, and characters, and plots. I can only focus on one thing at a time. So if I do want to read while writing, I tend to read non-fiction, or books about writing, OR books that have inspired me or in which I would like to learn/replicate certain aspects of the author, in which I think the author did a damn good job at a certain thing.

    But I naturally keep the two apart. I can't keep track of two stories at once. It's the same reason I can only read one book at a time. My husband will be in the middle of 5 books at a time. I don't get it!
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have noticed my writing can be affected by reading but I take that as a good thing, because I don't usually get influenced by the books I find boring/bad. I especially noticed this while rewriting my first novel, but I liked the way it changed and think I managed to adopt the same tendency to the rest of the ms too, which made it a lot better. it added some more depth to it, which it needed, so I'm happy with that and i won't avoid reading while writing. I think it's interesting to see what rubs off on the ms and then decide if to keep that change throughout the whole novel or not. I think it's a resource for new writers, it helps you develop different voices in your writing, but of course you have to decide if it fits the novel you're writing or not. If, as someone pointed out, there are different influences of many kind in the same ms it could be a problem.

    Edit: I don't think I could read only in periods when not writing, because I always am, in one way or another. If I'm not writing the first, second or third draft I'm editing or polishing my work, so I would never get any time to read, it's inevitable to read while writing.
     
  6. Mordred
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    Mordred Member

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    I generally read in my down time and try to stay away from material that is in the same genre as what I am working on. When I was working on RPG game manuals and rulebooks many moon ago, I would read historical non-fiction or a biography. While working on a fantasy novel I am finding myself reading books of football game plan development and implementing the Buddy Ryan 46 Defense (I coach football).

    Don't get me wrong, I still read fantasy, but only on my days off from writing. Never on the same day I write though.

    ~Mordred
     
  7. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read and I haven't noticed any great changes in my writing because of it. But what I do get from it are new ideas. The only thing I would say is that when I'm writing, especially if I'm enthused, I don't really have a lot of time for reading.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  8. MVP
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    I don't agree with this at all, and I think you are short changing yourself by not reading. I learn a lot from reading other stories, especially scenes that work or don't work. Last year I read a fight scene that was terrible. The author went to extremes to describe where each fist/elbow/leg etc. made contact on the opponent. I couldn't follow it, it was distracting, and in the end I thought, why didn't this person save themselves a whole page of garbage and just say, "he kicked his ass", and then had the character clutching injured body parts, or describe blood dripping or something. In short, I learned how not to write a fight scene.

    Every writer has a voice in their work, unique to them. Anything you write, will have your hallmarks. Anything I write will have my hallmarks, and it doesn't matter if its an email or an epic work, and I am not talking about plot. I am guessing on this one - but, I would bet if you involuntarily copied another author's voice, you would naturally edit that section when you do a rewrite, because as you reread it, it will clash with your own voice and sound awkward to you, or disrupt the flow.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it might be a problem for a young writer, still impressionable because they haven't solidified their style. But I find that no matter what I do, I can certainly learn from others but whatever I write, by the time I get it to the desired standard, it reads as unmistakably mine. I think if you write true to yourself, you'll be able to present your own voice which won't, stylistically, change with every book you read. You might be inspired by some of the ideas, that's all.

    Reading novels or even books about writing, when I'm writing, is a good distraction. Besides, I work on my novels for a long time, I'd go mad if I banned myself from reading that whole time, because I love to read. But also, if I have a specific issue and can remember someone who I thought handled that specific problem well, I'll read their novels to get some ideas of how to go about tackling it myself. But it never ends up sounding like they wrote it.

    So in short, I like to read when I'm writing as well as when I'm not. Just, when I'm writing, the reading is "research" :D
     
  10. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    It shouldn't be a major problem. It does influence my writing style for a while but that rubs off after few days. it's important to read books while writing, specially if you get discouraged or uninspired because then reading fires up the desire inside you to write. that's how it's for me.

    As a normal human being you sure will be effected by what you read but that doesn't mean your style will completely change and if that happens, by any means, you can always go back and edit when the effect is gone.

    I still remember it happening to me when I read LOTR and sat down to write, my style was very changed but I edited it later and all was happy. =)

    Don't worry to experiment, doing that might help you develop your own style in the long run.
     
  11. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it greatly depends on how impressionable you are (eg: are you the sort of person who watches a movie about X and then suddenly wants to imitate it?) and what genres you write/read.

