Reading While Writing

The first few years that I was writing, I was convinced that if I read novels while actively writing my own, the styles of those already-published novels would somehow leak into my writing, making it unauthentic. I saved reading as a reward for completing drafts and would binge for several weeks, gobbling up the stories I’d pushed aside while pouring out words of my own.

I’m not sure when I changed my way of thinking, but I think I realized that I’m happier when I’m reading, and since I do all my writing in the morning, that leaves plenty of time in my day for reading as well. Seems simple enough, but I still sometimes worry that I’ll hijack my book-de-jour’s style and my novel will end up a mish-mash of other people’s writing.

This summer I’m tackling a complete rewrite of a novel I wrote in 2008 – something I’ve never done. With each novel I try to find a way to challenge myself, so restructuring a novel that was written as women’s fiction with 3 POVs (points of view) to young adult with 2 POVs is my challenge this time around. I’ve written a few notes about major changes, then started reading the book that’s been “trunked” since 2010 (when I stopped querying and wrote Flicker). As you can see from the picture below, I’m six chapters in. I’m enjoying it more than I expected, but the amount of work ahead of me has kept me from getting into it.

Last night I told Jeremy that I know I should be reading my manuscript, but I really wanted to read one of the new releases sitting patiently on my TBR pile. “How long will it take you to read the other book?” he asked. I replied, “a couple days,” and he gave me the green light. I dove into Darcy Woods’ SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS (OMG I’m loving it so much!) and just as I was falling asleep, the perfect new beginning to my own novel played through my head. As I recited the lines, I argued with myself that yes, I could recapture the comfortable position I was in. I just needed to get up for a few minutes. The winning argument that finally got me out of bed: WHAT IF YOU FORGET IN THE MORNING?

I got up, scribbled a page of notes, then brought the notebook back to the bedroom because once the faucet opens, the ideas are hard to turn off. This morning I typed up my notes as the official start to my new outline. I feel like I’ve advanced to the level 2 writer: she who can read and write at the same time.

Reading While Writing

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. Jennifer L

    Though I am not a writer, I can totally understand your thoughts and concerns here. I often wonder how musicians write new songs, also, without starting to copy another tune or lyrics. It seems all the ideas have been taken! Keep up the good work, Melanie! Can’t wait to read your next book. Oh, and sorry I missed the goat (and you, of course) – I love those little cuties!

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