sacrificing the reader for the writer

September 15, 2009 at 11:04 am 4 comments

Over the eight or so years I’ve been writing romance, I’ve met a few people who were readers and gave it up to become writers. No, I’m not kidding. They actually gave up reading.

One said she didn’t have time any more.

Another just abandoned a particular line she was aiming for. She’d loved reading those books before she tried to get published by that publisher. But she had to stop after she grew as she put it, “insanely jealous of published newbies I could write circles around.”

A reason that makes me nod with agreement — the fear of unintentional imitation. “I can’t read romance if I’m going to write it,” another writer explained. “I’m too afraid of unconsciously using someone else’s voice.”

In a conversation, I find myself adopting the cadences and phrases of the people I’m talking with. And I know that there are some writers who are particularly contagious. They pepper their writing with short sentences, maybe, or they have a particular sort of description they use at particular points in the story. I can see getting sucked into imitation.

But giving up reading? Oh, no. NO. Sometimes I’ll drop a genre. If I’m working on a historical, I probably won’t read other historicals for a while.

But the way I figure it, I have a list of things I’m willing to give up for writing: regular paychecks, ego (still getting those rejections, thanks), wrists, sanity.

Stories written by other people? Nope, not negotiable.

Kate Rothwell


Entry filed under: reading, writing. Tags: , .

Week 3 Writing with kids and life…


  • 1. RKCharron  |  September 15, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Hi 🙂
    Thanks for the great post.
    I could never give up reading either.
    Even if I was blind I’d read by Braille.
    But when I am deep into writing, I don’t read the genre I am writing.
    All the best,
    Thank you for sharing,

  • 2. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I discovered when I was writing Westerns that my cowboys started talking funny if I read too many English set historicals whilst writing the Western.

    I do tend to read outside the genre I’m writing at the moment–so while I’m writing a Western historical I’ll read contemporary. Of course then I read a bunch of them and I want to write one.

    I agree though that I can’t give up reading. You’d think having someone else tell the story would somehow stunt the imaginator (you know the little guy inside of us that churns out the stories), but the opposite is true. Reading books–especially good books–expands and enlivens the imagination.

  • 3. Becke Davis (Becke Martin)  |  September 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve always been a reader, but for a long time I only wrote non-fiction. When I started writing fiction, it really cut into my reading time. The thing is, the more I got into fiction writing, the more great authors I met — and, of course, I wanted to read their books, too.

    So in the two years I’ve been writing fiction — and non-fiction — I’ve continued to read an average of four books a week. I used to read a book a day, but my writing has cut into that. With that and the number of books I’ve been buying lately, my TBR pile is as big as a small library!

    • 4. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 17, 2009 at 1:47 am

      Oh yeah, that is a problem. Even when as I have less reading time, I can’t seem to slow down the book buying.

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