    I read less when I'm working on a novel -- simply because I'm using my free time for something else -- but I never stop reading completely. I don't read books in the same genre I write for any reason except research. However, this could be because the main reason I began writing in the genre is that, in the space of six years, I've failed to find more than a handful of writers who portray it well.
     
  12. TheWritingWriter
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    TheWritingWriter Senior Member

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    When I read, I don't pick up on the writer's style. I actually dislike the idea. It makes me feel unoriginal, but I'm extremely meticulous about things like that. To each his own. However, reading a well-written story puts me in a fantastic writing mood.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I’m a singer as well as a writer. I have a pretty strong baritone singing voice, and over the years, I’ve learned how to use it pretty well. But I also know its limitations; I know that there are some songs (even songs I love) that I can’t sing well. I’m happy listening to other singers sing them, but I don’t try to imitate them, because my voice just doesn’t work the way theirs do.

    It’s the same with writing. I’ll read anything while I’m writing, because over the years I’ve developed what I think is a strong writing voice. What I read has little influence on the way I write these days (except the poetry of Robinson Jeffers). I’m fifty years old – what did you expect? But nowadays, my writing voice is pretty much set in concrete. What I read doesn’t affect it much. I’m me, and I’m not trying to be anybody else.
     
  14. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure I understand you correctly but I think these things don't happen because anybody is trying to imitate somebody. It's an involuntary reaction that happens to, maybe immature, writers. But it happens because we are effected by the story we're reading, impressed maybe, or maybe just because our subconscious wants to try and write as good as the piece of literature we're reading.
     
  15. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do read while writing, because if I didn't I'd never read...
    However, I don't like to read while editing. That's when I really need to focus on the voice of the work. I think it does affect my writing somewhat if I have just read something, but it wears off pretty quickly for me.
     
  16. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    It would be very difficult for me to stop reading while writing because it's my goal to write every day.

    Take Stephen King as an example. He has publicly claimed that he writes every single day without fail AND that he always has a book on the go and tries to read every single day. Give me any Stephen King story, read me a few lines from it without letting me see it and I'll know right away, "Hey that's Stephen King!" Why? Because he's got a strong writer's voice. So strong I bet he's barely affected by what he reads.

    On the other hand, if you are just starting out, or don't plan to write professionally, then not reading might actually help. Your writer's voice won't be established yet. Also there's no need for daily writing since you aren't publishing.

    But if you plan to have a career as a writer then I would definitely say you MUST read and write every day, to do otherwise would be unprofessional. You need both to keep your skills sharp.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you're a new writer and haven't developed a style/voice of your own yet, plus are very impressionable and prone to take on others' styles/voices, then i guess it could be a problem... but i can also see that it could be a problem to not read constantly, since you can't learn to write well unless you do...

    so, i suggest you do keep reading, but instead of novels, read short stories by different well-respected writers, which will allow you to keep absorbing good writing practices and techniques, without being influence by any one authors voice...
     
  18. NeedMoreRage
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    Reading is a great way to learn how to write and how to improve your writing. You shouldn't go reading with plans to copy the style of what you are reading. It's a good idea to go in and analyze what you are reading. Get very critical and pick out little things you do not like, and figure out how you would fix that sentence or paragraph. Maybe you just didn't like the whole book in general; then figure out how you would have written it differently. This lets you learn from reading without having to worry about you copying the style you just read. Your style might change slightly, but that can be altered with a little editing if you do not like the changes.

    As a new writer, it's probably best to read a little, then write to exercise the ideas you had developed from reading. Try to build a writing style that is very natural to you, but don't get so attached to it that you will not let it grow and change as you became a better writer. My old writing styles from when I was a new writer can barely be compared to my current, and permanent, writing style.

    As an experienced writer, you should do what you feel most comfortable with. I'd definitely suggest trying to read while writing because I find it helps inspire me to keep writing. I go so far as to read the same genres as what I'm writing. But as an experienced writer, you should feel confident enough in your style that you won't worry about it drastically changing if you read a new book. I find that the more I read, the more confident I feel in my own style, actually. I just see mistakes other authors make and it confirms my belief that my style will help me avoid such mistakes.
     
  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think 'our style' in writing is actually influenced by everything we've ever read and appreciated, so it's inevitable to let what we read affect what we write and how we write it.
     
  20. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I read a lot, even while writing. It helps me understand what styles I appreciate, which ones I identify with and which I don't, what works and what doesn't -- and that's not a bad thing.
     
  21. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    ditto!
     

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