Reading for Writing

This week I isolated one of my worries about my current WIP–the worry that I don’t (yet!) know how to convey the tension the story needs and deserves. I’m not the most comfortable person with tension. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, books were invented for me (yes, for me) to escape life’s stresses.

And then this character came along and told me in no uncertain terms that she was a strong and powerful girl, that she had to face some very bad things to bring that power out, to see it for herself. She also told that I had to write those things.

Yes, okay. Sure. No problem.

I’ve been plotting and writing and developing my characters, and I’m definitely making progress. In the back of my head, though, has been that worry–what about the tone of the story–it’s feel. This is, I think, partially a matter of voice, and partially a matter of things like sentence length, action and pacing, how long and how intently I as a writer and Caro as a hero dip into her reactions and emotions. The one thing I’m clear on is that–I’m not yet clear on all this. 🙂

So I’m going back to the basics. I don’t know who said this first, and I don’t know what number they used, but I’m thinking of the advice about reading X quantity of books in a genre to really know it. Yes, I know there’s a before in there, too–read X books BEFORE you try and write something. Well, I’m going to cheat. I care too much about this story, want to be writing it too much to wait until I’ve read 100 or 1,000 tough, edgy, painful YA novels. So I’ll be reading and writing at the same time.

I’m going to do a little osmosis–just read and read and read and let the words of the experts seep into my brain. I’m also going to do a little analysis–pick a few favorites and read them a few more times, though, then try to actually see what they’re doing, how they’re creating that tension. How they’re writing the words that hit me in the gut.

And, yes, I know I’m running the danger of losing myself so much in their styles that I start copying those styles on my own pages. It’s happened once or twice before–when I was reading a lot of historical novels, at the start of this project, I had to back off for a while. Also–and this one was a lot more fun–when I was on a binge of reading Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series, my 12-year-old male protagonist started talking way too much like Mia. So I’ll be watching myself for heading into derivative-land, and pulling out for a bit if I need.

But I’m going to read, and I’m going to write. And I’m going to trust in this combination that hasn’t ever let me down before.

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3 thoughts on “Reading for Writing

  1. I find it hard to read much new fiction when I’m deep in the writing. But there are always points where I have to break off (either Life Kerfuffle hits, or I hit a roadblock), and then I love to go on a reading binge, both in my genre and outside it. The reading doesn’t affect my voice much, though it might if I did it together with the writing. But it does increase my sense of what’s possible.

    Good luck with both the reading and the writing parts of the journey!

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