I have a friend who has noticed that whenever she reads fiction while working on a manuscript, her writing starts taking on the style and voice of the author she’s reading. I’ve actually heard other writers mention the same issue, some even banning themselves from reading any type fiction while actively working on a manuscript as to avoid this problem. I catch it in myself sometimes. If I’m reading something historical that has a more formal writing style and old-fashioned dialogue, I sometimes find my own writing getting a little more verbose. If I’m reading something with a snarky or sarcastic tone, I sometimes find a little more snark creeping into my own scenes.
It’s not enough of an issue that I’d consider giving up reading for pleasure while I’m actively writing myself. (If that was the case, I’d never be able to read for fun.) And while I’ve jokingly suggested to my friend that she simply stick to reading authors whose writing styles she admires so her own writing would take on their positive traits, I’m not sure this is really a viable solution.
Usually, taking two steps is enough to help me with this issue: 1) I don’t start writing immediately after reading another author’s work, so his/her voice isn’t fresh in my mind. I’ll wait at least an hour or two, or do my pleasure reading after I’ve finished my own writing for the day, and 2) I re-read a chapter or two of my own current work in process before writing, since it’s a good reminder of the style and voice I’m going for (and helps with continuity as well).
I know it’s important to authors to avoid copying others—consciously or unconsciously. Do you find reading other authors’ works distracting to your own writing? How do you avoid this becoming a problem?
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