Under the Influence

I drafted up some new writingbookstuff while I was reading Wolf Hall that I had to let sit for a while. It has stewed long enough and when I went back to read it, I found that I had intermittently written in the present tense. My book is not in the present tense, but Wolf Hall is!

I’m clearly easily taken under the influence of other writers, especially those with distinctive narrative styles. And because I know this about myself, I have to choose my influencers carefully. Y’all have probably noticed that a lot of the books I read are in the historical fiction/fantasy range because – guess what? – my own novel is historical fantasy. Reading contemporary novels or sci-fi novels actually does screw me up. I’m a bad compartmentaliz-er. Writing is writing is writing in my brain, regardless of who is doing the writing.

Writers always start out as readers. We go along consuming and absorbing every example of the written word we can find, and then the magical day comes that we realize someone wrote it down. The words didn’t print as if from nowhere – they came from someone’s creative, thoughtful, and intentional mind. So, naturally, our first writing outings tend to be heavily influenced by our first addiction, reading. Write what you know.

Fantasy and history have always been my jam. Not to say that I’ve never written any other genre, but those tend to be the main ones. My biggest project to date – my first novel – certainly speaks to that. It requires so much focus; even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. When I’m reading, I’m thinking about writing. I need whatever resources are available to constantly absorb historical vocabulary, fantastical worldbuilding, emotional male characters, growing-up stories, how to describe love and grief and power.

I’ve had many instructors who have said that writers are scavengers, ravens. We see exciting little glimmers in the text and we hide it away, and one day we have enough to patch together something original from all those pieces we gathered and gathered. It takes a while, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m almost always in my story somehow. And I’m always in other people’s stories, trekking around with their paperbacks in my bag.

I’ll be the first to admit that, as of late, I’ve done a little too much thinking and not enough writing. With a serious pound of my fist on my desk, I solemnly swear that this will change. Onto a chapter where a relationship falls to pieces and a dangerous madness begins to show itself.

(Why, yes, I have read Jane Eyre. How did you know?)


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