Sunday, October 5, 2008

Who am I?

Looking back over my WIP, which I haven't done for a while (I've had to wean myself off editing constantly as I tend to get stuck) I was struck by how influenced I seem to be by what I'm reading at the time - and I do read a lot.

My first few chapters reflect the humourous women's fiction I was reading at the time, then I got hold of a couple of psychological thrillers and the style gets darker. After reading a memoir recently I realised I was writing shorter sentences and being all poetic. Literary novels make me lyrical and magazine stories more pithy (love that word).

It's quite confusing and made me think that I should probably stop reading while I'm writing altogether (D'ur!) Maybe I could harness the various influences in a constructive way, but at the moment I'm danger of smothering myself, as it were.

I seem to have lost my Voice.


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

When an agent in SA read my first book (a saga) several years ago, she said that by reading the beginning, middle and ending, she could tell the frame of mind I was in at the time of writing each part.

There are so many things to concentrate on with this writing business.

HelenMWalters said...

I'm very aware that the first three chapters of my novel (which I wrote ages ago) are very different from the rest. I don't think I've been particularly influenced by what I've been reading though, I think it's more that I've changed my mind about the novel as I've gone along. I suppose the challenge for both of us is to smooth all that out at editing stage.

Sheila Killian said...

I also think that's natural, and that it's one of the difficult things at the editing process, to get enough time and headspace for one breathless rush through, and get it all, if not on the same kilter, at least on a compatible one

Lane Mathias said...

Until I've finished the book, I've stopped reading. Instead I have three books that I would like to think are in the same vein as mine and I pick them over and use them as a reference. (I think this was Heather Seller's advice). If I feel in the need of a literary fix, I read a short story or biography.

(Having said that I cheated last week and read a book. Norty)

DAB said...

Ok let me play the Devil's advocate here Clarkey. Why don't you adopt the same writing style that you blog with? It's sure to be a winner. I for one would buy the book OR alternatively stop reading books (OK stupid suggestion) Tommox

CL Taylor said...

I know what you mean! I'm very influenced by other writers. That's why, when I wrote novel #1 last year, I didn't read a single novel in the 4 months it took to finish the first draft! It was tough not reading any novels in that time but I knew I could potentially be influenced by another writer's style. Maybe, when I've written more novels, I'll be more confident about my own voice and will be able to read what I like but for now, writing first draft = not reading!

Tamsyn Murray said...

I'm with Lane and Calistro - I don't read any novels except by one author who I use to refresh my "chicklit" voice when I've been focussed on writing other stuff.

I have a Jeffrey Deaver in the TBR pile - I dread to think what would happen to my characters if I was allowed to read that...

Cait O'Connor said...

I agree with you Karen, what I am reading at the time can influence one's way of writing but better still if it is good it inspires me to write, no bad thing.
Does that sentence make sense?

Leigh Forbes said...

Ah, Karen. The voice.

The only piece of really good advice I ever read in a how-to book was about voice. There was a whole chapter on the subject. What he said was this: "Don't worry about your voice". And that was all he said, just that line.

Read what you like, and write what you like. And don't think for one minute that what you are reading was written in uninspired isolation.

Pat Posner said...

Maybe, like the agent Debs mentions said, you were in a different frame of mind at the time of writing particular chapters.
Or maybe you characters were? As long as they don't do, say or act something right 'out of character' (without good reason) won't it make them more rounded if they aren't in the same mood all the way through the book?
Aargh! I'm confusing myself now. I think I'm talking about pacing...

Amanda said...

I think everyone has said it all!
I am struggling with my latest effort because it is quite serious and I don't think my 'voice' is -so I keep putting funny things in where they don't fit. Good luck with your WIP. x

Anna Scott Graham said...

yeah, that can be a problem. I try to read one chapter of whatever catches my attention, usually over the lunchtime bagel.

but, it might be a new genre you're creating! hey... good idea... :)))

Kath McGurl said...

I'm with Leigh on this. Don't stop reading - read what you like when you like. And write a lot. It is through writing that you find your voice, and I don't believe it is lost through reading. Of course what you read will influence how you write, but you'll also be influence by the TV, by magazines, by conversations, by thoughts you've had... you can't write in a vacuum!

And Tom's right. You have a distinctive voice which shines through in your blog. And it's a good one. Use it!

Jen said...

I'm also one of those who seems to soak up what I'm reading so that t oozes back out when I write. I do the same as others have said, reading non-fiction or whatever so as not to confuse things.

But you do have your own voice - it's here, on every post - and there's nothing wrong with using your own voice in a different accent now and again for a bit of variety.

Fionnuala said...

NEVER! Reading develops your voice! Nothing wrong with your voice! Me on the other hand , now I literally have laryngitus! x

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Karen I've been remiss in reading blogs of late and am making amends now. As usual your posts are so very enntertaining. I love your writing. That post by WITN was a revelation! There are some very sorry eejits in this world.

Kat W said...

I know, but it's soooo hard to give up the reading isn't it!??! Kat :-)

Cheryl said...

I'm the same. When I was reading Sophie Kinsella I was writing in first person, then I went back to third and then Marian Keyes got me introducing more main characters. What a bizarre book I am writing!

Michelle said...

I think writing is influenced by mood, what you read, watch, experience etc. Like all the hair colourant ads say, it gives you a natural multi tone colour to your work. It certainly keeps it interesting!

Karen said...

debs - It is confusing. That's why I can't listen to music when I'm writing because that WOULD affect my mood!

helenmh - I think leaving things until the editing stage is a very wise idea :o)

on a small island - That's the key really - for the tone to be consistent. That's what I'm aiming (badly!) for.

lane - I must admit I've scaled down the reading recently and I'm going to read books in a different genre for now :o) Reading critically is a good idea.

tommo - I must say it had crossed my mind. Why not apply my Natural voice to fiction, but psychologically it's much harder somehow. Having said that I've now set up a 'for my eyes only' blog and transferred the WIP over to give it a try. So thanks for the kick up the proverbial (and the bum!)

calistro - Wise advice I think! I'm going to have to put my TBR pile under lock and key :o)

tam - Exactly! I can't have everyone murdering each other out of the blue...or can I??

cait o'connor - That's a good point. Like Helen said as long as it's all 'smoothed out' in the final edit maybe it doesn't matter :o)

leigh - Another good point well made. I'm probably worrying too much about it instead of just getting on with it!

patp - There's a lot of truth in that, but I think reading in a certain genre puts me in 'that' frame of mind when I'm writing in a different genre. Or something. I think I need to stop thinking!

anni bright - That's my problem too! I can't help being silly at some point. Then again...maybe that is our style and we should just go with it??

anna - I like that thought! A whole new genre...I need to think of a name for it now :o)

spiralskies - I suppose in the long run your own voice will still trickle through. It's like people pretending to be something they're not - eventually the truth will out!

fionnuala - You do NOT have laryngitis - I've read your writing and it's V. GOOD INDEED :o)

mob - Nice to see you! You're right, there are some eejits around. Not on here though :o)

katw - Incredibly. Especially as I'm supposed to read a book a week for my newspaper column!

lily - That sounds interesting! I know what you mean though - it's tempting to try out different styles, though I seem to feel more comfortable writing in the first person :o)

mickmouse - I like the sound of the multi-tones :o) Knowing me I'll end up with a bleached mess!!