Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What to Read When You're Writing

I got a delightful email today from Heather Ashby, a fellow Firebird. She's reading Love in Reality and enjoying it. "It's a lovely oasis between writing/tweaking/polishing my own manuscripts..."

The best thing about Heather's compliment is that I know exactly what she means--not all books "work" as relief when you're knee-deep in your own stories. When you find something that provides that added bit of relaxation, well, it's a good thing.

I'm madly trying to get to "The End" on The Cost of Happiness, Book 2 of The Blackjack Quartet. but I have a cold so I really want something comforting to read when I tumble into bed, exhausted. I don't want what I'm reading to distract or derail me from my own characters or their story.

Which prompts this question: What do you read when you're on deadline, trying to finish a book? What you read while you're writing can make a difference, so you need to pick carefully.

For example, it would be good to match up the heat level. Reading erotica when you're writing relatively euphemistic love scenes can be tricky. (I assume the converse is also true: if one writes erotica, that might not be the time to glom onto YA romances.)

But can you pair up different genres? I've discovered that I can. So, even though my books are contemporary romances about Philadelphia lawyers, certain historical romance novels work very well.

In fact, for me, the current perfect fit is Mary Balogh, because she specializes in letting the reader into the characters' internal thoughts and feelings.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips once announced in a workshop that--unless you were Mary Balogh--you shouldn't attempt the internal monologue. Well, I'm not Mary Balogh, but I can't write characters without including what they're thinking and feeling, even in third person point-of-view.

So Balogh's Regency romances work well as comfort reads while I'm writing. Apart from our shared love of the internal monologue, there's precious little else my books have in common with hers. All the same, I strive to accomplish the same angsty goodness through those glimpses into my characters' thoughts and feelings. I think my current Balogh marathon is helping.

I wonder if this works for writers working in other genres? Would my classmates writing epic fantasy find that reading drawing room mysteries (Sherlock Holmes or Dorothy Sayers) helped them convey that intricate world of multiple characters? If you write horror, would there be synergy reading memoirs by individuals who've seen the worst and lived to tell about it?

Oh--I know: If you're writing about zombies, why not read books by food critics! (Yum! Brains!)

What do you read when you're writing?