Thursday, December 24, 2009

What to Read When You’re Writing


Like many writers, I’m a huge fan of books. If I hear a recommendation, I’m there. The library has made it so easy for me—simply sign in online, request a book, and go check it out. My favorites are purchased at bookstores and recommended to other book-loving friends.

But I seem to come up with roadblocks when I’m writing a book (which is, actually, all the time now.) I’m reluctant to read anything in my genre (cozy mysteries), even though they’re my favorite reads for escape. I have several reasons for this:

One is the fact that it’s less of a pleasure; I’ll read the book critically and pick it apart. Were the suspects introduced in an organized way? Were there too many/not enough suspects? Am I picking up on a clue or a red herring? Is the author’s description of setting distracting or does it add to the book? Blah, blah, blah.

Another reason is that I compare my work-in-progress to the completed, edited, marketed, beautified text that I’m reading. And, guess what—my book lacks in comparison. This brings on a huge case of insecurity and heebie-jeebies that may take me hours to shake off.

Another reason is that I’m afraid I may somehow, subconsciously, change my writing voice while reading someone else’s cozy.

The final reason? I have so little time when I’m writing a book.

At first, I felt stuck. Now I’ve come up with some ways to work around my love of reading and my love of writing.

Read something short: Pick up a book of short stories. There are books of short story collections in every genre out there. Check one out. This also helps with the low-on-time factor.

Try something different in the genre you enjoy: Broaden your horizons. If you enjoy cozies (and write cozies), try thrillers, PIs, and police procedurals.

Try something completely different: Now may be the time to read an inspiring biography. Or a nonfiction book on organizing your life. Or literary fiction.

Just do it: Galley Cat recently revealed that Barack Obama is reading Joseph O’ Neill’s Netherland right now. If he’s got time to read, what excuse do the rest of us have?

If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.

Stephen King (1947 - ), On Writing, p. 147

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. I’m taking a short blog break for Christmas and reposting some of my older posts from 2009. Thanks so much to everyone for making my blogging year a happy one. is Thursday! If you're hungry, please just pop over to the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen for a piece of frittata. I'm Riley there.