Monday, July 18, 2011

Sneaky Ways Reading Impacts Writing

A best-selling, mega-successful author finished her keynote speech, and though inspired, I scratched my head on one issue. Had she really just claimed she never reads fiction?

I've read enough blogs to know there are many writers who, due to the fear of emulating another author's voice, refuse to read the genre they write unless they are between projects. I also have met writers who never read the genre they write. We all have to find what works best for us.

As for me, I read as many books in my genre as I possibly can.

I read them when I'm working on a manuscript, between projects, at the beach, in the car as I wait for my kids to get out of school, at sports practices, and any other time I can squeeze out. I don't only read my genre; I also read classics, non-fiction, and magazines.

Reading helps my writing. I'm currently two-thirds through Kaye Dacus's Love Remains, and it's helped my current WIP in several areas.

1. The tone and characterization are similar to my book, which reassures me that what I write is marketable.
2. Her use of secondary characters helped me utilize one of my critique partner's suggestions as painlessly as possible.
3. She introduces new, surprise conflicts as the book progresses. I'm not always confident I'm springing a new conflict properly, and by analyzing how she hinted at them, I've gotten ideas on how to ensure mine make sense.
4. Kaye's book features clear religious themes and prayer. Not all Christian contemporary romances show a character praying or worshipping. My book does. Again, reassuring that I'm on the right track.

In the past year, the following authors have taught me better writing techniques and they don't even know it. They taught me by being excellent writers. Their books wormed their way into my heart, and I couldn't help but analyze how they did what they did.

*in no particular order*
Jenny B. Jones
Sarah Sundin
Denise Hunter
Jody Hedlund
Kathryn Springer
Laura Frantz
Susan May Warren
Robin Jones Gunn
Jillian Hart

The list could go on! I can't imagine not reading the genre I write. In fact, two more books are staring at me from the coffee table. :)

What author's books has had an impact on your writing?

Have a great Monday!


  1. Too many to count. Even reading outside of genre I sometimes find tricks and skills that help me. I'll read MG and YA but all different genres. So I stay within what I write but not always the same kind of book.

  2. I agree with you, Jill. Reading always impacts my writing. Even when I read something I'm not a fan of, it shows me what not to do in my own writing. I can't imagine not reading! I mostly choose to read in my genre (fiction), but I also read a lot of non-fiction and poetry. There are so many good books out there...not reading isn't an option. =) Thanks!

    -Miss GOP

  3. I can't imagine not reading fiction. How can someone hope to sell a product without supporting the industry where that product is sold?

  4. You know something I've been thinking about lately....I don't read much romance. Is that not crazy?? I mean, don't get me wrong. I read fiction. But I don't necessarily read romance. Maybe I need to do better about searching for it.

    I love Jenny B Jones and Rachel Hauck....but I also read a lot of women's fiction and book club type fiction.

    I do read historical romance, but that doesn't really count b/c it's not my genre. It's just weird that I'm not more intentional about reading contemporary romance novels.

    Now that I've admitted to this...I'll have to look up some of the authors you listed above. :)

  5. What an excellent point! The influence a book can have on us without our knowing!!!

    I read all over the map, but I especially like the genre I write in. Carla Stewart, Sharon Souza, Gina Holmes, Elizabeth Berg all write books I identify with. I love their writing and learn heaps from it!

    ~ Wendy

  6. I have an entire series going on over at my blog on authors who have influenced me. Lloyd Alexander is the biggest; I see his influence in almost every YA fantasy I write. CS Lewis, of course, for the classic fantasy, and anytime I get stuck in my current WIP, incorporating magic into 1920s England, I turn to Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer in hopes of picking up some tips on digging myself out of my plot holes. I cannot IMAGINE trying to write without reading, both in my chosen genre and outside. But then, I can't imagine living without reading, either!

  7. I read all the time. I can't imagine not reading. Though I love my genre, I don't concentrate solely on historical romance for reading pleasure. I love mysteries and thrillers and have bookshelves of them filling the house.

  8. Earlier this summer, I read Jody Hedlund's - The Preacher's Bride.

    I loved the writing. I don't always love the writing in a novel...mostly I love the story. With The Preacher's Bride, I loved both.

