Reader Friday: Did Your #Reading Habits Change?

The pandemic changed the reading and/or writing habits for many.

Some readers stopped reading anything too real or violent and turned to lighter storylines, or at least stories with a HEA or uplifting ending.

Some writers couldn’t inflict as much pain, emotional and/or physical. Other readers and writers didn’t change a thing.

Did anything change in your reading and/or writing habits? Please explain.

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About Sue Coletta

Member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and ITW, Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer of psychological thrillers (Tirgearr Publishing) and true crime/narrative nonfiction (Globe Pequot, trade division of Rowman & Littlefield). Feedspot & Expertido.org honored Sue's blog with the Top 100 Crime Blogs on the Net award (Murder Blog sits at #5). And recently, she appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion. Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com

53 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Did Your #Reading Habits Change?

  1. Good morning, and thanks for asking, Sue. I must be the luckiest guy on Earth. I just write what the characters give me.

    In the past two months alone I’ve been from a generation ship in the 24th century to a habitable planet, met an alien who enabled a time jump, and watched as colonists established a community a billion billion miles away from this silly little rock with its infestation.

    Back on Earth, I’ve watched a young western marshal make the fateful decision to step through a time portal and learn things most humans don’t know, and I’ve joined an old friend, a Texas Ranger, riding wild on a good horse in a just cause.

    Of course, in reality I’m a lesser player, a Recorder, really, living vicariously. I race through the story with the characters, trying to keep up,and recording the story that they, not I, are living. It’s a great gig. I’m happy they invited me along, and not so much as a sneeze in sight unless it was caused by dust wafting up from the trail.

    +6
  2. Sue! That’s a great question to start the morning and the weekend. I was going to say “no” but on reflection I returned to one of my “go-to” genres: horror. I wonder why?

    Have a great weekend, Sue.

    +5
  3. Covid didn’t change my reading habit…I still read everything, including the backs of cereal boxes. But writing was much harder as evidenced by the story I’m doing edits on, fixing major blunders. Good question for today!

    +3
    • Haha. I wonder who writes the backs of cereal boxes. They’re certainly well read. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I found writing harder, too. I wound up writing one of the best thrillers of my career, but boy, I bled for every word.

      +3
  4. My reading habits changed but not due to content. While I grew to love working from home after the first 4-5 months of equipment nightmares, all my interactions are virtual now. All my meetings, even all my extracurricular stuff like the art league, writers groups, etc. I read books on Kindle due to being able to adjust the font, but by the time I spend all day on the screen, I have little desire to pick up my e-reader. So I’ve read a lot less this year.

    +2
    • Same thing happened to me, Brenda. By the end of the day my eyeballs feel like they’re bleeding. The last thing I want to do is read on a screen. But I missed reading for fun. So, I ended up setting my Kindle to night-mode to reduce the glare.

      +3
  5. Slightly to both. I set aside a book that began with brutal execution murders–too close to the news. I didn’t enjoy one where a character was a thinly disguised version of the then current president. I prefer to escape when I read, and about the only pandemic reference I didn’t mind was at the end of Ocean Prey where Lucas wants to take a trip, and his doctor wife says she’s not sure they can because there’s a lot of talk around the hospital about a new virus that could be nasty.
    My writing shifted a little. I didn’t want to put my characters through life-or-death situations, but there are plenty of other conflicts out there. And I didn’t want to turn Mapleton into Cabot Cove.

    +4
  6. Work keeps me busy and down time is rare so I don’t read or write as much as I used to. I always have an audio book going during my commute.

    I just looked at my book log and I actually read more than I thought (30 by the end of April, when I quit writing them down).

    My goal this year is to finish my in-progress projects and declutter the house.

    +2
  7. My friends have sworn off darker TV, movies, and books. My content hasn’t really changed, but very little holds my attention for long. I review everything I read, and, last year, I read a quarter of what I read two years ago. Very sad for a bookaholic. The human voice stories on YouTube are my go-to. Again, not surprising, since I’ve been stuck at home alone for so long.

    +3
    • I had the attention problem, too, for a while, Marilynn. I think many of us did. Love the crow videos you sent me! Thanks again.

      +2
  8. My reading preferences have always fluctuated, but as I have grown older and have watched too many loved ones pass away, experienced too much violence (personally via and abusive ex-husband) and then all the upheaval in our country, I’ve shied away from the gritter novels, but I like my fluff with a little vinegar, thank you.

    As far as writing, the pandemic didn’t slow me down much except for a when I nearly lost my current husband to Covid 19 pneumonia and then becoming ill myself. I didn’t write or read much during that two month period. But, we recovered, and I’m back to my usual, reading a book every one to two days and writing daily. Nearly done with my first draft on my current book.

    +6
    • Wow, where to begin… {{{hugs}} for your past experiences. I can relate. Oddly, it made me want to murder characters in unspeakable ways. LOL I’m so sorry you and your hubby were so ill, but I’m thrilled you’re both past it and doing well now. A book every day or two? Awesome! I wish I had that superpower. Alas, I’m a slow reader. Sigh.

