Reading vs. Writing

Have you ever noticed that what you're reading affects your writing style?

Well if so, it's your lucky day because I'm gonna talk about it for a while.

I first noticed it when I was writing a short story after reading Jane Austen. Emma, to be precise. I was editing it when I realized how unnecessarily complicated my sentences were. (And So. Many. Semicolons.)

But only when I set out to write a full novel did I really begin to see the similarities and influences of what I was reading. When I first started RTS I was reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I have a soft spot for classics and I haven't read them all yet, so I find myself enchanted by them. While I'd seen the film (TPB) 15 MILLION times, I had yet to read the novel. (Which by the way, is easily in my top five favorite books now.) The first part of RTS I had William Goldman's fairy tale style in my head. I loved the way he made me chuckle and was very pleasant and light, then the juxtaposition where the scary parts were TERRIFYING. Re: Zoo of Death.

When I finished it, I was writing Chapter 6 of RTS. I was trying to decide what to read next when I went to a friend's house who had all of the Twilight books. I asked to borrow Breaking Dawn, so I could finally find out what happens at the end. I enjoyed the stories and I've seen the films, but the writing style just... It wears me down. I still don't understand how nothing plot-wise can happen in an entire chapter, and unless I like the character, I don't want to spend hours stuck in their head. So since I am not a huge fan of Jacob, (#TeamEdward), this book DRAGGED. I have tried to read it three other times but was bored to tears, but this time, I was going to know. Aaand this is where I feel like I may alienate readers, but please, stay with me, and take comfort in the knowledge that Mark Twain DESPISED Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens HATED Hans Christian Andersen. Here's a bunch more actually. So my dislike for Ms. Meyer's writing style is entirely my own: We writers pick each other apart, and we aren't known to be kind about it. I preemptively apologize to the Twi-hards out there for what I say next:

It was while I was reading Breaking Dawn that I noticed Chapter 6 of RTS was dull as dirt. I had done nothing with the plot and was spinning my wheels just hanging out with two girls and a cat. I re-read it and was horrified. I'd gotten about 100 pages into Breaking Dawn, (which, by the by, 100 pages in: Edward is still sulking, Bella is still being eaten alive by her cancerous vamp-baby, and Jacob is still whining about it), when I realized I couldn't finish it. I had to know what happened, but good lord not that badly. Reading Twilight was making my book like Twilight.

I gave the book back to my friend and decided I'd watch the movie later. I couldn't spend another 668 pages in these character's minds. I completely re-wrote Chapter 6, with a new plan in place and a new theory. I decided I would re-read the first Harry Potter book and see if that helped, because I didn't mind if JK Rowling's writing style rubbed off on me.

"Please God..."

When I finished Harry Potter, I realized that going into HP2 wasn't the best if I was still writing my first novel, so I read Ender's Game. Reading Ender's Game became extremely helpful during the training scenes and war scenes of RTS. I knew how to convey what I wanted, because Orson Scott Card is a GD genius.

This simple connection between reading and writing has become so interesting to me. What you read becomes what you write. When I'm writing I cannot let myself read books that are predictable and have a bad writing style, because I don't want that to rub off on me regardless of the genre. I generally give a book 100 pages but if the plot is bad and un-original, it's not something I want to keep reading. (This reasoning is also why RTS builds until the 100th page.) I know they say to read books that are in your genre, but I 100% disagree. Why on earth would I want to write a book that is like another book? Why would I write a book that has been written over and over again a million times? Everyone else is writing that book. I don't want to read books that are similar to mine, because I don't want my book to be like one already on bookshelves. My book is coming out of my spirit, I'm playing with a web of character's emotions and reactions. It's a subtle art and I want it to be entirely original, with unusual backgrounds and fun plot devices I don't always see. I want a quality story.

A serious disconnect has been made in the book industry. It's a similar one to what we're seeing in the movie industry. Remakes make money. Movies that are created out of books tend to do extremely well, but if you have a non-book movie and give the director too much money, the movie will be total crap

But in the book world it's the same thing, the same story repeated and repeated. However, I don't want to bad mouth these two, the Cinderella story is the female version of "The Chosen One." It's never going anywhere and it's loved across the globe. Honestly, even RTS *sounds* like every other book if I don't describe it right. Oh, kids go into the forest and find an adventure? That sounds like 231,025 other books currently available on Amazon.

After I finished reading Ender's Game, I realized that in order to close my story, it wouldn't make sense to be in the Ender's Game style of writing. I had to go back to the fairy tale style. Full circle. So I actually read The Princess Bride again.... (Unrelated tangent: Something about the way Goldman writes is so entrancing. It still shocks me that this is one of his books. He wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He writes serious, serious stories, and then his comedies are pure gold. Did you like the film, Mavrick? That's Goldman too. Marathon Man? Goldman.)

I needed to manipulate myself. I knew that by reading a new book, RTS would close with a different tone. I didn't read the WHOLE Princess Bride again, but I kept it with me and I kept that spirit with me as I concluded RTS. 

I have come to a unique problem. I feel like I have my voice, but by reading something while I am writing, especially if I'm fond of it, I will write about 60% in my voice, and 40% the voice of the author I'm currently reading. Perhaps I'm easily influenced by writing styles, but this is my argument (or excuse) for only reading really good books.

I want to write like my idols. So I've given up sappy romance novels. However, I can't give up scary stories during Halloween, so #EurekaStation is the outcome of that obsession.

(And this doesn't even touch on how when I read books, I will read a plot point and immediately have a million ideas for RTS and have to put the book down to take notes, getting completely distracted and it taking 3 months to finish a 350 page book. The struggle is real.)

So now I must choose...

To read or to write? That is the question.

All my love,