I’ve had varying opinions over the years about how conducive it is for me to read fiction while I’m deep into a manuscript. Ask me six years ago and I would’ve said that whatever I’m reading distorts too much the way I write and think – better to stick with nonfiction or poetry so I don’t unintentionally emulate a voice that already exists.
Ask me three years ago and I would’ve said that selective, directional reading is useful early on (to see different takes on mechanical aspects like chapter openers, paragraph transitions, narrative distance, etc.) but also in later drafts (to see how another author handles a certain problem you’re running into).
Ask me today and I’ll say that reading a ton of fiction actually motivates me to spend more time writing, that it’s like how you end up doing the same stuff your five closest friends do, that reading great stories that make me feel a certain way makes me want to direct all my energy to helping others feel that same way.
That’s what I’ve been doing this week: a ton of both reading and writing. I went to the library with J last Tuesday and left with a larger bundle than I’ve ever left a library with (maybe since elementary school). I’ve been churning through the stack at an order of magnitude higher rate than usual, and I’ve found less resistance to my own writing in the mornings, and once this week I even found myself sitting at my computer working on the manuscript without fully intending it: the document was already open, and the easiest thing to do was type.
I already have a list for the next library trip.
What’ll I think of all this a few years from now? Ask me when the time comes.