Reading with an agenda

Can I make a confession? There's one thing I'm not liking about being an aspiring writer. It's muddied my enjoyment as a reader a bit. I once wrote a post defending the readers right to enjoyment, but if you are a writer, reading is not purely about enjoyment any more which is ironic since love of reading is likely what led you to writing in the first place.

Reading can become something you do to study, study what makes some books great and what doesn't. To understand what people are reading and why. To discover what's new in the marketplace. To try to find where you fit in the publishing world.

I like to study, to dissect books.  I loved writing papers about literature in school.  But I also like to be swept away when I read and just let it take me somewhere without this sort of observer always peering over my shoulder saying things like "Now the reason this characters is so compelling is..." and "Wow, I can't believe they put so much backstory in the first chapter, I thought everyone said not to do that!".

I struggled a bit lately with exactly what to read. One side of me wants to read whatever tickles my fancy. It could be mystery, YA, fantasy, women's fiction, literary fiction, sci-fi, and even nonfiction. But the writing side of me tells me I should be reading in my genre. Even though I struggle to define my genre,  the writing side of me lectures myself when I pick up YA book or a mystery because I know I have no plans to write in those genres. I like to tell myself I can still learn from them and I think I can, but I know I'm lacking that laser focus area of expertise on my genre that a lot of industry professionals would advocate.

Sigh. What's an omnivorous reader to do?


  1. It is all about balance. I think that a writer that reads all kinds of books makes for a better writer.

    If you only read books just to analyze them then you risk losing a very important perspective... the perspective of book lovers that will eventually read your book. They aren't calculating character development and plot lines. No, they are in tune with the fun, exciting feeling of racing home to read a book that they have been thinking about all day.

    So my advice would be to read anything that sparks your interest regardless of genre. That will keep your spirit and creative juices flowing. The rest will work itself out.

  2. I, too, like to write....but I find it has not diminished my joy of reading. I read everything....and anything that catches my fancy. I do notice style more now than I did before...and I do believe it has helped my writing.

    So....just keep on reading and keep on writing.


  3. That is a hard one. I like to read in a lot of random genres but I really like to write nonfiction. I've really interested in fiction lately and am just going with it. I think that the stories/novels I am choosing can get my wheels turning. Happy reading.

  4. I say read what you want, and don't feel guilty about it. Think of it like driving a car: If you can't lift your eyes from the speedometer, you aren't going to drive very well. :)

    The novel I'm writing is hard to categorize, too. But the more varied my reading selections, the more random bits of inspiration I find. I just read a mystery, a sci-fi book, and three novels I first read 10 years ago. And then there are the stacks of fiction and non-fiction books hovering near my desk.

    Keep on reading AND writing! I look forward to reading more about your adventures with both. :)