Friday, April 5, 2013

Do You Read What You Write?

No, I'm not talking about reading your own writing. I've heard a lot of people say they can't read the same genre they are currently writing. They think it will influence what they write. I have to read what I'm currently writing. Maybe it's because I write so many genres (everything from picture books to middle grade to young adult to new adult). Reading the genre I'm writing keeps my head in the right place.

This month I worked on edits for three of my books. Two were YA and one was lower MG. I edited the YA novels back to back and read YA books while I was editing. That ensured I had the YA mindset for my edits. When I moved to my MG novel, I switched to MG books. And more so, I made sure those books were the exact age level of my book. I found it really helpful because I knew when my voice crept out of that age level, and I was able to fix it.

What about you? Do you read the genre you're currently writing or editing?

53 comments:

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    1. I know you, Beth. I've seen your blog posts where you break down stories. Love those. :)

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  2. Absolutely. I'm going to start a middle grade project soon and I'm reading some MG books now when I'm so used to YA.

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    1. I had to do the same for my MG last month. Good luck!

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  3. I don't write but I can see how reading the same genre as you write can be helpful.

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    1. I definitely think it is, but not all writers feel that way.

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  4. Lately, I've been reading "how to" books, but if I want to read fiction, I will almost always choose a suspense thriller or horror, which is what I'm currently "attempting" to write.

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  5. I go back and forth on this. Right now I'm working on a light, tween realistic project, so that's what I'm drawn to reading. But when I write fantasy, I tend to not want to read fantasy. I'm not really sure why!

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    1. Hmm, that's interesting, Anna. I wonder why that is.

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  6. Just before I start on a first draft I have a black-out in reading of the genre I am going to write in. I don't want to internalize those voices. I'm in one of those now, and boy, I will so miss MG for the next month or so.

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    1. See, that doesn't happen to me. I get inspired but the voices are still my own. (Oh wow did I just sound crazy. LOL)

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  7. I like to read tons of books in a genre I'm about to write in. It gets my head in the right space, but also lets me know about new things that are happening in the genre so I can duplicate the good stuff without overexposing something that has become too common.

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    1. Yes, I like to know what's out there in my genre, too. I try to always have a new twist so my work is different from what's already been written.

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  8. I read books in my genre for research. You know, to find out what's popular, what people like or don't like or even tips on how I might handle an aspect of my story.

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  9. I read while I'm writing,sometimes in what I'm writing or for my historicals to learn the flavor of the language in different time eras.

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    1. Oh, I can see how that would be so important for historical novels.

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  10. I learn from other writers all the time. Also, it's valuable research. I don't find it a conflict reading the same genre at all. I will sometimes take a mini break from a bigger project and write something completely different from genre I am reading and writing. I guess this is how I treat myself when I am buried in bigger WIP, or maybe a confusing one.

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    1. That's a great plan you have, Brenda. :)

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  11. Kelly, how you move flawlessly among genres impresses the heck out of me. I don't think I'd ever be skilled enough to do it, so my hat's off to you for sure.

    I tend to read New Adult contemporary romances because that's what I write. It helps keep me in the zone of what that audience is expecting. But I do veer off to read fantastic Young Adult novels by you, of course :-)

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    1. Aw, thank you! I'm actually working on a New Adult romance novella. :) It's my first time with NA. Fun!

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  12. I write women's fiction, so it's easier to glide around, whereas I can see it makes a lot of sense for YOU to stay in that voice. I'll read WF, romance, romantic suspense, non-fiction, YA - what is either next up in my queue or my book club is reading next. Which reminds me...

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  13. Absolutely. I completely agree with you on this.

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  14. I try to read books in the genre I'm about to write ... it's partly research to help develop the voice and partly pleasure. Once I get right into a WIP, I tend to only read articles as I am so intensely focused on my writing i.e. totally self-absorbed! (My poor husband!) Now that I have just released my new novel, I am looking forward to a good six months of working my way down my TBR which contains lots of every genre. Woohoo!

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    1. I need to read more to make a dent in my TBR list. It just keep growing!

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  15. This one is easy for me because I only read and write YA. I guess I could read adult books when I'm not writing, but they're not what I enjoy anymore. :)

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    1. Same here, Jessie. Though I'm branching into New Adult now too. I really like it. Oh, and I do love a good MG read every once in a while since I write that, too.

