I was thinking if is better or worst to read other works that share similar ideas to the story you want to write before you start it or while doing it.

Two quick answers comes to my mind:

  • Yes, do it! You're going to know what other authors did and how and at the end of the day, you will get a richer point of view and great influences.
  • No, get out! You're going to contamine your mind with other's ideas and it will be more and more difficult to write something purely out of your thoughts.

Some data you might find useful:

  • I'm trying to write some science fiction/hard sf/space opera, that kind of stuff.
  • 0 experience with writing but I've been feeling a need to write for the past several months.
  • It is strictly as a hobby. I do not pretend to be a writer.
  • I love reading everything.

Please feel free to ask for any information you consider crucial to give a precise answer. Also, it's my first question here so I will be glad if you can point me how to improve it.

  • 2
    If I were afraid that reading others' work could truly contaminate my original ideas, then, maybe, the real fear is that there is not much to start with...
    – NofP
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:58
  • 2
    Does "write something purely out of your thoughts" even exist? Jan 16, 2018 at 0:32

8 Answers 8


The approach I have taken is to be aware of that possibility - of becoming contaminated. I would argue -

  1. You want to be contaminated by good style.

  2. You want to write your own ideas in your own voice.

  3. You want to tell your story.

So - write your story. Read similar books alongside your effort, and maintain awareness of the effect of one activity on the other.

You will hopefully find that you can read good stories and see 'how' the author achieves a certain effect. For example, the simple sentence:

He remembered hiding in a cupboard as a child, every time his father was drunk

^^^ placed in the middle of an adult campaign of one sort or another - effectively communicates a wealth of information and emotion. This is a tool that one can learn from reading other authors.

It hadn't occurred to me to use a simple one-line memory like this in the middle of narrative about something else. Seeing it, and reading it as a writer, and recognizing the effect of that sentence on me as a reader, gives me a new tool.

That's the sort of thing you want from reading books. Not ideas, but ways to effectively communicate your ideas.

  • 2
    "Not ideas, but ways to effectively communicate your ideas." - I really liked that part. I will put it in practice, thanks!
    – Brugner
    Jan 15, 2018 at 11:01

This is a difficult question to answer, as, in my opinion, this is largely a matter of opinion. The short answer is to do both and see what works best for you.


If you feel that it will get harder to write if you read another similar book, then what I'd suggest would be to plan your story, then read similar books, or finish your story then read books to improve your language. Just try not to be stressed. ;)


My writing is pretty much a hobby too, but with the goal some day to have something publishable. Until then I keep writing and practicing. Maybe that will happen with you if you feel strongly about your ideas.

How clear are the story ideas in your head and how strong is the urge to write them down? If it is clear enough that you can see actual scenes, hear character dialogue, observe scenery and setting details, you may want to go ahead and write it down asap.

If you wait on it you risk losing or forgetting those ideas. I can't count how many scenes or story bits or even just random scenes, or even just random fragments I see in my head that I think I'll remember by the time I get to write them down, but then poof, they're gone.

Now if you have general ideas or scenes that keep coming to mind even if you don't write them down, go ahead and write those down too. I find that helps free my mind of some clutter and go onto the next set of scenes.

But if your idea is just a vague I want to write, but don't have a story in mind, then you may want to go ahead and read stuff first. You may get ideas for your story or you may not.

Either way reading other stories helps, but I find it very hard to do both when I have an active idea buzzing in my head. If that's how your mind works, then it may be a good idea (as suggested in one of the answers) get the framework/ outline of your story done first and then read other stuff when you're stuck, finished, or reached a pause.


Yeah, the second option you have suggested that: the other's thought may contaminate your original ideas. But sometimes it helps that whatever you are writing should not already be there.

So I would suggest kick-start your writing if you are enthusiastic reader go ahead start reading it may help to cook your ideas, it helps to find new words to express.

Go to some calm place think what you want to write, what you want to bring in front of the world, I tell you those external factors won't affect your writing, just be yourself.

Start with small stories share with your friends check if they like it, check if they can find out some flaws and get the inputs for improvement. If you want to be a professional writer.

As, I write my blog technical as well as some poems, quotes, real-time stories (In my regional language) So I could suggest this much.

All the best, just don't wait for what will happen just get your thoughts flow.


Personally, I would write a great deal before I ever read somebody else's work, specifically to ensure that what I write is NOT derivative or copied from somebody else.

I do not mean to finish a novel. I mean try to get the ideas you think are original in a file. If you have ideas of a plot, ideas for devices, ideas for characters, ideas for a setting, whatever it is.

Do that until you are exhausted. Not necessarily physically exhausted, just you find yourself with no new ideas. Or your only new ideas are tweaks to existing ideas, so you are circling the same camp again and again. When that happens, quit that, and then go read some books that might be similar.

There is no risk of contaminating your mind, you emptied that into a file, your original ideas are intact. But are you just going to rehash good stuff that has already been written about?

If your heroes, villains, story [plot] and setting and imaginary tech are all "more of the same" then maybe you want to proceed, or use it as impetus to come up with something more inspired. Or use it as an excuse to not try, you don't want to spend a few years writing and hear "This looks like a second-rate rip-off of Battlestar Galactica" or something like that.


In my experience: absolutely.

Back in 2016 I started writing (very slowly) an anime-inspired romantic dramedy about a 30-year-old NEET whose life has fallen apart. A few months ago I was alerted to the existence of Net-juu no Susume, a romcom anime about a 30-year-old NEET whose life has fallen apart. I marathonned it over the course of about a week, and I must say I enjoyed it, but I also did two things that I recommend you do as well:

  1. Look for differences. Reassure yourself that while your idea may be similar, it's different enough that it can stand on its own two feet and not be accused of being a rip-off. If you can't reassure yourself of this, then you may need to do some re-drafting.
  2. Look for weaknesses. What does the story do badly that you can improve on in your own work? For me, I felt that Net-juu no Susume's romance plot was cliché and predictable, bordering on contrived at times, and that it could have delved deeper into the MC's past and how she ended up like she did. If you think a story is similar to yours, then use it as a target and try and better it.
  • I'm not in the anime/manga stuff but I totaly understood your example, very helpful!
    – Brugner
    Jan 15, 2018 at 12:33

First Hand Knowledge

One main reason to read in the genre you want to write something - say young adults - is because you want to understand through direct knowledge what it is about that style that readers like, hence I would read the most popular. This has multiple benefits:

  • You get to find out where they can be improved. What is missing? Why do you think that could add more details
  • You get to find out what makes them great. What do fans like about the story? What do they think makes these the best of the genre?
  • At the worse case, you will find that you hate the genre.

I know some people are worried about polluting their ideas, but if you can answer two main questions: - How is my product different than some of the bigger names in the biz? - How is my product similar to some of the products in the biz?

I take as an example Digimon, which was pitched as a TV series rivaling Pokemon in the early 2000s. When the exec asked how it was different from Pokemon, the answer was It's exactly the same thing, but our stuff is in a computer world

I have no interest in writing young adult, my thing is Historical Fiction. By reading multiple authors with successful books, I have gained a few dos/don'ts and my own understanding of where they did not go far enough and when they become too specific. Chances are, if you enjoy a style and you read some, then you partake of something you enjoy...

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