Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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From the comments —

So, Mary Beth comments —

Your book-reading break seems like an excellent way to celebrate (and, assuming it’s proceeded by a period of book-abstinence, to keep your work on your manuscript free of other authors’ influence.)

And this is a good point! And psychologically interesting! And worth discussion!

Do you want to prevent yourself from absorbing another writer’s voice while working on a manuscript of your own?

Yes! No! Sort of! It depends!

At least in my case.

I don’t know how it works for other people, but suppose I’m writing a story and I want it to have a fairy-tale feel to it, like CITY. (I would indeed like to write another story with that kind of feel, though not in the same world.) In this case, I would definitely read a lot of Patricia McKillip and also I would re-read Sharon Shinn’s THE SHAPECHANGER’S WIFE and maybe some Robin McKinley and anything other books I could think of where the prose has that lyrical fairy-tale shimmer to it. I have no problem absorbing their voices! It is a plus! The more the better! I just don’t think it’s possible (for me, at least) to go too far and fall into a copy-cat voice. “Strongly reminiscent of” is possible and is exactly what I do want.

The problem would be purely one of distraction: if I start a McKillip book, I’m going to finish it, and if I’m reading that book, I’m not working on one of my own. So I would read a lot of the “right” style of book before I started working on mine and then (more or less) give up fiction for the duration.

But, if I am trying to write this particular kind of story? I would avoid CJ Cherryh like the plague, both while writing my own book and immediately before starting. I once bought four books by her as they came out and owned them all for at least a year before I read them. For me, her voice is VERY invasive, and since it does not suit a lyrical story, I have to put her books in a lead-lined casket and bury them eight feet deep in the garden while working on that kind of story. (Barely exaggerating).

Can I read fiction at all while working? Yes, sometimes. I just re-read all my Ngaio Marsh’s in the past few months. Ngaio Marsh was a great stylist, but for me her voice is not the least bit invasive and also I have read her books many times so they are not too terribly distracting. I can pick one of hers up to read for an hour and then actually put it down again. Usually. Well, frequently.

Nonfiction is always safer. I usually add to my cookbook collection while writing. Or a fairly dry treatise on the Ottoman Empire is, for example, perfect.

And letting myself loose on my increasingly huge TBR pile in between working on projects of my own is indeed VERY celebratory. Even without the chocolate.

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