Do you read other writers’ fiction while you’re working on your own?
This topic has come up a number of times on conference panels I’ve either attended or been on, and the general response seems overwhelmingly to favor: no. (Or: NO!!!)
The usual justification I hear is that having another author’s voice in your head gets in the way of clearly hearing your own.
My response to that has usually been that I manage to palette-cleanse all intrusive voices by going over whatever I’ve written the day before and revising it before starting anything new.
But I’ve just finished my most recent novel over Christmas vacation in Norway, and had the time as well (given long nights and inclement weather) to read three other books, two novels and one combat memoir. Not only did they help stimulate my brain in terms of language, pacing, concept, and more, they encouraged me to higher levels of execution, more demanding self-scrutiny, for the three books I picked were by writers I admire, whose skill and technique far outpace my own, and whose work arguably puts mine in the shade.
Why would I do that to myself? Would you?