      +2
      • Of course, all those past experiences helped me with my writing. I have a roll model for my bad guys and get to bring them to justice in a myriad of interesting ways. Hee hee

        Also, I can understand my characters better when I throw them into different situations. So, all’s good. ***Grin***

        +1
  9. I went back to reading a lot of classic, hard-boiled PI pulp, preferring the clarity of theme and justice meted out upon the wicked. Avoided angsty fiction like the…ahem…plague.

    +6
    • I can see how classic, hardboiled pulp would be a great distraction from real life. Thanks for playing, Jim. Hope you enjoy your weekend!

      +1
  10. Nothing much changed for me as far as writing. It seemed like it was easier to avoid the news overload syndrome, though. News, during the last year and a half, has been like a soap opera. If you miss a week or two, then tune in, nothing much has changed . . . the main characters are still yelling at each other, not listening, and generally stirring the pot, doing their best to do nothing.

    Reading? I gravitated more to uplifting fare, and have avoided stories of gritty realism. Get enough of that just waking up in the morning, or the middle of the night, as the case may be.

    +2
    • Exactly, Deb. I felt the same way for most of the last year plus. I even read fantasy, and really enjoyed it, which surprised me. I’m just getting back to more grittier novels and true crime. Feels amazing to be back. ๐Ÿ™‚

      +3
      • Hurrah for enjoying fantasy, Sue! (It’s my genre of choice, so I have a vested interest. Haha!) I’m sorry it had to be under such dire circumstances, but I’m glad you found it to be an enjoyable change of pace!

        +2
  11. Sue and everyone, good weekend! During โ€œlockdownโ€ I read and wrote shorter fiction BC of poor attention span. Stress-related, Iโ€™m sure. I wanted quick hits of satisfaction. I also gravitated toward good punchy writing, positive themesโ€”โ€œnormalโ€ lives and twisty logical mystery stories with heart. Itโ€™s what I write, after all!
    In January began writing a fire investigator mystery, darker than my usual fiction, but with โ€œhappyโ€ glimmers. I think it was born of hope growing as we glimpse the โ€œendโ€ of the pandemic in the U.S. ideas for other books and stories now come to me thick and fast!
    .

    +2
    • Hope you have a great weekend, too, Carole!

      I know exactly what you mean. I craved glimmers of hope, too, in my writing and reading. ๐Ÿ™‚

      +1
  12. My reading content didn’t change much but that is because I’ve always hated apocalyptic and illness related stories. Definitely read much less last year, and did almost zero rereading of favorites. Instead, my time was dedicated to watching old favorite disney stuff–I always tell people that DisneyPlus saved our family’s sanity.

    I’ve discovered that I actually wrote a bit more than usual during covid. That could be the situation, or just that I’m growing as a writer, hard to tell.

    +2
    • I can relate, AZAli. In 2020, I read far fewer books than I normally would. DisneyPlus saved our son’s sanity, too, and probably the lives of our grandchildren. LOL

      +2
  13. Yes for me on both accounts.

    The pandemic freed up a lot of my time. Working at home was great at fist, but I was bored after a few months.

    Last August I decided to jump into the writing life. I had my foot in the waters before, but I made a strong personal commitment.

    The changes I made are as follows. Sticking to a 5,000 word weekly quota along with a 12,000 word editing quota that forces me to crank up my quality factor. Iโ€™ve put in a place another quota for reading 4 books a month and to listen to Audible at least every other day for tips/books in writing. Love Audible because I can listen in the truck or while I do the shopping.

    Plus Iโ€™m here daily picking the brains of the pros.

    Have a safe weekend.

    +4
    • Sorry – forgot to add that I changed up one thing with my reading and writing habits. I will not involve myself with books or writing that harms children.

      +2
    • Excellent personal commitments and goals, Ben! And you’ve stuck with it. That’s awesome. Stand tall and proud, my friend. It’s not easy to stay laser-focused on turning your dreams into reality, but that determination is exactly what’ll separate you from the pack. Kudos to you!

      Wishing you an amazing weekend, too. ๐Ÿ˜€

      +1
  14. Happy Friday, Sue! Great question!

    Yes, my reading habits changed this pandemic. I’ve been reading more upbeat cozy mysteries, as well as classic authors like Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers. ‘m not reading any urban fantasy at the moment, which tends toward noir in tone.

    Writing wise, I’ve also gone from noir/thriller-esque urban fantasy to lighter library cozies, with a couple of ideas for other lighter mystery fare. Humor is a something I’m looking for, as both a reader and a writer.

    In fantasy and science fiction, the “hopepunk” movement began as a counter to the “grimdark” fantasies of Game of Thrones etc, and I see the same thing with my cozy mystery writing which hopefully showcase the essential goodness of people even as it deals with villainous crimes.

