We hear it all the time. Its almost a cliché, but there’s just so much truth to it. “Find your voice.” The issue new writers and even experienced ones can have is both simple and monumental- what is my voice?
It makes me think of Anna Kendrick’s character in Pitch Perfect 2. She says, “So you may not be able to hear this message because apparently I have nothing to say, which is music speak for “I suck.”
When I was new to writing I couldn’t read novels while I worked on my own stories. I would find that, after getting really engrossed in a book, my own work would sound too familiar with whatever it was that I had just read. Since I read a lot of Jane Austen-y period novels but write YA paranormal and romance, you can see the problems therein. My 21st century main character in Autumnal Dancer, a young woman who was raised by her abductors, probably wouldn’t look at her new paramour and say, “Yes Lord River, how I would love to accompany you to tomorrow’s theatre performance.” Yet, four paragraphs in I would find that my tone had changed.
So for a while when I picked up a new project I put down all my own personal reading, but this led to me being miserable. Reading is my addiction. I even explained to my husband before we married that, unlike some other ladies, he would never have to keep me in designer shoes or name brand handbags. Instead, I just needed him to acknowledge that a fairly large part of our fairly small budget would be spent on books. He agreed, and we’ve been happy together for ten years.
However, I have found that while working on my projects I need to write before I read. That means that if I get an hour to myself at night the first thirty minutes needs to be spent writing, and the payoff is spending those final thirty minutes getting lost in my book. This is even true for me when I’m researching. If I read my research sources first I will either 1) get lost clicking through links and learning more and more, which can get me quickly off topic or 2) writing in a tone that is dry, humorless, and more academic than it should be. It is easier for me to write and then go back and edit my research in.
Is your process similar or are you able to both read and write without being effected?