I recently read a remark written by another author about how they don’t read other novels or stories in the same genre as what they write. This author made this decision for a few reasons. One, it was stemming from someone’s request that the author read their own un-published work. The author had to politely refuse, and I think most people, writer or not, would agree with that decision. It’s a good idea to keep from doing that, no matter who you are. It leads to the author’s second reason for not reading other novels in their genre.
Now this next one is tricky. Yes, when reading someone’s unpublished work, you could later run the risk of being accused of plagiarism. However, there are only so many ways to tell a story that all similarities are difficult to eliminate altogether. This, the author acknowledges as well. By not reading someone else’s work, you would avoid a lot of unconscious usage of terms or phrases. On the other hand, you may end up copying something without even being aware. And anyway, reading someone’s unpublished works can later lead to legal accusations of theft or plagiarism even if you write in different genres altogether.
Someone recently accused me of copying ideas from a certain popular trilogy and writing them into a semi-autobiographical romance series. It was not true but I can’t deny that the name of the male leads was the same and… Well, that’s about where the similarities end. 🙂 Obviously whatever else I wrote into the story was enough to highlight some thread between my story and the other one that this person felt compelled to point it out.
I think you could do that with just about any two novels or stories out there. Yes, settings may be different. Point in time, character names and even the genre might differ. But romances are romances. Adventure and mystery are adventure and mystery. You’d be hard pressed to find something brand new and totally original anywhere. That’s not to say you should just give up with writing completely, or reading, for that matter.
For me personally, I approach each new novel I read with an open mind. I don’t do it consciously but I crack a new book open, something I’ve never read before, and my mind is blank. Maybe that makes me sound like a simpleton, but it’s just that I treat every book as I do a new acquaintance. I don’t know anything about it, no matter what the blurb on the back says or all the reviews I come across. If I happen to find similarities between a new book and something else I’ve read, it’s because I haven’t completely lost myself in the new one. That’s my theory anyway.
Moving on, the final reason for not reading other works too similar to the author’s own – unpublished or otherwise – is because the author feels it can sometimes interfere with their own writer’s ‘voice.’ I can see their point with this, and yet, I can’t. Maybe it’s because my mind works differently and I’m able to shut off the writer part of me when I read, and vice versa. Maybe it’s because I’m just a different sort of writer altogether. I don’t know. Then again, I don’t think I’ve read much in the genres I’ve written in. I find it much more interesting to write those kinds of stories than to read them. Lucky for me, you all enjoy reading them, otherwise I’d be without any sort of audience. 🙂 So that’s a personal preference on my part. (Incidentally, I have read a series of hockey themed romances. I honestly can’t recall if I started reading them before or after I started my own. Either way, I don’t think those novels affected my own. My desire to write the hockey themed stories came from my own deep-rooted obsession with hockey. :D)
I don’t know. To me, saying that I can’t read in the same genre as my own writing is like an actor saying he’ll never watch a movie similar to his own. Do you think Kiera Knightley went her whole life or career without seeing another Pride and Prejudice adaptation? Or even beyond that, do you think action stars never watch each other’s movies? Or rom-com stars? Of course, any actor you talk to would say they’re not one type of actor or another. To me, the same applies to authors.
I don’t consider myself only a romance author. I know that’s primarily what I write but that’s just because that’s what I enjoy writing more than anything right now. I’ve dabbled in other genres in the past, and more recently, but have yet to write something without a touch of romance. Again, that’s just me. But I also don’t bar myself from reading other romance novels or stories.
I suppose everyone has their reasons and differences when it comes to writing and reading preferences. I have mine, as I’ve outlined many times in the past, and today. You all know what a voracious reader I am. I could no sooner limit what I read than I could with what I write. I suppose you do have to be careful not to let another author’s ‘voice’ encroach on your own. Whether or not you have to make a conscious effort to do that is each author’s individual struggle. Maybe if I read back through some of my work, I might find more similarities between what I’ve written and what I’ve read but that might be hard to pinpoint. And anyway, I’ll always have those 50 Shades fans to keep me honest. 😉
Take care and happy reading.