One of my writing buddies and I have been comparing notes. When she writes, she reads things that are similar in tone, theme or subject to her work-in-progress.
Because I do a lot of research when I write, I read things that match my subject before I begin. I need to have a certain amount of information before I begin. As I draft, I leave blanks with notes to myself. WHAT WOULD THEY HAVE EATEN FOR BREAKFAST? TRAIN OR BUS? After I finish one draft, I’ll do the reading necessary to fill in these blanks.
But things that are similar in tone or voice? Nope. I avoid anything like that while I’m writing a particular project. This means that when I’m writing middle grade fantasy, I don’t read middle grade fantasy. Sometimes I avoid young adult and adult fantasy as well if the individual piece is too similar to what I’m writing. If I don’t, my voice skews towards what I’m reading or at least away from how it should sound.
When I’m writing picture books or nonfiction, I’m much less cautious about what I read. A picture book is much less likely to skew my picture book voice than is a middle grade novel. A piece of nonfiction isn’t going to effect my own nonfiction voice?
Why the difference? A picture book is short and easy to hold in my head. I’m not having to hold on to that voice day after day, week after week. I can throw down a draft in an afternoon and then walk away from it for a few days.
Nonfiction, I think, is simply my comfort zone. I’ve written so much non-fiction that I’m secure in my voice and can find it without too much trouble. That’s not to say that I never lose it but it is much easier for me than fiction.
Reading does fuel my writing but I never know what will inspire me. Because of this I like to read diversely. That said, it is easy to fall into habits. To find out how I’m stepping outside my reading comfort zone in 2016, check out yesterday’s post on the Muffin.