[BT/WT] Why I don’t Read while I Revise

[SCC] Update: Currently revising Chapter 24. Now onward to the post!

Writers.

We’ve got to read often, read as much as possible, and read a wide variety as well. Some of us will spend hours reading, finishing a book in a day or two, maybe longer depending on reading speed and the length of the book. Others will read in bursts through the day–minutes before a class, on a train/bus commute, while in line, waiting for an appointment, while the kids are asleep. Some will read while they do other things–while running on a treadmill, in the shower or during a bath, as they cook (I just prop my book open on the spice rack). Either ways, we have to get some reading time in almost everyday.

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Especially if I have my headphones on. Just…please don’t interrupt the movie inside my head. Please…unless you’ve read the book and would like to discuss something, then we’ll be best friends, even if we don’t agree on things.

I’m the latter types of reader (oh, there are so many more types, I just listed 3). Especially during the academic year when I’m kind of forced to prioritize my readings for classes (also I’m an English major with a creative writing concentration), I don’t get the luxury to sit down for a few hours to read every night. I don’t think any person in college does to be honest. Academics will shove itself in your face no matter what major you are.

Anyway! I do have a lot of time between classes or while I wait for things to happen. If I don’t decide to get ahead with readings for class, I’ll read an e-book on my phone or listen to an audiobook, or whatever book I happen to have stashed in my backpack.

During the summer, I’m the first reader mentioned. I get home from work, change into pajamas, grab a book, snacks, and drink, and head over to my reading chair beside the window and read for a few hours. That is the life I would love to have…even if I become a hobo. Give me books and I’m okay living in a box…or beneath the bridge…or in the park.

Now, when I write, I keep my academic reading pattern (read in small bursts). A little less because I have to make room to write in these bursts moments as well, but I do get some reading done.

On the other hand, when I revise my writing all books stay shut (unless I have to read for class) until I’m done revising. And why do I not read while I revise?

It’s rooted in the power of influence.

During the initial drafts of my book (meaning like 3-4 years ago), I’d maintain my reading pattern, which was a lot more reading than I do now. They were the days of high school where I did homework for an hour after school and was free to do whatever afterwards, which often involved reading and writing nonstop. I read a lot of YA fantasy and paranormal romance stuff because that was the genre my book would be in. They followed similar concepts I was working with and decided reading more of what I wanted to write would help. And it totally did as I was writing.

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Guilty of having read all of these and at least 10 other series. I binged a lot of series.

But then I’d get to revising and would still read these books, and suddenly there’s a plot device or concept one author uses that I want to implement in my work, but doing so would open up this gaping hole in the plot. I was like, “Screw it! I’m in the revising stage anyway!” The saying goes, “There is no such thing is good writing. Only good rewriting.” And this quote has many variants and is attributed to a whole lot of different people. But the point is, writing is the act of transcribing the foundation of the story; rewriting is building and refining that foundation for a strong story (I make a lot of foundation allusions now that I think about it).

So I wasn’t technically all wrong in thinking, “Screw it! I’m in the revising stage anyway” when I decided to implement these ideas (remixed and made my own of course). The problem was that, like I said, the implementation left gapping holes in the plot that were almost irreversible. Sometimes the ideas were contradictory. once I “patched” up one plot hole, three more tore open and suddenly the whole story falls apart that my only option was to scrap everything and start from scratched. But only after I’ve spent at least a few weeks plotting out how to properly implement the idea. And sometimes, it would be a SINGLE idea that would make everything explode.

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I have nightmares about my story’s plot holes. Seriously. I wake up in the middle of the night and try to fix them sometimes.

This happened to me 3 times in the past years, and I don’t even remember the titles of books I’ve read that caused me to want to rewrite everything. I just did it.

Looking back this, none of the things I forced into the story even made it into my draft now. But I have no regrets. All those previous drafts have allowed me to practice writing and get a feel for what my story is supposed to be about. I experimented with all those past drafts and now I’ve gotten to one I’m really loving.

I may be the only person out there who doesn’t read other material while revising, or I may be one of many out there. The point is, if you’re like me (someone who shuts books out white revising), don’t feel bad about it. For a long time this year I felt terrible because I wasn’t reading as much as I used to be while in high school, but then I started looking back at all this and realized I’m doing myself a favor. It’s just who I am as a writer, and not all writers are the same. The writing process isn’t set in stone, nor are there specific rules to it either. It’s a subjective experience that’s different for every writer.

There you have it folks! My attempt to make myself feel better for not reading so much as I write and revise. But seriously, if reading becomes hard to squeeze into your writing life, don’t sweat. Do what you have to do and read whenever you feel comfortable reading or when you want to take a break. I’m not saying stop reading all together, but don’t force yourself to read either. Reading shouldn’t be laborious or something you dread having to do, but something you turn to to relax and enjoy yourself (but do stress over writing, because it’s writing and that’s never not stressful–good and bad stress vibes all around).

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This kid’s my spirit animal. Don’t let my calm demeanor fool you.

Avandeash & keep writing [& reading]!

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Johene Pauline

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