Sunday, May 23, 2021

Reading and Writing (but not 'Rithmatic)

Do you alter your personal reading based on what you are currently working on?

Brenda Chapman here.

Like most writers, I'm an avid reader and usually have a book on the go. In fact, if I don't have a book on the go, I feel at loose ends.

My reading list normally defaults to crime fiction, but the selections by my bookclub are seriously broadening my horizons whether I like it or not (and I've grown to like it). I'm not precious about what I'm reading when I'm writing, finding someone else's work doesn't impact noticeably on my creative process, so this doesn't factor into my selection.

I suppose the worry for some authors is that they'll be influenced by another author's writing style or ideas as they write their own book if they're reading another crime novel simultaneously. I personally wouldn't know how to sustain someone else's style for an entire manuscript.  As for using another author's ideas, this would be tough too once I get rolling on a story. 

The writing process is a magical kind of endeavour. Every experience, conversation, relationship swirls around inside and comes out in some fashion on the page. If I inadvertently incorporated an idea or word from a book I'm reading, this would be filtered through the same hash of memories, senses and observations as everything else in my life. Kind of like making a smoothie in the blender. Chuck everything in there and see what comes out.

I recently read some of the domestic thrillers - Girl on the Train, Woman in the Window, Gone Girl ... I can write one of those girl/woman books, I thought to myself. So I spent the better part of a year trying my hand and having a great time, penning what I thought was a thriller. Turns out, it wasn't. Turns out I'm not meant to write a girl/woman book that will reap millions of dollars and become a movie on Netflix ... or at least not with this particular effort. I've set the manuscript aside and gone back to the more traditional mystery/police procedural that is my comfort zone. 

I suppose what I'm attempting to say is that if being influenced by reading somebody else's book were that easy, I'd be on the New York bestseller list along with all the other girl/women book-writers instead of continuing happily along my own path -- forging my own way, continuously adding ingredients to my blender, and sticking with my creative process. 


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Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree, Brenda, you can be inspired by what you read, but you can't copy a style and make it work.

Susan C Shea said...

Love the "girl/woman" chase comments and agree it only works if it's what one of passionate about writing in the first place. and, as people keep saying, chasing trends is a losing battle. Last year, it was "wife/wives" and two of the 2021 Edgar finalists were "grandmothers/elderly" so where are we heading in 2022?!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Dietrich. To thine own self be true seems to work for writers! Yes, Susan, it's a fool's game following trends.

विकास नैनवाल 'अंजान' said...

I think it generally happens to writers who have yet not found their voice. I remember while I was in college if I was reading Dickens my answer sheets would have answers having longer sentences and if I was reading Hemingway answers would have short, terse sentences. It would not be limited to length of the sentence but how ornate it is. But I think it the writer has found his writing voice he/she would not be so easily influenced.

The ideas are different matter though because i have found sometimes your sub conscious stores an idea while you are reading it and then after few weeks or months or years it would resurface like it was one of your own. It then depends on writer to reject it or accept it. It has happened to me. An Idea for short story has made me excited only to find out it's eerily similar to something that I had read or watched earlier, may be few months or years back.

- Vikas Nainwal

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Vikas - You make some good points.