Friday, July 16, 2010

Reading While You Write

For Mother’s Day this year, my wonderful husband bought me a tiny little Dell mini laptop that fits in my purse. 

He was tired of hearing me whine about how little time I have to write and – being a man – he went into solution mode and decided that if I had a tiny little computer I could get some writing done during my hour-long commute on the train to and from work each day.


It was great for a little while.  I would get my seat, power up my new little friend and I could get 500 words down before we pulled into the station downtown.  The problem was that the time on the train that I was now using for writing was time that I used to use for reading.  I thought that I had just been filling in empty time with all that reading – but I was wrong.

Turns out that I write better when I’m reading a lot.  I read almost exclusively books in the genre that I write (women’s fiction) so with all the reading I do on the train every day, I get to see how other writers are handling story structure and character development.  I also read like a writer so when a book makes me cry in front of my fellow commuters, I think about what the author did to get that reaction out of me.  When I’m board with a book and ready to move on to something else, I think about why it’s not working for me.  I also get to see techniques that other writers use to weave their story and often find myself thinking, You can do that!?!

 I learn so much from reading and I can see the effects in my writing.

I found that while it was great to get those extra words in on my WIP every day, my writing was actually suffering. I was missing the inspiration and insight that I had been getting from my daily reading.

So, for now the laptop stays at home and when I get into my seat on the train I pull out a novel instead.

Do you find that it helps you to read while you’re working a writing project?  If so, do you try to read in the genre in which you write?


  1. Personally, I can't read novels in the same genre when I'm in the middle of the first draft. I think I'm paranoid that I might subconsciously take on the style of the writer I'm reading. But when I'm done that draft? I more than make up for it. Books galore!

  2. I do. I'm really a reader first so my writing suffers terribly if I replace reading with writing. I get to resent the writing I guess. I know some authors refuse to read the genre they're writing but since I read widely, that's never a problem. I guess reading fills my well.

    Good luck with your reading and writing.

  3. I read a lot in the genre I write in: YA paranormal/urban fantasy. It lets me know what's getting published, what's popular (depending on how many copies Chapters had in stock), and after doing a Google or Twitter search what's popular right now. Every so often I get little ideas, like for scenes I'm missing or bits I need to take out, but for the most part I just love reading. :D

  4. Nelsa - I know what you mean. I do read in the same genre I write, but sometimes I'll pick up a book and find that the story too closely resembles part of my own so I'll steer clear for fear that I'll inadvertantly "steal" material.

    MaryC - That's great that you're still a reader first - I think that's the best thing a writer can be. Good luck to you too!

    Lindsay - I'm the same, I like to read in my genre so that I know what else is out there and what's popular. And I also find that it fires up all kinds of new ideas for my own story - ways I might not have thought of getting at something before.

    Yay reading!