23 April 2012

Working with Influences

If there is one thing that every writer encourages new writers to do, it’s read. Be as prolific a reader as you are a writer. Yes, they are serious.

I have heard comments from people saying that they can’t read in the genre that they are writing, because they’re afraid they’ll start writing in the style of the author they’re reading. One even went so far as to tell me that they can’t read while they write.

The first comment I usually nod and ask if they ever imitated their favorite singer in the mirror or if they played air guitar to their favorite song. In public, this is denied vehemently. If it’s a private one on one conversation, I’ll get reluctant admissions. From this, I will offer the clich├ęd comment that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Then I will remark we need to look at their work to see why they feel their style needs a boost. Sometimes, it is author self-doubt. They don’t think their writing is good enough on its own, so they use someone else’s style. Other times, it is a difficulty separating the reading mind from the writing mind. Being an avid reader, which was what led me to being a writer, I understand the difficulty breaking between the two. It takes discipline and practice (yup, that ugly word again) but it can be done.

The second comment brought a different response from me. This writer said they wrote for three hours every day.  I’d like to ask how they keep up with their genre’s trends if they never schedule any time to read, when they say things are more difficult. The project never left their mind for long, even when they left the desk or computer. So if they read a book, that book would then join the present project and thus break their plot.

Just as the first part requires discipline, so does this situation. Your body can be trained to certain stimuli and trigger reactions. If you’ve taken any behavioral science class (psychology, sociology) you’ll remember Pavlov’s Dog and his experiments with the treats. I’m not suggesting that writers are dogs. No, what I’m offering is a thought, a possibility.

If I write X number of words, I can read a book. This way, the influence has a full day to work through the story and maybe work its way out of the story again.

Better yet, it might offer you a plot twist you’d not considered before and improve your writing.


Today's post was inspired by the topic “My Influences” as part of the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com/. This ongoing tour allows you, the reader, travel around the world from author's blog to author's blog.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s posting over at: http://suesantore.com/

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour: http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com

1 comment:

  1. I would be incredibly miserable if I didn't read, thus I don't understand how some writers never read fiction while working on a project. I don't have this fear of subconsciously copying someone's style - I read so widely that the influences are constantly pulling me in different directions, so the only option is to be true to myself. Either that or adopt a drastically different style for eaqch and every paragraph, i.e. the dog's dinner style of writing!