Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading while revising?

Some writers can't read while they're drafting. They're afraid a strong character's voice or a unique plot could influence their own. Perhaps because it takes me so long to develop my own ideas that has never been a problem for me. I read through so many books while I'm writing that I take inspiration from many, but none seem to influence me unduly.

However, I'm nearing the end of revising Project Sparkle and have discovered I don't want to read anything like it. I think it's because A. I'm getting ready to send my baby out into the world and I want her to be a special snowflake and B. I'm aware of all of her flaws. I find myself questioning my premise, my characters, and my world-building constantly now. So I really don't want to read another book like it, especially a good one.

On the other hand, remember on Monday how I said I'm going a little stir crazy from working too much? I need something to pull my head out of Project Sparkle, especially before I go to bed at night.

So what to read?

Last week I read David Plouffe's THE AUDACITY TO WIN about managing Obama's presidential campaign. I figured non-fiction might be the ticket. And while I enjoyed reading it, and have wanted to read it for a long time, I found myself lying in bed stressing about politics. So it did work as a distraction, but I don't think it helped me sleep any better.

This week, after The Booksmugglers' rave review of author Jaclyn Moriarty, I read BECOMING BINDY MACKENZIE (titled THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE in the US). I absolutely loved it, and it's a book quite unlike Project Sparkle in character and story, so it worked very well at getting my head out of my story. However, this time I was dreaming about Bindy.

Perhaps I need to read a bad book? I'm working through one now (to go nameless) which has a fun plot but terrible writing (with each sentence I'm resisting the urge to pull out a red pen).

One of my friends from the course (also in the midst of revising) has been reading Andy Stanton's MR GUM books, which I think is a BRILLIANT suggestion. They're a British series for 6-8 year olds, kind of a cross between Roald Dahl and Monty Python ("The truth is a lemon meringue!"). Very different from what I'm doing, hysterical, and no stress about the stories' outcome.

Can you read and revise? Read and draft? Any recommendations?


  1. For me, it's not that I'm afraid a strong character's voice will influence me so much as I just don't want other voices in my head other than my characters' voices, period. I want my characters' full attention and I want them to have mine. Do I read, though? Yep. But nothing that's like what I'm writing. So, if I'm writing pb fiction, I'll read adult nonfiction.

  2. I read all the time, and a lot of it is in some way similar to what I write. Reading is usually inspiring for my WIP because when I read something and have a strong emotional reaction, it makes me want to jump right into my own writing so I can try and do that to other readers.

    I'm actually working on a revision and decided to reread a book that is similar to mine. Specifically, I paid attention to how the author executed certain things, like how much internal monolgue was included, what kinds of descriptions were used, etc. It's not that I want mine to be like hers, I just wanted to see how someone who has achieved success has done it.

  3. I'm a bookaholic so I'm always reading something. I tend to read craft books more when I'm drafting and then read fiction when I'm revising to figure out how other authors structured their story.

    I try not to read a book similar to mine when drafting though.

    But reading fiction is usually my biggest inspiration to keep writing.

  4. Ohhh, Andrea, that's a good way of explaining it: not wanting other characters' voices in your head.

    KT, that is a good point. I have been pulling books off my shelves while writing whenever I think: Oh, so and so does this well, let's see how she does it! But I haven't read any of them fully.

    Karen: Reading craft books is an interesting idea! I don't do too many of those, but I can see it really helping out my mindspace right now.

    So true about fiction being my biggest inspiration too... except when it's really good. I mean, that's inspiring, too, but a little depressing as well!

    It's interesting that my process (read whatever when drafting, selective when revising) seems to be the opposite from the rest of you. Maybe it's just this project! Thanks for sharing, y'all!

  5. I'm like Karen: always reading fiction of some sort. The write/revise divide has never affected what I read, though, perhaps because I revise as I go (and then let it sit a while when I finally, finally get it finished and then go back and do it all over again.

  6. Ha! The captcha for that last comment was "torywash." Sounds like a Labour expletive!

  7. That makes sense, Anne, that your reading habits would be different because you revise as you go.

    Hah! Torywash sounds like what just happened in this country! =)

  8. I'm always reading fiction. I read a great variety, so I rarely bump into anything close to my writing when I draft. Also, it's inspiring. Reading great books makes me want to write my own.

  9. Thanks for sharing, Medeia. I think for me I've become so obsessed with my novel lately that many books I read are beginning to look like it, even the slightest detail. Wish I was able to read more widely and enjoy things like you. Ah well, October will come soon!


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