Oct 6, 2014

You Are What You Read

That's a loaded topic if ever I have written one.

About two weeks ago, I finished reading the first stories turned in my this year's creative writing class. After the first five, I commented on facebook that I could tell who read and who didn't within 3-5 sentences. Several others in the teaching profession joked, "That long?"

Somewhere along the line, there is often a disconnect between reading and writing that isn't seen in other areas. If someone wants to paint, they look at paintings. If they want to be a good dancer, they watch dancing. To be a good writer, that person HAS to read.

But that brings me to my second meaning by the blog title. I have written on this before, but as I'm drafting a new book, I find myself thinking about it even more. What we read matters as well. 

Let me explain. I read a decent amount of YA literature - I love it and there are some really incredible books out there for this age group. When I started thinking about writing actively, I thought for certain that my audience would be those who I teach during my day job. I know their voices, stresses, and a surprisingly large amount of their secrets. 

But that isn't the voice of my characters. 

I recently started a book totally over. There were several problems, one of which was starting the story too soon. Because I started the story too soon, the voice was weird and there was a disconnect between what I was trying to write and who I was writing it for. My characters needed to be older. So, in preparation for thinking of them again, I dove into the literature that I admired for voice and characterization and the way they appealed to audience. And the feedback from my CP's indicates it was indeed the correct decision. 

I am a huge proponent of read, just read, read anything, read always. But when it comes time for me to draft, I have to have the feel of what I'm trying to convey. 

Do you read when you are drafting? Have you found that reading different genres from what you are writing helps? 


Carrie-Anne said...

I often tend towards a more old-fashioned, quieter writing style and voice, since I've mostly read older books my whole life. It's been a bit of a challenge to adapt to more modern expectations without losing my old-fashioned third-person omniscient style. I'm used to super-long, sweeping historicals with ensemble casts, so I just copied what I knew.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I read before and after, but usually not while I am writing a first draft.
I've read a variety the past couple years, with more fantasy than science fiction. Maybe that's why I don't put a lot of science in my science fiction books? (Not that I want to - I don't like hard science fiction.)

Daniel B. said...

Hear, hear. I don't stop reading, not for anything, but especially when I'm in the middle of writing a story. Otherwise, everything I write starts to sound brilliant. Reading while I write, on the other hand, gives and provides me with ideas about how to phrase things differently, keeps all of my characters from using the same voice, and constantly improves my writing.

I've a good friend who decided one day that he wanted to write a novel, and in a genre he had read almost nothing from. Heck, he was barely a reader, at all. When his first draft came back, it was obvious, too. Since, I believe he's worked, or is working, hard to remedy that deficiency, but I agree: you can spot the readers by their writing fairly quickly.

Great post, Tasha.

ilima said...

I draft super fast (2-3 weeks) so usually don't read while I'm writing since I'm in crazy writer mode. But I read anything and everything while revising. My favorite genre to read is not what I write though.

Kyra Lennon said...

I tend to read in the genre I write most of the time, with the occasional dabble in other things. My reading has suffered a lot recently due to how much work I've had but I'm really trying to fit in at least half an hour a day.

Andrew Leon said...

I think I talk about reading more often than anything else in the writing class that I teach.

JeffO said...

I read while drafting, but not as much, because then I truly don't have enough time.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I read after the first draft. I do read a lot outside the genre I write.