    I don’t want to hold my future reader or writer self hostage to who I am today, but it feels like this shift is permanent for me, though only time will tell.

    +3
    • Love that you’ve transformed as a writer, Dale. A similar thing happened to me. Normally, my novels tend to be gritty, dark, and emotional. In my latest thriller, written during the peak of the pandemic, I included glimmers of hope throughout and ended on an uplifting note. So far, so good!

      Like you, my reading tastes changed to lighter stories. I’m just getting back to more gritty and dark novels. I keep a lighter story nearby now, though, like a cleanser after eating garlic. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      +2
    • I write what I used to think of as grimdark fantasy, but realized halfway through the series that I’m actually more grimhope. That didn’t happen during the pandemic, strangely enough. I think I read too much Robin Hobb in the middle of writing the series, and my brain realized that that was NOT what I wanted

      +1
  15. Sue, Interesting question. Thanks.

    For fiction, I turned to the bestseller list. Kristin Hannah and Harlen Coben. She’s a long-time fave and he’s new to me. (I know. I know.) Both excellent.

    For non-fiction, Empire of Pain about the staggeringly rich Sackler family whose tainted fortune derives from pharmaceutical drugs…first Valium and then Oxycontin. Also Mark Harris’s Mike Nichols bio. Both immensely readable.

    +2
    • Thanks, Ruth. ๐Ÿ™‚ I noticed a change in my reading habits, and wondered if others experienced the same thing.

      Ooh, I haven’t read any Kristen Hannah. I will now. The Sackler family book sounds interesting as well. Thanks for the recommendations!

      +1
  16. The pandemic didn’t really change my habits much at all, writing/reading wise.
    After the stress of my wife’s stroke last September, my ability to write violence took a bit of a dive. Don’t worry it is coming back now that she is much better. There will be a rather bloody werewolf short going out in an anthology in a couple months, and I am about to start reading/narrating Gilstrap’s latest Jonathan Grave, guaranteed to get my steam up.

    +2
  17. Since all my meetings were via zoom, we didn’t travel, and I swore off the news, I found much more time to read and write during the covid year+. I read and re-read widely — classics, book club picks, as well as novels written by friends and blog writers. I haven’t read anything that has to do with the pandemic.

    I also found time to finish and publish my second novel and begin the third. My first novel was produced in audio.

    Although it was a productive year for me, I’m enjoying getting back to something like a normal life. We’re even going to attend a writer’s conference in person soon. Life is good.

    +1
  18. A little bit. Like James Bell, I am re-reading more favorites. Maybe it is intellectual comfort food. I found I am reading more paper books than Kindle. Also to my dismay, I found out I can’t read anything on Adobe Digital Editions at all.

    +2
  19. Yes, a friend gave me a Kindle for a gift. I never wanted one, but now I really like it — except when I forget to recharge my book.

    +3
    • I love my Kindle, too, Elaine. The ability to enlarge the font is a game-changer. Reading without glasses takes a bit of getting used to, but itโ€™s such a refreshing change. ๐Ÿ˜

      +1
  20. A very viable topic, Sue!
    Since I started off 2020 with emergency surgery, and was already housebound when the pandemic cranked up in March, I never noticed a shift “because” of lockdown. Being able to go work at home was a dream come true for this introvert. I settled into a lovely routine unencumbered by outside commitments & travel. I actually needed it after several years of a whirlwind social calendar. (Not bragging. It was awful. The only things I miss are the gym & Taichi classes)
    But politically, it was a nightmare. We stopped watching the news altogether. I unfriended several people & businesses I’d once followed on social media. Lost contact with family members.
    THAT stress pulled me from writing and reading for months. I fell into re-reading and obsessively tweaking my previous material.
    Only gaining a new beta reader managed to pull me out of that dangerous spiral. Only recently have I returned to reading other fiction for pleasure.
    I still write grimhope (as I described earlier in Dale’s post), and my outline for the current series hasn’t changed. But while parts of my own framework do follow current events (climate change, sustainable living, womens’ rights, to name a few), I refuse to dwell on or indulge in outside material like Handmaids Tale or anything involving disease outbreak. Never have enjoyed that kind of fare.
    I also discovered virtual things like Zoom and ebooks during the pandemic, but have since wearied of them. When I write on the WIP, I keep the brightness on my laptop cranked far down. Like you, my eyes hurt after a day of work, and I just want the comfort of physical type on paper.

    +1
    • Haha. Introverts unite! My schedule didn’t change all that much, either. Not doing my usual book signings bummed me out, but it allowed me to concentrate on my WIP rather than planning, traveling, mingling with readers, etc. Like you, Zoom became important. I know what you mean, though. It’s not the same as in person appearances. I’ll continue to use it to interview out of state witnesses (true crime) and book events.

      Good tip to lower the brightness. I’ll try it. Thanks, Cyn! Hope you’re enjoying your weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

      +2

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