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  16. I read just about everything, so I guess I'm a hybrid, Kelly.

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  17. I rarely read when I was writing or revising because I needed to stay in my character's head with her goals and voice. (Although I did read CPs' YA ms's.) But since I stopped writing, I've tried to read many of the most famous YA novels -- and found I didn't like them. I'm starting to focus on NA now; I think I'm just too old to be writing YA. The viewpoints are just too hard for me to identify with, but it was a great learning experience when I was doing it.

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    1. I'm really enjoying NA right now. I'm so glad it's becoming big.

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  18. A long time ago, when I first wrote a YA manuscript, I did not read the genre (I didn't know I was writing YA either so that's how out of the loop I was). It wasn't so great, as you can probably guess. Then I started to read YA and the next thing I wrote was ten times better than the first.

    In my opinion, it is essential that you read your genre. Or at the very, very least be an avid reader of fiction. I've heard of authors not reading their genre (the ones that say only write PNR YA) but they'll read other types of YA still (like contemporary), so they still know what's happening in the marketplace.

    To me, that's pretty extreme and maybe not even a great thing to do. Those authors that write the same thing as you are your colleagues. Wouldn't you want to respect them by reading their work? It's like if a horror writer declared they've never read Stephen King out of fear of being too influenced by him. No one would take that writer seriously -- how could you write horror without reading the master of horror's work? There were a lot of heavily influenced horror writers that wrote the same way King did, and failed because you can't duplicate what he does. There were other horror writers that took what they learned from King about the genre, and it make it something uniquely theirs -- and they're the horror writers that succeeded.

    What I do is get an idea, figure out what genre it is, read up on it while I'm outlining the idea (if I haven't already read the genre), write (usually don't have time to read while I'm in this stage), then during revision I'll read a completely different YA genre (like if I'm writing YA fantasy, I'll read YA contemporary).

    Because, truth is, I think if most people really stop to think about where they got an idea from they can trace it back to its source. Whenever I come up with an idea, I have to stop and think about it for a while -- to decide if it really is my idea or if it's something that's been too influenced by a book I read.

    That being said ... I sometimes worry that what I've written is too similar to something else out there. But then I think of that whole saying where there's only seven plots in the world and try make that make me feel better. Then I strive to edit out anything in revision that might seem to similar to something I've read.

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    1. Wow ... I now see I wrote a lot. Oops.

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    2. Feel free to write as much as you'd like, Kim. No worries.

      I agree that if you write contemporary, you need to know what's out there in that genre. The same goes for other genres. Like you said, you can make sure the ideas aren't coming from the books you're reading. Yes, there are only about seven plots, but there are plenty of ways to twists those plots and make them your own. Besides, it's good to know what's been done already so you can make your story unique.

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  19. Mainly I read contemporary women's romantic fiction and edit these as well. I love what I read and edit!

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    1. Isn't it great to get to edit the kind of books you love? It makes me so happy.

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  20. I read books in all different genres, but when I am writing a specific genre I try to read more books in that genre. I find it helpful- especially when writing MG books! :)

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  21. I feel like I have to prepare by reading things in the vein I'm writing, but then when I'm actually writing, I need to read something else so that I remember what my own story is. I'm impressed that you can keep so many stories straight!

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  22. I read a lot of different genres, but yes, I do read other writers in the same one that I'm writing in. Jack Higgins is one, though he should really retire; the last few books have been underwhelming. Tom Clancy took a steep dive off a cliff after releasing a book called the Bear and the Dragon, and every book that comes out now seems to be worse than the last. And I've recently gotten to read Daniel Silva's work. He writes the adventures of an Israeli spy.

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    1. Have you noticed big names co-authoring as they get older? I find I'm usually disappointed because the books just aren't the same.

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    2. It does happen, yes. I heard with Clancy that he's using co-authors as a way of minimizing spousal support to his ex-wife, which is a weaselly thing to do.

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    3. That said, there are co-author duos that DO work!

      Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack teamed up with "Literacy and Longing in L.A." and I'm hard pressed to call that a "train wreck." Granted, I haven't finished it yet, but what I've read (Nearly halfway through) is solid and a true love letter to readers and what books mean to them.

