When you’re elbow deep in a first draft, can you read other fiction, or does it mess with your own writing?
I find the reality of being an author means I am (as at the moment) working on polishing a manuscript in one series, working on substantive edits for a book in another series, finishing up proof edits for another book in that same series, and outlining and plotting three other proposals. I also have a stack of books to read by authors with whom I will shortly be sharing panels in Phoenix, USA (Left Coast Crime), Vancouver, Canada (Cuffed) and Bristol, UK (CrimeFest).
So – do I read “other” fiction while I’m elbow deep in a first draft? Yes, both my own, and that of other authors. Sometimes I have little choice about what I’ll be reading – be it revisions, research, or making sure I’m familiar with the works of folks with whom I’ll shortly be sharing the podium, sometimes I have a “must do” list. When I can choose what to read, what is it? Often biographies, or other non-fiction works, or fiction in a field that is something other than crime. I often return to classics I’ve enjoyed in the past, finding them soothing and always ready to show me something I’ve missed on previous visits.
Does any of what I read mess with my writing? I don’t think so. I think everything I’ve ever read has somehow been absorbed and must influence everything I write – and I’ve been reading for more than fifty years now, so that’s quite a lot of stuff rattling about up there in the old noggin. But as for what I read today influencing what I write tomorrow? I don’t think it happens that way. Not for me, anyway.
When I am utterly immersed in my writing – to the extent I can be with several projects on the go at once – I happily admit to enjoying watching TV and movies. I find the relaxation is a total release. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love to read, it just means I also enjoy watching TV and movies…an hour or two of total otherworldliness is a great escape.