Sunday, December 16, 2012

Writers are Readers Too!

Which came first: the chicken or the egg? That's how I feel when deciding if I'm a reader or a writer first. What I do firmly believe is that no one can write successfully without also being a reader. I've seen some discussions on writing forums asking, but why? And the answer to that is a whole other blog post. But, being both a writer and a reader can pose its own set of problems.
1. Constant Comparison - I read a lot particularly within my own genre, not only because I enjoy these books but because it's a good way to scope out the competition, to see what's working, what's not, what other writers in my genre are doing, what's selling and why. This is essential market research but inevitably leads to constant comparison which goes a lot like this:

"OMG, [BOOK TITLE]! What a freakin' spectacular book. OMG, [AUTHOR NAME] is a literary genius and I love her! But this is my competition!? I will never be good enough! Why do I even bother?" *sulk*

It's not always easy staying positive about your own work when bombarded by so many brilliant titles out there but there is an upside to this...

2. Striving to Do Better - reading a brilliant book also inspires me. When I've really enjoyed a book I start analysing the why, was it the characters? The intricate plot? The unique setting? The prose? The well-rounded antagonist? Some mysterious magic I could add to my own writing? This is how we learn from fellow authors and how we can channel self-doubt and deprecation into something positive that will improve our writing, making our books worthy of sharing shelf space with said freakin' spectacular titles.

But beware...

3. Author Trap - there is a caveat to all this: the author trap - one in which I have often found myself ensnared. I'm happily writing my WIP when BAM! I read a spectacular book and now I want androgynous faerie kings in my story, or a troubled tattooed teen or a flying wombat with glow in the dark fangs except my WIP calls for none of those but I'll make them fit, I have to because it's just so cool! I find that reading other books too close to my own WIP in terms of style, story, setting or characters can result in me slowly but surely skewing my book towards what I'm reading with often devastating consequences. My advice here is don't stop reading while working on a story but if you're writing about flying wombats, rather don't read about them in another book at the same time.

Yes, this is a flying wombat. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Are you a reader or a writer? Do you ever find yourself starting to write what you're reading? Any tips or tricks to remedy the situation?


  1. I think it could be good to read outside your genre while writing, or read non fiction. I enjoy some history every now and then. It's always good to read a variety of books. We can't read enough books! Love the wombat by the way :D

  2. The wombat is indeed most terrifying :)

  3. I haven't noticed myself writing what I read yet. However I have noticed that that if I read something that is remotely similar to what I am writing I start "freezing" when I go to write. I get worried that my work is not anywhere near good enough. I have been reading a much wider variety of literature lately, much of which is far removed from the genre I am writing. It seems to be helping my creativity without eating at my confidence.