On #reading as you’re #writing: Do some authors influence you too much?

You’ve heard the advice over and over again. Stephen King said it best: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” I subscribe wholeheartedly to this, although a couple of years ago I believed the opposite.

As an untested writer of fiction, I was concerned that if I read too much fiction – particularly fantasy and sci-fi – that I would subconsciously mimic the authors I had recently read. I was also afraid I would forget that someone had used a name or a convention, and I would accidentally use something that another author had planted in my head.

Today I feel much more confident in my own written voice. I feel like I learn from reading other authors, and the risks of inadvertent plagiarism or parroting are minimal. But I was intrigued to learn that NPR had just broadcast an interview with a Canadian columnist, Crawford Kilian, where he warns new writers to beware certain writings of a few well known authors, such as Ayn Rand. Why? Because “their readable styles look so easy that they might seduce a young writer into imitating them.”

Very interesting, I thought. The article (posted below) made me wonder if there were some writers that were so seductive to me. At one time I would have said Stephen King, but I’ve since come to recognize the brilliance in his style (even with his less accomplished work). On his list is The Lord of the Rings. I don’t think I necessarily agree with that, as early on the mature complexity becomes evident. I think Kilian’s point is more applicable to The Hobbit, with its disarming, almost fairy tale storytelling voice.

Check out the article, and let me know what you think!


From Kerouac To Rand, ‘Harmful’ Reads For Writers

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4 Responses to On #reading as you’re #writing: Do some authors influence you too much?

  1. I had the same situation as you when I was a teenager writing my book. I was so worried about accidentally stealing from other authors that I stopped reading. Although looking back it was rather naive, it was well-meant, although I do regret all the amazing books I could have discovered and already read by now.

    I would agree with Kilian regarding his inclusion of The Lord Of The Rings. If often suspect that the reason a lot of literary people hate him is not because of his actual work, but because of the thousands of terrible imitations that his work spawned.

    • W.E. Linde says:

      Thanks for your comments! I agree with you that there are countless people who have tried (quite unsuccessfully) to replicate The Lord of the Rings. I know that at one time I had worked on a fantasy world that was pretty much a poor knock-off of Middle Earth. I think what I was getting at is that The Hobbit comes across as a more “simple” story, and seemed more in line with the Kilian’s concern that the writing might convince someone to mimic it.
      Thanks again!

  2. I definitely have a tendency to steal Stephen King’s writing style, so I have to stay away from him when I’m writing or editing. On the other hand I’ve been *trying* to steal Donna Gillespie’s style, so I like to read her books while I work on my fantasy stories 😉

    • W.E. Linde says:

      I just added Stephen King’s On Writing to my read list for the year. He’s a master, no doubt about that. I haven’t read any of Donna Gillespie. My “to-read” list is a mile long as it is, but I’m always open to adding more! Thanks for the follow, and stopping by!

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