  9. Great post. My current WIP was inspired (in part) by JD Robb's writing. But, I agree with you, that inspiration can come from many different types of writing. I was reading Toni Morrison's "Beloved" and noted how she used an extended metaphor at one point in her story. I LOVED it...and did the same thing in my book even though she writes literary fiction and I write thrillers! Still, good writing is good writing is good writing.

  10. I read all over the place, but the writing I am most inspired by or that impacts my writing is Frank Peretti.

  11. So. Many.

    Some of that resemble my style and genre are:
    Nicole Baart
    Joshilyn Jackson
    Gina Holmes
    Christa Allan
    Ginny Yttrup

    I will never stop reading- its the inspiration that lead me to writing in the first place:)

  12. I'm with you on this one. I love reading, and don't stop reading for sheer pleasure when I'm writing. It's such a potent force that this issue became part of my latest novel: a bookish heroine who finds reading impacts everywhere on her life and imagination.

  13. I always wondered about those people who say they're voice changes depending on what they're reading. How can your voice change? It's you! I guess that's just me though. I read in my genre all the time too. When I write, I'm not thinking about the stories of someone else, but my own. I think maybe I get a little TOO focused. (My husband will attest...)

  14. I read my genre (historical fiction) plus others. Novels contain a mix of different elements, so I find it helpful and entertaining to read across the board. The authors that influence me are Deanne Gist, Cecelia Dowdy, Frank Peretti, Marylu Tyndall, and Ted Dekker.

  15. I'm like you, Jill, I try to read everything I can in my genre. And yes, I also read out of my genre as well. A couple of authors whose novels found a place in my heart:
    Francine Rivers and Sharon Creech.


  16. I read every waking minute I'm not doing other stuff. And whenvim not reading I'm listening to audiobooks. And when I'm doing neither of those, I'm listening to folks talk.. To see how and what is said.. I am a curious person at all times.

  17. Yes. reading influences writing. Undoubtedly. People who say differently are non-writers, writers with a sharp sense of humor, or writers who are deathly afraid of getting caught plagiarizing.

  18. Wow, everyone! Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments. I've been under-the-weather the last two days, and I really appreciate pulling my head off the couch and finding so many writers share my love of reading.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  19. I can't imagine NOT reading. It was the first thing my writing professors taught me in college and I still feel it is ESSENTIAL to developing my craft.

    In fact, reading books in my genre is listed in my current goals. Over the past two months I've read three family sagas. I feel it will only help me better understand the genre. (The only difficulty is family saga books are usually 600 pages or more, so are quite time consuming.)

    I say read. Read. Read.

  20. I love that your book has people praying and worshipping. That's the kind of Christian book I have been looking for. It seems that my experience has characters being too perfect and too self-sacrificing. Those are good traits,but I'd like to see an imperfect person who loves The Lord fall into circumstances that help her get it right, and also to know she is beloved in the process.

  21. When I first started writing, everything I wrote was a blatant copy of books I had read (I was eight). Eventually, I started to find my own creativity and my own voice. I've often wondered whether to read fiction while I'm writing. I have a friend who doesn't. But then, she knocks off a first draft in a month ;-) Probably all that time spent not reading.

    I just found your blog via twitter, and I've added you to my blogroll. Thanks for your article on thriving while unpublished. It is what I needed to read!


  22. I am totally with you! I have no idea how people write without reading. It doesn't work for me.

  23. I hear you on that. There are just so many influences that you can draw upon. I give myself a pause on reading when I'm in the writing phase but when it comes to edits or revisions I'll dive in headfirst with some of the masters works for today. Helps keep focus and even better ideas on presentation.

  24. Jill, I'm sorry to hear you haven't been feeling well...hope it's better now.

    I'm careful about what I read, but not because I'm afraid it will influence my voice. It's because time is scarce, and I want what I read to inspire me and help me as a writer. In general, then, I want to read the work of writers who are good with prose style. They help me aspire to high quality. I also like to read actual nineteenth-century works because they keep me immersed in the diction of the time.


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