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Should You Read While You Write?

There are virtually no rules that work for every single writer. So it’s no surprise to hear from my fellow writer friends that everyone has slightly different rules about whether, and what, to read while they’re working on their own books.

Some writers have a hard-and-fast no reading while writing rule; some even include research in that prohibition. They read and read and research. Then they stop, and the drafting begins.

Some fiction writers don’t read any fiction whatsoever while they’re drafting. Stay and Why Can’t I Be You author Allie Larkin [1] says she focuses on reading only nonfiction “when I’m working on the first draft or big draft restructuring. Often it’s directly or tangentially related to what I’m working on, but sometimes it’s just entertainment. I binge on fiction between drafts and when the work in front of me is less consuming. But I avoid anything similar to the dynamics of my book because I don’t want to limit myself.”

Others are happy to read for enjoyment during the drafting process as long as the book isn’t in their genre. Historical fiction authors avoid historical fiction, thriller writers read non-thrillers, and so forth. The reasons behind this seem self-evident.

The definition of “reading” also matters here, as multiple authors mentioned that they preferred audiobook. As Therese Walsh [2] puts it, “I tend to listen to audiobooks more when I’m writing, only because I crave time away from the written word and for my eyes to rest.”

Me? I pretty much read everything all the time. I do have two guidelines that could be considered rules:

Do you have your own rules for reading while you write? What are they?

About Greer Macallister [4]

Greer Macallister's debut novel THE MAGICIAN'S LIE was an Indie Next pick, Target Book Club selection, and a USA Today bestseller, and has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain's Freckle Films. Her novel GIRL IN DISGUISE, about pioneering private investigator Kate Warne, received a starred review from PW, which called it "a well-told, superb story." Her next novel WOMAN 99 is forthcoming from Sourcebooks in March 2019.