Monday, January 25, 2010

To Read or Not to Read

Of course I think that the general public should read. And if you’re illiterate, you should be listening to as many audio books as you can get your hands on. But what about writers, should they read too? More spacificially, should writers read books similar to the ones they are writing?
There are two philosophies on this topic. One is that in order to keep your writing fresh and new, you shouldn’t read your competiton. That way your prose wont be influenced by anyone else. The opposing camp claims that you will never know if you’re writing is fresh and new if you don’t read books by other people. Maybe someone else already wrote the unoriginal story in your head. And if you aren’t well read, you wont know how unoriginal you are.

I tend to fall more into the second camp. I think being well read is always a good thing. And having an idea of one’s market is important. As testiment to my love of books written by other people, I read more than 100 books last year. And more than 75 of them were read in the second half of the year. But I wasn’t writing when I was reading all those books.

Now that I’m deep in the trenches of my next novel, I’m finding it hard to find time to read. I bought a dozen books that are comp titles to my WIP on my kindle to take with me to Spain/Morocco over X-mas. But I only read half of them on the trip. So now I have all these great books on my kindle that I feel obligated to read. But when am I ever going to find the time to read them. I’m writing during every free second.

It’s easier for me to find time to listen than it is for me to find time to read. I typically listen to four audio books for every one print book I read. But when my mind is swarming with ideas about my own characters it’s harder to care about the characters of others. So I find myself listening to music a lot more than audio books. My second problem is that I can’t find every book in audio. Most of the books I’ve been listening to lately have been YA so they are in the same genre as my WIP, but that’s about the extent of their similarities.

Last week I listened to the first two books in the Artimas Fowl series. I expect the next three books I listen to will be the last three books in the series. It’s this fun paranormal kids series with human Artimus interacting with picksies, lepercons, and fairies. The thing I like about this series is that Artimus is a villan, which is a nice change of pace from the Harry Potter norm. But I don’t write fantacy, or paranormal, or anything supernatural. I enjoy reading it, but it’s not doing anything to improve my understanding of the YA non-paranormal market.

To make matters worse, the book I’m currently writing is more of a boy book. I do have a major female MC, but she’s a total tomboy and all the other major characters are guys. When I’m not listening to YA-paranormal, I’m listening to totally girlsentric YA. Having listened to more girl power novels than I can stomach may be why I decided to attempt to write a boy book. So maybe I do know the YA market. I’ll try to stop feeling guilty that I’m not reading all the non-paranormal boy books currently living on my kindle.

Joke of the Day
A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."


Jonathon Arntson said...

I definitely agree with the second idea too. It is easy for me to read a book simply to understand the writing behind it and examine the words. I find it fun to do with Harry Potter and The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Excellent post - I love the joke!!

Thanks for visiting Book Dreaming today. I love meeting new blogger friends. :-)

Heather Kelly said...

I am still laughing at your joke of the day!

I like to be well read in my genre (well, I like to read in lots of genres) but if I am working on a specific type of book, I might avoid reading a particular book just so I don't do any subconscious mimicking.

But, I agree, writers have to know what is out there. It would be a shame to work really hard on an idea, and find that it was done similarly before.

@Jon--Is there any place in the blogosphere where you are not? I'm following you around!

Tina Laurel Lee said...

I love the premise of your blog. My son is in 5th grade and having a hard time of it. The whole school thing has become reading and writing and his dyslexia makes it really hard for him. But I know that if he was allowed to learn his own way he would be right up there with the rest of them. He's a smart kid. He also is a big reader. His auditory memory kicks ass. He's better read than most adults.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to reading more. And hello to my good friends above, Heather and Jonathan!!