Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reading What You Write

If you're a writer, I'm sure you've heard at least half a dozen field experts say you should be reading your genre. That's what made us begin writing what we write, right? (Say that five times real fast.) When I was a teen, fourteen or fifteen, my grandmother and aunt ran a small flea market out of the garages my grandfather once used for his auto-body shop. I learned about antiques like Depression Glass and various jewelry from different eras. I also tagged along when the women-folk went to different flea markets and garage sales, looking for these precious pieces to resell.

One day, I can't remember if it was a weekend or weekday during the summer months, we stopped at a multi-family garage sale at which there were a TON of paperbacks. I'm talking two tables packed with boxes packed with books. Big stuff. I had a quarter in the pocket of my worn Lee jeans. As Nanny and Aunt Lisa sorted through vases and plates, I thumbed through dozens of what once were well-loved books. The spines had a lot of creases. Some of the covers were torn. I read blurb after blurb after blurb.

And then I came upon this one:

From the moment she laid eyes on him, Rue thought Hawk Masters the most insufferable man she'd ever met. Proud, arrogant, overbearing, he made it insultingly clear that although her grandfather's shotgun had forced him to wed Rue, nothing would make him bed a scrawny little backwoods baggage like her.

I think maybe my mouth fell open. I'd never--and I mean never read anything quite like this. Sheltered Christian girl from South Mississippi? This was naughtier than naughty. I finished reading the blurb (her tousled red-gold hair...oh, my!) and flipped the book for a gander at the cover.

The pink dress and little flower in her hair sold me, and I discreetly slipped through the crowd, past my aunt and grandmother, to the small table where a lady sat behind a metal money box. "Just a book," I told her and paid her my quarter. "Thanks." I tucked the book beneath my jacket.

Folks, I read this 448-page novel in maybe two days. At the time, I was listening to The Moody Blues non-stop, so their music and Norah's words combined made me yank out a spiral notebook, one I was supposed to only use for school, and start writing.

Here's why I entitled this post, "Reading What You Write."

I love historical romance. It is my passion, it is my go-to. I suspect it always will be. Lately, however, I've been working off of a dream I had (yes, I know; that's so Stephenie Meyers of me), which featured a strange array of fantasy elements. I don't think about fantasy, not really. Don't give second thought to unicorns and fauns and trolls...whatever. Yes, I love Tolkien, George Martin, and Salvatore. In fact, I figured maybe I should start re-reading Salvatore to give me a little boost and, possibly, aid with the direction in which I want this novel to travel.

Here's the thing: Salvatore is marvelously poetic and my story, well, it's not. Plus, I'm worried, now more than ever, that if I allow his genius and intricate details of frost giants and trolls, halflings and dark elves, infiltrate into my own writing, then it won't be my own anymore. Remember, I do like fantasy, but I've never had a desire to write it. So, I believe, in this case, at least for me, that reading what I write is not such a good idea.

Am I wrong? What do you read while you're writing?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,



Andrew Leon said...

I think the reading what you write is bad advice. It makes your writing cliche by playing to one specific genre. I think the thing to do is to read and to read good books. Books that will expand you, not necessarily make you feel comfortable. That's the only way your writing grows. So... Read all the stuff. Read all the genres but, maybe, only read the very best of your own.

Alyssia Kirkhart said...

@Andrew Marvelously stated, Andrew. Truth to tell, I've been reading more thrillers as of late, which is a genre I never thought I'd enjoy. Thanks for the comment!

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