Dear Writer Guy,
I’ve heard that it is important to continue reading even though you are constantly short on writing time. How do you balance the two? Do you read in the genre you write in? Do you also read adult stuff?
Alice in Missouri
As the novelist John Irving said, “I learned to be a writer from reading.” This is as true of me as it is of any writer I’ve met. The more you read, the more you absorb different ways of telling stories — which in turn helps you tell your own stories.
I try to feed my mind with a variety of different types of books, different voices. I’ll read the occasional nonfiction title (mostly biographies), but I favor fiction. And within fiction, I range widely. Rather than exclusively reading within the genres I usually write in (picture books, middle grade, mysteries), I read across genres. Fantasy and historical fiction. Real-life tales. Both adult and children’s books; both literary fiction and trashy beach reads. Everything is grist for the mill.
Yes, I like to know what other writers are doing within my genre, but to keep my viewpoint fresh, I read more outside my genre — adult mysteries, for example, rather than juvenile mysteries. We’re all solving some of the same problems within genre writing, but some adult authors may take a different approach that I can learn from.
As to the time-for-reading challenge, I feel it too. I deal with it by reading during my scraps of downtime — at meals, waiting at the doctor’s office, when I’m done with work for the day. Even ten minutes’ reading over lunch can help.
As Stephen King put it, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Can’t argue with the King.