      I think what's key is that both writers respect each other's strengths and weaknesses, and help one another compliment their partners strengths. and strengthen their weaknesses, it's a two-way street when it works.

      I think the real problems is that the co-authored books that don't work, whatever the reason, are shadowing the ones that do, so let's not denounce the idea all together.

      Authors (Who don't illustrate) and Illustrators (Who don't write) collaborate on picture books and comics all the time, and no one cries "Hacks!" there, do they?

      Why should novels be different?

      I'd like to collaborate with someone, but finding someone who can embrace animal fantasy for the NON-Preschool set, is just as hard as finding agents.

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    4. One more thing, let's not give weasels (the animal) more bad press than they deserve, okay Will?

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    5. Taurean, I think the problem is that some of the co-authored books are not really co-written. The big name author comes up with the idea and the co-author does all the writing. I can always tell when that happens because the books aren't the same as when the big name writes them him or herself.

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  23. Kelly,

    I still stand by my initial comment because I believe the harder it's becoming to break into the market, we don't want to scare people off any legitimate option, and if you aren't able or willing to self-publish at a pro level, collaborations are a respectful option.

    You can't let the Clancy and Patterson "Smoke and Mirrors" blind you to ACTUAL author team-ups that are REAL and WORK, both personally and professionally.

    Sometimes writers need to collaborate to get the career started, whether that's writing "For Hire" books for a flat fee, or in this case, writing with a co-author.

    This is certainly common in nonfiction where experts are often needed to lend credibility to a topic that the writer/creator of the concept doesn't have him or herself.

    But it's looked on as "sleazy" in fiction because people only sight the poorly done examples, and regardless of what brand name authors do or don't do in this regard, they are NOT the new writers of today, by which I mean they have options and resources and readership new authors today don't.

    What new authors need to do now is different when they started.

    I don't think that's unfair or mean to say. I have so much to consider that veterans in the field learned over time, and I can't let the people who abuse the option influence my decision or need to do it.

    I'm sorry if I sound mean, but I'd hate to see the idea of authors collaborating BEYOND picture book land as sleazy in general, just because some people use it in a fake or distasteful way.

    I can't comment on the authors you cited doing this since I don't read them, but I don't want them to taint the benefits of collaboration among authors beyond picture books where the author and illustrator aren't one in the same.

    In today's publishing world, we need all the legit options possible, Kelly, and remember I wanted to team up with you on an early reader book, and I meant that as an ACTUAL collaboration. Not the "fake" ones mentioned above, you know that right?

    Even though you feel weak in this area, compared to me, you at least access simplicity better than I do, and being a former teacher and a parent of a daughter who is now in the easy reader demographic, it gives you an edge I don't have.

    I have ideas for early reader books that I know work, but writing in in that spare style is like pulling teeth for me, and no matter how many teachers tell me picture books are written for adults or older siblings to read to kids not reading yet, the fact is they STILL require simplicity and conciseness I'm just not good at yet, YOU have that in your toolbox, and I felt we could compensate whatever weaknesses we have writing non-novel stories together than solo.

    Promise me in 2016, when you current books are out, you'll seriously consider teaming up with me for a book project, it doesn't have to be an early reader, but maybe tackling the challenge together will make it less trying.

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    1. Yes, people do focus on the negative and site those. I agree. And times definitely have changed.

      As for teaming up, I just don't think my brain can work that way. I never feel my stories are my own because my characters take the lead. I couldn't do that if I co-authored. No offense, I just can't see myself doing this.

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    2. I understand, I just had to get that point made that like work-for-hire books, there are REAL author collaborations (Again, BEYOND Picture books) that are real, work, and are viable options for writers.

      I still think we'd make a great team if we worked on a project together, but I understand your process doesn't lend itself to that, I was more thinking how your ability to be concise combined with my imagination would lead to something

      After all, part of any team effort is being strengths to the other's weaknesses, I thought we could do that. But I guess not. Even if you're not good at writing early readers or chapter books anymore than me, you still access brevity and simplicity on a level I don't (YET, I know, but this word's becoming a running gag...) and I wish I did.

      I hope you're at least still open to us doing cross-promo when my novel comes out.

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  24. There are great teams. You're right there.

    I'll be happy to promote your book when it comes out. :)

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