Saturday, February 23, 2013

Books that Leak

I’ve heard it said that a writer should not read the work of others while working on their own fiction. There is a danger that some of that story will leak into your story.

While there is probably some truth to that--we are products of the lives we live, after all--I can’t see how one could possibly take that advice seriously. I am always reading. Am I really expected to give up my greatest joy so that I might spend time creating joy for others? The hubris of that aside, how would writers ever learn to write if they gave up reading for long stretches of time?

I just finished a grand little book called The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker. The main character is an adolescent girl, just as is my main character. Thompson's girl lives on earth, but it is an earth that is winding down to a stop. The days get longer and longer. Through that major disaster, she must still deal with terrors of adolescence: mercurial friendships, not fitting in, the first training bra, the first boyfriend. 

Will some of that leak into Anjels? Perhaps, just as may the icy sidewalks of January and the way my dog throws his whole body into the chase of a Frisbee. 

Walker’s book is expertly paced, subtle and riveting. If some of that seeps into my book, all the better. And, maybe that is the better advice. When you are writing, endeavor to read only books that will help you learn the craft of writing. Those books need not be about writing. They just need to be well written books.  

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