Thursday, November 19, 2015

Do You Read While Writing? by Dawn Lairamore

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?

photo credit: hard work via photopin (license)


  1. I could never give up reading for pleasure and since I'm always writing I've has to manage this! I try to keep an eye on this, although I find the benefits of reading good writing far outweighs the negatives and always benefits my writing, usually where I am weaker (in my case, in description). But will definitely watch the voice!

  2. I tend to read work that is very different from whatever I'm writing. So if I'm working on a middle grade novel, I might read an adult historical romance for pleasure. The voice seems less likely to creep in that way. And like you, I tend to read after I've done my writing for the day.

  3. I'm guilty. Sometimes after reading a good book, it definitely influences my writing. The cure is to read another book to take your mind off the first. Of course, there is then the problem of the second book..

  4. I will avoid books about the same topic / event (afraid I'll accidentally borrow something and claim it as my own), but I could never set the reading aside. Reading is the fuel I need.

  5. I couldn't give up reading either. I think the trick is not to saturate yourself with a certain author or even genre. My idea bank is probably more influenced by my reading. Thoughts go in and thoughts come out, if you will. But I always let my ideas stew a long time before I begin a new project.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!