Under the Influence

I’ve heard it said that if you want to be a writer you shouldn’t read in your own genre in case you are unduly influenced by other peoples work.

I can’t bear the thought.

Deathnote L Chocolate Notebook
Chocolate book - perfection.

Reading brings me more joy than chocolate – fact.

Then I got to thinking- dangerous whilst reading Nicola Morgan’s WASTED – what if I  had to choose?

Reading or writing?

How could I get through the day without addressing the tumble of characters that churn around my head? Without those plot epiphany moments and sneaky writing surprises that make you laugh or cry? Without striving for my long held dream of working with an editor to hone and polish and produce something marvellous and book shaped and, at last, earn full membership to the writers club?

But equally, how could I live without the joy of losing myself in someone else’s characters.A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnellyand stories?  Not  feel the pages disappear in my hand as I’m sucked into another world? Not have that brief moment of sorrow when you turn the last page and  have to say goodbye?

The last three books I’ve read have been, knock your socks off, brilliant.

Jennifer Donnelly’s A GATHERING LIGHT, a delicate mystery with page turning character revelations and a quite wonderful sense of place.

File:A Note of Madness, by Tabitha Suzuma.jpg

Tabitha Suzuma’s A NOTE OF MADNESS, an insightful and passionate exploration of love and doubt and dangerous insanity. A window onto the swirling chaos of a mind beset with bipolar disorder, not just a great story but undoubtedly an important book. A book the world needs.

And Nicola Morgan’s WASTED, a book with such originality of voice and forceful  story telling that it’s cover - Wasted haunting me day and night. Luck, chance, fate?  I’ve never read anything like it.

How could you make a choice like that?

Reading or writing?

In the world of WASTED you might play Jack’s game. Not for me, thank goodness. I shall read and read and read and hope I AM influenced.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Beverley says:

    I have a book on writing books (Chapter by Chapter by Heather Sellers) that says you shouldn’t even start to write a book until you’ve read at least 100 in that genre. She calls it “the book 100”. I think that advice is good. If you read only a few books, then you might be over-influenced by one or two. But if you read lots, the influence will be subtle and beneficial.

  2. Reading AND writing – it most definitely doesn’t have to be one or the other. That’s where free will comes in! 😉

  3. I swear I just left a comment here… where’d it go?! Did Shrodinger’s or your cat eat it?

  4. Candy says:

    lovely. read or write? an impossible choice.

  5. Jon Mayhew says:

    It’s a constant struggle to keep up! I have a huge reading pile. I wonder what the alleged effect of reading other genres whilst writing might be? A kind of cross-pollination? hmmm.

  6. Ooh, what a lovely thing to find – not only an unanswerable question (reading or writing) but an utterly lovely mention of my book!

    As Beverley says, you just can’t write until you’ve read, and read the right things, but as to the relative pleasures of reading and writing – it’s just not possible to compare them, I think.

    Thanks, Mrs Bung!

  7. Nick Cross says:

    I have to admit that I deliberately read less when I’m in an intense period of writing, but that might be a time thing as much as anything. I have found myself accidentally “absorbing” other writers’ voices in the past which then cropped up in my own work, but I wonder how much we unconsciously do that all the time, anyway. Besides, a lot can happen by accident – my style veers quite close to Darren Shan sometimes, but I’d never read one of his books before!


  8. Woodlandia says:

    I know how you feel. I have become intoxication by reading such great stories. Like, Jon, I have a huge pile of books, waiting to be read and the pile never diminishes, it just gets higher.

  9. Lucy Coats says:

    Errggggh! Nooooo! DON’T make me play Jack’s Game on this one, because I’m taking my free will back and I WON’T. I had a taste of the awfulness of this once, when I was about 16. I’m nearly blind in one eye and someone stuck a pair of scissors in my good one (don’t ask). I couldn’t do either and it just about killed me off. Even thinking about making this choice makes me feel panicky and sick, so I thank God I don’t have to!

    Lucy at http://scribblecitycentral.blogspot.com

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      terrifying thought, I went through ridiculous obsessive phase at about that age – couldn’t go out without book and notepad in my bag – pre ipods the thought of bus time with nothing to read or write filled me with horror….

  10. Nancy H says:

    Who said this? Madness.
    Can you imagine a pastry chef not tasting – and losing herself in – another’s baked sensations? Or a seamstress not trying on – and loving – the styles of a fellow designer? Or a scientist refusing to acknowledge the discoveries of his fellows?
    I will forever be grateful to a creative writing professor who insisted that we not only read – but copy the styles of – the works of great authors as we began our own writings. Not just to appreciate good work, but to try it on for size. ‘How does that feel to you? Have you learned something?’ But you don’t stop there, do you? You move on to discover your own style, perhaps taking a little of them with you.
    If we are so afraid or prideful not to experience the works of others in our field, we are the poorer for it.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      What a wonderful professor! I hear this often, and I can understand it if you’re writing a novel on very similar lines but to not read at all in your genre – odd….very odd

  11. Yvonne says:

    I couldn’t write to save my life, well, not anything that anyone would find remotely interesting. I will continue to bask in the talents of others……praise God for their gift!

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