When I was younger (pre-teen through high school) I read a great deal. All sorts of things. Sci-fi, adventure, classics, horror. Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Charles Dickens, H. P. Lovecraft, etc. I’ve added other authors to the list since then, of course, too many to mention everyone, but Stephen King, J. R. R. Tolkien, Margaret Atwood, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Ian Rankin, and David Mitchell deserve special shout outs. After I retired in 2009, I assumed I would be reading more often, but I ended up spending far more time writing (and editing) than I did reading.
I need to point something out here. I don’t read for pleasure as much as I used to, or as prolifically. When I spend as much time writing and editing as I currently do, my time for pleasure reading becomes limited. Generally, any time I spend reading during the day is to stay current on the news or for research. Unless I take a short break to read during the day because my mind becomes too overloaded to function well (which does happen occasionally), my only time for recreational reading is generally just before I go to bed. That often ends up being only fifteen to twenty minutes because I typically fall asleep easily and sleep soundly through the night. Consequently, I don’t read the amount of material I used to.
I also try to plan my extracurricular reading based on what I’m writing so one doesn’t bleed over into another. For example, while I was working on Aggravated (serious non-fiction), I tried to mostly read escapist literature, or quirky novels, like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, or Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, or Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. While I’m writing a thriller or a murder mystery like my books The Jagged Man (published) and Murder Between Friends (still in process), I might avoid reading novels by writers like Dean Koontz or Greg Iles or Dennis Lehane. I do that to try and avoid influences from their writing creeping into mine. In broader terms, I don’t want to inject the possibility that the first third of a novel will sound like Stephen King, the middle like Barbara Kingsolver, and the last third of it like Hugh Howey. As much as I admire all of those writers, it should all sound like me.
If you’re a writer, do you place any particular limits on what you read during any stages of the writing process?
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