Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why I'm Taking a Break from my Favorite Genre

Just a few quick things before my post gets underway...
  1. I have a guest post today on Steph Bowe's Hey! Teenager of the Year! It's about dystopian YA literature (which is what this post is about also, in a different way). 
  2. You might notice I have a new background! If you were visiting between 8:30 and 10 ET, I apologize, because you got to see the Great Changing Background Spectacle of 2010. I have a graphic designer friend who is working on something custom for me, but she's in school, so I don't pretend that I'm the most important thing in her life. And my black background was getting a bit depressing. So I hope you like the new background! If you have problems reading it, etc., please let me know - nothing bugs me more than when I can't see content through a blog's background, so I won't be offended by the truth. 
  3. Have you entered my 100 followers contest? It ends tomorrow! Enter to win two books on craft and some additional goodies.
OK, now let's get down to it...I have a huge dillema, and I am so upset about it. I've had to give up reading my favorite genre, dystopian literature, because I know reading it right now will make me absolutely crazy. Why?

My WIP is a dystopian YA novel. And, like most neurotic totally sane writers, I'm so paranoid that I'm going to read an idea that's similar to mine, have a major meltdown, and collapse in on myself like a dying star that I've decided my best course of action is to just avoid the genre altogether.

For awhile, I was OK with this. It meant I had to put off The Handmaid's Tale, and The Maze Runner, as well as some other dystopian books I've recently discovered that I've added to my TBR list (Life as We Knew It, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Unwind....just to name a few.) And I thought I could handle it. My experience reading The Giver while I was working on this project only cemented my resolve.

Then March 4 rolled around, and a little book called The Line by Teri Hall hit bookstores. I cannot tell you how excited I have been to read this book. It's been on my radar for quite some time. I probably would have run out today and immediately purchased it, except that The Line is a dystopian novel, and I don't want to break my rule.

Then I had a thought - what if August comes, and I'm STILL not done with this project? (Which would be totally unacceptable, according to the new Timeline for Success I've set up for myself, which includes attending SCBWI-LA with a completed MS.) Does that mean I can't read Mockingjay??!!! (I decided it does not. I already know that world, anyway. Besides, it's MOCKINGJAY. I'm even contemplating taking a day off work to read that one.)

Here's the great thing about this rule, though; as my list of dystopian literature to-read grows, so does my desire to finish this WIP faster. I want to be able to get back to the genre I love so well. I miss it. That doesn't mean I'm rushing through revisions, but it does light a fire under my butt to get them done.

Another great thing about this rule is that I'm reading a lot more contemporary novels than I might have otherwise. I just finished Thirteen Reasons Why, and next up is Some Girls Are (apparently I am trying to get in touch with my moody, tortured teen side - the side that makes you squirm it's so awful.) I would have read both of these books eventually, but it's safe to say they got moved up the pile because of my desire to stay away from any and everything that might remind me of my WIP.

So what about you? Do you try to read books similar to yours while you're writing? Or do you stay away from them, like me?


  1. The good thing about contemporary YA is that it is all SO different, so it's only when I read books like Before I Fall (which you HAVE to read, since you aren't reading dystopian and all) that are exactly what I WISH I wrote that I have that totally sane nervous breakdown.

  2. Very interesting. I don't purposefully read books that are similar to my own. I am listening right now to a book that deals with mutations (well, it's similar to mutations but that's not what the author calls it) and that's what two of my books deal with. What I've found in listening to it is that it makes me think of my own story and gives a desire to write in them.

    But this is rare. I don't often read something like my own. Part of it might be that fear you discussed, but also there is a little fear of switching to mimic mode. I don't think that I'd start copying the tone of books I read but I guess it's possible.

    For now the books on my to read list aren't close to what I'm writing, so think I'm okay in that realm for now.

    That is an interesting incentive for you and I hope it works out. Good luck with the book writing and not reading.

  3. That's a good question! When I begin a new project, I try to find and read books that I believe are similar to mine, just to know what's out there so I won't discover when my novel is all shiny and finished that I inadvertently plagiarized (would it still be plagiarism if I'd never read the book?) a book that's already published.

    However, reading nothing but those books also makes me doubt myself and my writing. So I've tried to compromise: I don't actively avoid them, but I also don't seek them out, either. :]

  4. Jess - I know! Before I Fall is up soon. I'm in a few contests to win it, so if I don't get lucky then I'll pick it up from the library or for my shelf.

    Dawn - I definitely agree about mimic mode. That's a great point! Sometimes I read a great writer and think, "Why can't I write like this!" Then I try and it doesn't sound anything like me.

    Sandy - I do the same thing - I try to find out what's out there before I get started just to make sure I'm not doing something that's been overdone. And to answer your question, no, it's not plagiarism unless you literally copy word for word from someone's manuscript. You can't copyright ideas, so even if you write a very similar general plot, the characters, voice, etc. would still be your own, and that's how you set your book apart.

  5. Love the new background!

    I hadn't heard of The Line before a few days ago but I love the cover and want to read it just because of that since I know nothing about it.

    I bought Before I Fall today and plan on starting it sometime next week after I finish The Secret Year.

    Although I'm not an aspiring writer, if I were I think I'd try and stay away from similar books in fear that I would meld the two without meaning to

  6. Oh that is hard one... I havent really thought about it before, but think I try to stay away from books similar to whatever I am writing on at the moment.
    I am mostly scared that in some subconscious level they will change and influence my writing! Often I try not to read books at all when writing!

    Everyone wants to be unique, but I am not scared that I would read a similar story idea. If I do, fine, I still know it wont be exactly 'my' story and embrace the situation to make some changes or add something that I might not have done otherwise.

    So, it's all good!

  7. I try to read as many novels that are in the same genre as my WIP as I can in the first couple months of my writing. After that I search for novels in any genre that have a female character with a voice similar to what I'm trying to accomplish. I do this because writing convincing women is difficult for me.

  8. Exciting! I am thrilled to hear your WIP is dystopian, and I hope I can read it one of these days. Obviously I am a big fan since I dedicated a whole month to dystopian fiction (last month) and plan to again in August!

  9. I pretty much read what I want to, but it's easier for me because I write on the younger end - PB's and chapter books.

    And of course I entered the contest. I'm dying for it to be over so I can see who wins. I so WANT those books! Ha ha ha. Have a great weekend! :-)

  10. Holly StricklandMarch 7, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    Even though I don't write activly, I do have ideas in my head - some of which have been there for over a decade - and as I have mentioned earlier, have as of late been outlining. I see bits of it almost everywhere, and I immediately think "No fair! That's my idea!" There's always that fear that you will be thought of as either a copycat or a (gasp!) plagarist. Always keep this in mind, all you writers out there: even if you are the first one to think of something, you are never the only one. If you see something similar to what you are writing, it's not a big deal because it is not what you are writing, and they can't tell your story like you can.

    BTW, sorry for not commenting lately, Heather, I have been really busy w/ schoolwork & such. Thank you for the compliment yesterday! :)

  11. It really depends on the circumstance and what stage I am at in my writing, but generally, I'm with you. I try and stay away from books that might be similar so I don't start absorbing ideas, making them flat. By the way, when am I going to get more pages? :)

    P.S Lenore, I am SO excited for your next Dystopian month.


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