I’m sure we can all agree on something: reading slumps suck. And at some point, they’re kind of embarrassing, right? I mean, we’re readers. Reading is what we do.
It’s not just one of our favorite pastimes, it’s a sort of identifier. We gravitate toward other people at parties who are talking about the most amazing book they just read (assuming we’ve been dragged to a party, because we’ve been in our homes reading too much and our friends are worried about our health, obviously). We sometimes decide we want to be writers, to create books that we aren’t currently reading but would want to. We make lists about books we can’t wait to read, and we have a TBR list so long we’ll never be able to complete it.
What about when you can’t, though? That’s where I’m at.
Technically can’t isn’t the right word. I could. I’m not incapable of picking up a fiction book, per se. But I’m on a sabbatical from fiction.
A forced reading slump.
And let me tell you, it sucks.
You might be thinking, if something sucks so much, why would you bother doing it?
And I’m so glad you thought-asked that!
When I’m in the middle-to-late stages of a first draft, I stop reading fiction. For one, it’s a good motivator. I love reading. I want to have a new book on my bedside table, always. I want to jump into another universe, I want to be best friends with the main character and absolutely hate the villain (or sometimes, the reverse!), and I want to feel that itch when you have to put the book down even though you just finished the most amazing chapter and you’re counting down seconds until you can pick it back up again.
Basically, I want to read a story so bad it propels me to complete my first drafts faster.
For another, I do it so I’m not swayed by the voice of whoever I’m reading at the time.
And while this doesn’t affect every writer out there, I’m certainly not alone. The Sunday Book Review at the New York Times has addressed this, at least once. This question appears often on all sorts of writing forums.
The issue of voice-bleed-over isn’t something I worry about during the entirety of a novel I’m writing, but a very specific part. The part where you’re about 75-90% of the way done, and you’re starting to feel a little self-conscious about what you’ve written. When you’re so ready to be done, to type THE END, and are plowing through the story as quickly as possible.
For me, this means I’ve been without a novel for two and a half weeks. TWO AND A HALF WEEKS. And undoubtedly it will be three. I have five chapters left until THE END in my superhero story, and then I will be starting on The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh!
(While I may take a break from fiction, I don’t from non-fiction! I recently finished Amy Schumer’s new book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s obviously as hilarious as she is, but it also made me cry in an airport, so it has that going for it, too.)
Let’s talk! What do you think of voice-bleed-over? Issue or non-issue for you? When was the last time you were in a reading slump, and how did you get yourself out of it?