From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reading While You Write

I have a question for you all and it is this: When you're writing the first draft of a novel, how do you pick your reading material as compared to what you are writing? So, for example, if you're writing in third person do you think it makes a difference whether you read a third of first person book? Do you read in the same genre you are writing in, or consciously read outside the genre? Things like that.

Right now I am reading 'Gilead' by Marilynne Robinson, an astonishingly beautiful book. I'm hoping to imbibe some of the beauty of Robinson's sentences in my own writing. I am writing in third person, though, so reading in first person is a bit jarring. Hopefully in a good way.

What writers have influenced you in your own writing? Its odd to think about, in a way. I think everything we read influences us in some way, but I bet there are a handful of writers that each of us sort of claim as our own and really learn from. For me, my favorite kinds of stories come from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, perhaps also Charles Dickens, my favorite voice and tone comes from Amy Tan, Stephen King, Connie Willis, and Orson Scott Card. I love, love the romance and emotional grip of the Austen and Bronte stories, and I love the honesty, plainness, detail and grittiness of the voice and tone of the other writers. What about for you?

Sarah Allen


  1. Since I'm still trying to increase my reading, I don't have a set view on what to read while writing. Sometimes I try not to read novels that might be similar, like if working on angel/demon I wouldn't read angel or demon novels but that's not a strict rule. I tend to write all kinds of things, so sometimes they are in genres I don't read much. I'm working on reading more no matter what I'm writing.

    I'm not sure who has influenced my writing in general. I do know some have influenced novel ideas. Carrie Ryan's book has influenced two ideas even though it would be hard to link them to the particular book because there isn't really much similar but I can tell that it helped me come up with those ideas. And there are others like it. For my epic fantasy, the influence is definitely Dragonlance and other similar series.

  2. I'll read just about anything while I write - it doesn't influence my writing. Although sometimes I'll read something, stop and go back because it strikes me as such good writing. That motivates me in my own work.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I'm with you, Dawn, I like to read and write in a variety of genres. And Helen, I do the same thing where I go back to remember an incredible line. Sometimes I even lightly underline in pencil, which goes against my books-are-too-sacred-to-defile mentality, but sometimes its worth it. I've been doing that a LOT with 'Gilead'.

  4. I read in my genre, out of my genre, non-fiction, everything. I don't think it's possible to be a good writer if you're not well rounded. For example, you want to have a mystery subplot to your romance? Read mysteries (and books on how to write mysteries) to see how they do it. Don't copy them, of course, but use the elements and techniques.

  5. This is to say thank you and to say, too, that I never read anything remotely similar to what I'm working on. It feels utterly new and original and mine that way, and it needs to stay that way, through my first draft.

    But that's just weird me, of course!

  6. Thanks Lisa and Beth! I think the point basically, as the ideal, is to read as widely as possible and get a variety of stories, genres and voices. Then they become a totally you, unique hodgepodge of everything you've read.

  7. With my first draft (most creative part) I tried to avoid reading anything because it started bleeding into my work. This of course varies from person to person. From my later drafts (I'm still working on my WIP) I read what I felt like reading. Initially I wrote in first person and found that reading other first person narratives helped immensely. But now, well into my story and happy with voice and plot etc, I read anything. Great to see what you're reading is so inspiring and helpful in your own work.

  8. Well,

    reading literally effects your writing. I am writing military fiction. So I intend to read a lot of military fiction.

    My grammar is poor and I don't bother about first person / third person but the ideas in book literally influence me. I feel like mimicking some cool stuff from there here.

    with warm regards


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