Hello. First off I'd like to apologise for not being round to comment on everyone's blogs so much last week - I've been immersed in the Platform-Building Campaign and ploughing through the fantastically diverse list of entries, and being a man, I'm naturally no good at multi-tasking. Sorry about that, and I'll be making up for it!
I would say that if you're not involved in the Campaign, then you should definitely consider it for next time round (August, I believe) - apart from being an easy way to meet loads of new people (always a good thing), you get to see a little slice of their talent in their challenge entries. And I always think that the best way to get to know a writer and what makes them tick is through their writing.
I'm coming on to the main thrust of this post (which is not just about bigging up the Campaign - although I'm happy to do so). One entry in particular resonated with me for interesting reasons. You can check it out here. The reason is because it comes from a WIP which deals with the same subject as mine - amnesia. It's naturally fascinating to see how another writer deals with the same topic.
However, I don't think I would want to read the finished book until mine was finished, polished, scrubbed until I could see my face in it. Why? Well, for the simple reason of distraction.
You could see elements in the book that might make you think, "Why didn't I explore that particular avenue?" Then you would go back to your own book and try to change it to the point where it's taken in a totally different direction than what was originally intended, and probably wouldn't even work for your story. You could end up with a major mess on your hands. I also don't think it would be a good idea to be a critique partner with that person, at least for those particular projects. There would be too much confusion and cross-pollination, or even accidental plagiarism on one or both sides.
There are two books on my bookshelves that I'm yet to read - Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, and Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk. They both deal with this same subject too, so I don't want to go near them until my current novel is in my past.
So what about you? Do you avoid novels that deal with a similar subject to yours while you're writing and editing it (even if the plot is very different?) Or do you find them useful for inspiration and alternative perspectives?