Thursday, 2 May 2013

Reading, reading and more reading

I recently came across an interesting article in Writing Magazine in which new writers were encouraged to read as much as possible within their chosen genre. While I endorse that philosophy, I also believe it should come with an important warning. Read as many books as you like, but don’t be mesmerized by them. By immersing deeply in a particular type of writing, the new author is at risk of producing a pastiche of what has been done before.

Agents and publishers do not – so I am led to believe – want novels that are remakes of other people’s work. The new writer who succeeds in a difficult market is usually one who has something new to say, something that has not been already done to death by a multitude of more experienced writers. It’s that fresh approach that a publisher will look for.

Time and again I read articles by agents who say they are looking for writers with a new, fresh voice, writers who can tackle an old subject in a way that has not been done before. And there is a real risk that a new writer who has self-hypnotised on a string of best-selling novels will produce more of the old formula. The fresh approach may be missing.

So, yes, read other author’s work, and read avidly. But, when you tackle your own novel, you should avoid the risk of sub-consciously regurgitating another version of something that has already been done. That’s one reason why I like to plan out my novels right at the start. I want to be sure I am not going to waste the next few months doing what someone else has already done… and probably done better because it was fresh and new when that previous writer tackled it.

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