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Reading the same genre while writing: good or bad? February 6, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s a dilemma I’ve been wrestling with.  Is it a good idea for a writer to read the same genre as their novel while they are writing it?

Writers are taught to read a lot in order to help them with their writing.  And not just the same genre you wish to write – but anything and everything you can get your hands on.

I’m working on a fantasy novel right now, and to some extent I think my limited fantasy reading experience is an advantage because I’m aiming for something slightly different to what’s already out there.  However, should I be reading more fantasy novels while I am writing my novel?

On the one hand, it will help me learn from published fantasy writers, see what it is that made their works successful, get a feel for the nuances of the genre.  On the other hand, I’m afraid I’ll start subconsciously trying to emulate their writings – not just in style, but also plot and characters – and it will take me away from what I wanted to accomplish at the beginning.

Are there any writers out there who have any tips on what to do?

PS: the fantasy novels I have available to me right now are classics such as Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara Trilogy and Raymond E Feist’s Magician.



1. lawrenceez - February 6, 2009

Hi, I honestly believe you should read what you like when you like without any worries. There’s no strict rules of this matter as far as I know.

pacejmiller - February 6, 2009

Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I’m gonna stop worrying about it. The fantasy books are pretty far down the list of books I want to read anyway…

2. Darcy - February 6, 2009

If you are working on a genre novel (and one that you hope to sell one day) I’ve always felt as both a writer and someone in publishing that you should be reading anything you can get your hands on in that genre. Emulating is a danger, but it’s more important to grasp the market. This means reading the classics, reading what’s new, reading the fads, novels & short stories, -anything-. Because one day you’ll have to prove that you can not only write well, but why your book would be a successful property to acquire.

3. Matthew Ho - February 7, 2009

thats a very interesting question and i think i’d have to agree with Darcy. you have to know your craft and the industry, so you have to read what’s out there already in the fantasy genre world.

on the flipside, you have to stay independent in your thinking and creativity as well, and bring something new to the table. i think all great artists, professionals, athletes, etc.. saw what was out there, may have been inspired/emulated and then tried to improve it and and developed their own style and then take it to the next level.

4. TN - February 10, 2009

It depends on you I think.

I’ve heard some writers say they stay away from all books while they write, others say they read certain (other) genres but stay away from their own genre, and yet some others say they have no hesitation reading in their own genre.

I find that when I read other people’s work, it’s not only that I start emulating them, but I feel my own creativity is sapped.

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