bugger THAT plan

I was raving about a romance to a romance-writing friend and she said it --> that line I hear all the damn time. "I can't read romances because I write them."

She told me she won't read any kind of popular fiction any more. (Apparently literary stuff isn't a problem. Or maybe she only reads non-fiction?) I've heard about this fear before--the dreaded contagion of voice.* Taking on another author's writing style . . .like you turn into a big old ventriloquist's dummy or your soul is taken over by a stronger, fiercer Power.

Okay, I'm going to be less catty now because she visits my blog and I don't want to give her a raft because I know her ROS-delivery skills are far better than mine.



Dumping all genres of fun reading? Sounds too much like giving up desserts forever because you worry about tiramisu. Or maybe only writing recipes and never letting yourself taste other people's concoctions***

And I don't see how voice contagion can hit once you know your characters and your scene and your story. Anything that isn't true to their world or voices will stand out, right?

All right, all right. Okay. I see the point. You spend too much time with Valley girls? And you start? You know? Talking kinda like that? And the times I've gone to Wisconsin or Kansas I've had to work at not slipping into the flat nasal voice imitation. Yes. I admit it. When I'm writing hystericals, I tend to read contempts and so I must buy into this thinking. But not enough to actually stop reading just so I can write. Sheesh.

Okay, rioters, tell me what you think.


* Like we're so pure to begin with? I'm sure all the plots and characters I've read and met exist in a big jumble in my brain. I don't pick out bits on purpose (and I sure don't do the exercise I know one writer has done: examined a best-selling writer's writing, analysing what gives her work popular appeal and trying to copy it) But I don't refuse to access the pile.

***note to me: stop blogging when you're hungry. ****

****me to note: but I'm always hungry. Losing weight does that.


  1. Can't say I've ever worried about taking on somebody else's voice. When starting my current WIP, though, I found my heroine was morphing into the heroine from my last ms. I had to think, "How would she act if she was a Dark Hunter?" and that helped get me back on track. But it's still my voice. I think. *g*

  2. For me, it was never about unconsciously adopting someone else's writing voice. It's 2 things:
    (1) A matter of variety. Reading Regency Romance while I'm writing Regency Romance is too much of the same thing. The word "inbreeding" comes to mind. More interesting for me AND better for my writing to grab info/characters/ideas from all over the place, throw them in the brain, and see what unique-to-me things spins out.

    (2) I can barely read fiction anymore. Period. It's a common thing both as (a)readers get older and (b)when you become a writer. Or so I hear. It's just next to impossible to entertain my reading self. The writing self has taken over.

  3. Kate, when I'm reading and reviewing, I'm not writing. I've got a WIP sitting in my hard drive, completely untouched, because I've been reading too much.

    I never worry about accidentally taking someone's voice, though. I read vintage Harlequin Presents most of the time, so I think my brain is fully aware that "this is so not the way to write".

  4. Lynn, yeah, that's the real horror, isn't it? I find myself imitating myself. Urgh. Bleh. Yuck. A friend pointed out a couple of the themes I use--and now I'm mortified about everything I've written. Luckily no one makes me reread my old books.

    Beth, when you're writing Regency, do you let yourself read primary material? (And does fiction written then count as primary stuff?)OH HEY, It's not regency, but I'm still waiting to read more of that ugly heroine book. You *will* get it published. Thank you.

    Bam, Yeah, what's with the fascination with those things? I went through a Horatio Alger, Jr phase so I know the deal with needing trashy bad writing. I don't understand it--I just know about it. (His writing makes the typical Harlequin author look like a total genius.)

    I'm off to imitate myself in another WIP

  5. Whoa... an "ugly heroine" book? I want to read it!

    Kate, I'm obsessed with bad fiction. I think it's why when I'm faced with good fiction, I find it hard to review because I don't know what to say that isn't mean or scathing. :(

  6. Kate - I let myself read anything I want to, really. I don't see any reason to ever force myself to read or not read anything. But if I'm writing a Regency, then I don't want to READ a Regency, generally speaking. It's too much like -- I dunno, like a professional maid spending her off hours cleaning houses for the hell of it. Maybe check out the cleaning products when you go to the store, sure, or practice your tub-scrubbing skills on your own bathroom - but go to a freaking amusement park now and again. Sheesh.

    And the ugly heroine book is both unfinished and dead. Thanks, though.

  7. I think the only authors I channel (occasionally) are Le Carre and Pratchett. I know when I'm doing it and I keep it under control. I've seen other folks do this horribly, though. One of my high school pals read The World According to Garp and couldn't write anything else but Irving-esque schtick.

    My suspicion: once you've found your voice, you're relatively immune to this phenomenon. Given that, the advantages of reading in your genre greatly outweigh any disadvantages.

  8. As I recall, didn't Alison Kent make a similar statement on RTB and nearly get crucified for it? About how she doesn't read a lot of romance anymore? And people accused her of saying she didn't like other people's romances. Which is not what she intended at all but how people percieved a romance author not reading romances.

    Boy, was this comment about as clear as mud?

  9. AngieW--I vaguely remember that.

    Was it creeping voice-itis she worried about? That *would* be funny because AK's voice is so incredibly distinctive (I lurve it.)

    Terry P sounds distinctly British to me, Mr. Doug. You don't. At least your blog and spider don't.

    LeCarre? Does he have a sense of humor? I can't remember any more.

  10. If you don't read romance then how can you know what other writers are writing about? How can you know if you're rehashing something done a million times?

    I've read a few books from authors who've told me they don't read in their genre, and believe me it shows. They churn out same old, same old stuff because they don't realise it's been done a million times.

  11. Anonymous9:05 AM

    I can't read while I'm working on a new story, usually, but that's a time issue. I write every spare minute until it's done. Aside from that, I can't imagine not reading. Everything. Nonfiction, fiction, every subgenre of romance, cereal boxes. - Charlene www.charleneteglia.com

  12. Hi Kate. Some of my aliens have a distinctly British flair to them -- they've been hijacking BBS programming for too long (seriously). As for LeCarre, no, he really does not have a funny bone. A wry bone maybe, but not a funny bone. I learned drama/tragedy from reading LeCarre, though, and (if I ever publish my magnum opus, you'll see) there's more than a little of that in my novel.

    See ya,

  13. I do read in my genre, but I've realised the more I learn about the craft of writing, the more picky I become. If I can see the tricks, so to speak, a book fails to capture my interest pretty soon, and a boring book is a book I don't finish. And of course, a lot of former reading time is now writing and research time.

    *back to seeking for a detailed map of Rome 408 AD*


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