When I’m writing fiction, I can’t read it

Here’s a post by Anne Korkeakivi at The Literary Hub: When I’m writing fiction, I cannot read it.

For a period of time while I’m working on a new manuscript, novels by other authors—other than ARCs that have been sent to me for blurbs and fiction by friends to critique—disappear from my bedside table. It’s not that I won’t still read for pleasure; I feel I have to read daily, especially before I go to sleep at night.

But while I’m developing the voice of a book, I don’t want to hear someone else’s fiction cadences. Nonfiction titles, poetry, and periodicals take the place of novels for me. At various moments while writing Shining Sea, I read books by or about a WWII Japanese prison camp survivor and a Pacific Ocean surfer, John McPhee’s The Crofter and the Laird: Life on an Hebridean Island, and Homer’s The Odyssey — books, in other words, which I might have read for pleasure but whose cadences (or at least those of a character in them) I did want to catch.

Basically the same for me. Except that even more important: when I start a wonderful novel, I WILL finish it. I’ll spend hours reading it and then I’ll think about it afterward, maybe write fan fiction in my head about what ought to happen after the story closes or what ought to have happened but didn’t. All this takes time, and honestly, when I’m actively writing, I can’t take that much time and still hit my daily minimum.

I’m not actively writing this week. Not really this whole month. That means I’m reading a lot. October … if all goes well, October will be completely the other way around, I’ll make tons of progress on a WIP, and I will hardly read at all. Except for nonfiction, just like Korkeakivi.

She also says:

The big price would be if being a novelist interfered with the pleasure I derive from reading other people’s fiction. What if having become a novelist and all that comes with it—the increased knowledge both of craft and business—were to interfere with the ability to fall into novels?

I’ve known writers who say this has happened to them. That is much more dire and awful than taking a two- or three-month break from reading. I can’t even imagine. Frankly, if I lost the pleasure of reading, I’d probably give up writing.

Much more in depth discussion at the link.

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4 thoughts on “When I’m writing fiction, I can’t read it”

  1. There have been periods that I could only read Dorothy Sayers, Caroline Stevermer and Diana Wynne Jones, but that was when I was in edit mode, not in first-draft mode. (When I’m writing first draft I especially shouldn’t read Mercedes Lackey and Katherine Kurtz, because their voices echo so.)

  2. Oddly, for me CJ Cherryh is THE WORST for invasive style and syntax.

    I’m trying to wrap my mind around the idea that you have trouble reading fiction while revising or editing, instead of writing the first draft. That just seems so wrong.

  3. At a book signing, Terry Pratchett commented that he didn’t enjoy reading fiction. He said it was like being on an assembly line watching a car being put together; he kept analyzing how the pieces fit together.
    Then again, he was apparently having a lot of fun reading non-fiction. He said he was reading a book on the history of pigment, which to me sounds right up there with watching paint dry, but apparently was fascinating.

  4. That I have trouble reading fiction while revising/editing isn’t because the style invades me, but because it puts my brain in edit mode and *I see all the mistakes*. I want to take a red pencil to any book I read, and that kind of kills the enjoyment.

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