Reading the same genre while writing: good or bad?

February 6, 2009 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

Here’s a dilemma I’ve been wrestling with.  Is it a good idea for a writer to read the same genre as their novel while they are writing it?

Writers are taught to read a lot in order to help them with their writing.  And not just the same genre you wish to write – but anything and everything you can get your hands on.

I’m working on a fantasy novel right now, and to some extent I think my limited fantasy reading experience is an advantage because I’m aiming for something slightly different to what’s already out there.  However, should I be reading more fantasy novels while I am writing my novel?

On the one hand, it will help me learn from published fantasy writers, see what it is that made their works successful, get a feel for the nuances of the genre.  On the other hand, I’m afraid I’ll start subconsciously trying to emulate their writings – not just in style, but also plot and characters – and it will take me away from what I wanted to accomplish at the beginning.

Are there any writers out there who have any tips on what to do?

PS: the fantasy novels I have available to me right now are classics such as Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara Trilogy and Raymond E Feist’s Magician.