The endless war between reading and writing

standard April 21, 2009 8 responses

To write well you have to read lots. It’s a simple, unadulterated truth. To write great books you have to have read lots of great books in the same genre. It’s like speaking a language – to speak it well you have to hear it often.

Makes sense right?

Well, it does in theory. See, I am an all or nothing kind of girl. I have trouble picking up a novel and putting it down again. If it’s a good story I’m going to want to put everything aside and do nothing but read until I’ve soared through the whole tale. I’ll stay up late even knowing full well that the first “Mama!” will ring out at 6am. I’ll sit and read despite the nagging to do list and growing number of unread emails.

That always feels great while I’m reading and not so great when the book is done and I’m missing the characters while facing the pile of stuff I’ve neglected. Add to that the fact that these days I always feel guilty when I’m reading. Not because of the laundry and work, but because if I’m reading then it means that I’m not writing.

As I mentioned in my post here, every day I spend not working on my novel it gets harder and harder to open the file and jump back in. But reading means that I tend to ignore the call of the manuscript. So what’s a girl to do? Because I get that it’s important to read to write well, but it’s also important to not read so I can, you know, write.

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8 responses

  • If I’m reading a novel that just grabs me, I’m like that. I won’t put the book down. I’ll carry it around with me (in some ways I’m glad I don’t own a Kindle, although I would give anything to have one!). Water for Elephants was that type of book. But, I haven’t came across such a book for awhile. When a book is just so-so, I find it kind of distracting because I want to over-analyze the writing.

    Some authors have confided to me that they don’t read a novel while they are writing their own. I guess each person is different though. Not sure what approach I’ll use lol.

  • Such a balancing act.

    I guess my only advice would be, try to enjoy the excuse to read, because it’s so hard not to feel guilty for sitting down with a good book, even though they are so enjoyable.

  • I think it’s crucial for a writer to read all the time—but don’t see how you find time to read anything at all—unless Twitter streams and blogs counts as reading. lol

  • A lot of people say that you should never leave your novel for more than 2-3 days, but sometimes you can’t help it. When that’s happened to me, I’ve found that I can still find a place to start, but now I have a new angle on it. Kind of like the characters are all “Sure. Go ahead. Read. We’ll take five” and then they welcome you back. Don’t worry, read happy.

  • With all you do with this blog and all your others, your novel, your kids, your husband, your crime shows–I KNEW you didn’t sleep!

    I know that reading phenomenon, “One more chapter…okay another, it’s not that late.” And then, “Oh crap, it’s after midnight!” Good books are the best!

    I promise, when you get yours published, I will read it in one sitting–but only if I get my first edition in June or July!

    PS…Laundry is overrated.

  • I just try to balance. I do my best writing when my 22 month old is taking her nap during the day. Then later that night, I’ll take a bath and read until the water is cold. I just try to schedule both so I don’t feel as if I’m neglecting anything. Then there are some days when the muse is so tight lipped I could scream. Those days are free to do what ever I want. Usually, I’ll play WoW or read, or just hang out and watch tv.

  • As you see, you are not alone LOL. We all juggle reading and writing the way we can.
    I have been sucked into stories I couldn’t let them go even if it was way past midgnight. And others just seem to take ages and I don’t know why don’t feel the same.
    And with writing it’s the same. When I’m in the middle of first draft mostly I write super quickly and want to get the facts done.
    But, and this is a big but, when I’m struggling with editing, then I can take long reading periods.
    But I tell myself this periods are pivotal for me to learn the craft and don’t feel bad for it :).

  • I struggle with that tug of war too. Lately the reading has definitely lost and I really miss it.

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