How Much Should You Read as a Writer?

Hello all my writing buddies!

I hope you are enjoying the spring weather as summer starts to head our way. I know I am! I don’t really have any funny anecdotes like other bloggers, so I’ll just jump right into the post. After all, that’s really why you are here anyway. So!

How much should you read as a writer?

I’ve been asking myself this question over and over again. I’m sure I still don’t have a solid answer. In my research and reading of writing self-help books I have come across that you should, as a writer, be a voracious reader. Oops. If your cheeks are red, we’re in the same boat. If you are nodding proudly as you glance at your towering stack of novels in the corner of your room, I envy you. You, like me, have probably read in dozens of places that you should read, read, read and read some more if you want your writing to improve. But the question is: when do you read if you are always writing??

When writing became my calling, I used to read books by the armful. This was in Junior high mind you. Then high school came and I was overwhelmed with Debate, Newspaper, Collage courses, AP courses, Sr. Class Officer work and a host of other extra-curricular activities. Time for reading swirled down the toilet. But my passion for writing did not! Now away from school (apart from online school) I have the chance to really bring my writing around and in focus. Yet I now realize…I haven’t read “voraciously” in a long….long…*blush*…long time. Partly because I can hardly ever find a book I really like. If it doesn’t grab me and hold on, it isn’t worth my time. So now that I have the time, what is my deal? Why aren’t I reading like crazy again?

Don’t Read The Same Genre As You’re Writing

I’ll tell you what my deal (and possibly your deal too) is: I am writing! That’s right, as simple as it is. I am writing. I once read in Robert’s Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know that if you read while you are working on your book, you will take on that authors style and it will effect your work. I thought, will this is the first I’m hearing about this, but guess what? It has stuck! And then I noticed…I was readingĀ  The Relic (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) and I noticed the urge to write. Then a few weeks later, the book long finished, I re-read what I had written. Guess what? Sounded just like Preston and Child’s style. Ugh!

I will say this: I notice a HUGE difference in my passion, inspiration and style of writing (my own, just improved) when I read. I know my passion for writing was at it’s best when I was devouring books like a starving book cart. So, my method, I’m reading in between books as well as during. I feel if I read the book quickly, I won’t get fixated on that particular author’s style. I also plan to read genres not like my book, so I don’t have a tendency to steal ideas or events subconsciously. If you are writing a fantasy, read a romance novel. If you are writing a mystery currently, pick up a Sci-Fi book. Your writing will still improve but the books are so different, you won’t have to worry much about the similarities creeping up. Besides, an edit or 20 will always even out your style if you have a chunk of book that sounds dark (becuase you were reading The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo at the time). Anyway, I hope I shed some light on that. No, I didn’t have an easy answer. But I wanted you to know you aren’t alone if you feel this way. Just try, try, try to get that reading in. Speaking of, I’m off to read my current book- The DaVinci Code! *Please don’t hurl rocks because I’m just now reading this for the first time.*

So…what are we to do? Read while we work? Read in between work? (Which, let’s be real, once you finish book one, you know you’re supposed to be working on book two.) What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Do you disagree? What is your system?