No Reading Fiction While Working!

Here’s something I picked up while reading a quick, great interview with Paul Auster, the American writer. It seems Auster will NOT read fiction when he’s writing fiction:0115-BKS-ByTheBook-blog_Auster

What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid when writing?

No fiction while working on a novel — only after I’m done and before I’ve started something new — but poetry, history and biographies are acceptable, along with books to help me research various things related to the book I’m writing…

Now, you all know I’m always looking for ways to lift my writing game. I’ve thought this way for a long time. I’ve always been reticent to read other folks’ stuff while writing my own stuff in the fear that it might subconsciously affect my writing style. And sometimes the style of a writer is so strong—think Poe or Cormac McCarthy—that you can’t imagine it not affecting your writing. (That McCarthy—what a  style, too!)

So, going forward, I’m going to follow Auster’s advice on this one: no more reading fiction while I’m on a writing project. I’m going to save that for the time between projects. The only exception of course, which would be rare, would be for reading fiction as research for my piece. That will be exceptionally rare. And, as Auster notes, history, biography, non-fiction are still OK.

Bam, another small tweak to my writing process and a good one. I’d be curious to know if any of you writers out there have recently tweaked your writing process to help you focus/perform better. Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below. Thanks! 

See you next time,


7 thoughts on “No Reading Fiction While Working!

  1. If I didn’t read fiction while writing fiction, I wouldn’t be able to… ever… read… anymore. At least not for multiple years, as that’s how my novels roll, ha. Not reading fiction would make me way too sad, plus I disagree with the philosophy. I think we all developed our styles by absorbing elements of writers we’ve loved and then adding our own flair, and I think that’s a great thing. I might even pick certain books deliberately in order to help me nail the tone I’m going for. I can understand avoiding a *particular* author because their voice is so strong and recognizable, and you don’t want to sound exactly like one person. But I would never avoid fiction altogether.


    1. I’m not saying to avoid fiction always. I couldn’t do that either. But I think putting it down while I’m writing a new piece helps me concentrate and focus a bit better on what I write. And I do think that everyone needs to find and follow what works best for them. Period.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I avoided fiction while writing the first half of my novel-in-the-works. Then, the book on my bedside caught me with its charms and I’ve since been a less productive writer. Is this due to reading fiction? No, there are a host of other factors. Still, reading fiction is yet another activity that can distract from writing. Also, I find that reading a particular book while writing can color what we put onto the page, which is dangerous. Great post!


  3. I can’t say I agree with Aster, but each to their own, and since his publishing record is impressive, to say the least. I’ll go with the old cliché, ‘each to their own.’ Nice post. Good luck with your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find, when I write, my mind empties itself of words after about 5,000, and I have to physically stop and then sort of ‘load up’ again by reading (fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter which). Everyone has their own way of writing, and the hard part is finding which way works best for you. I’ve followed advice from other writers about the best way of writing before and the only piece of advice which has really stood the test of time is ‘write something every day’.


  5. sortitaht,

    Totally agree. You need to find what works for you and stick to it. If reading fiction works for you, do it! And yeah, you can’t go wrong by writing every day. To a great extent, we are our habits. If you want to see your writing (or any other skill) improve, doing it every day is the right path. Stick to it!


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