Time-traveling Englishwoman versus Reconstruction-era Southerner

Some writers don’t like to read other’s work while in the midst of writing their own work. They fear that the author’s voice and style of writing will unduly spoil their own inner voice. I used to think such behavior indulgent overkill, but I have revised my opinion.

I am currently reading “The Fiery Cross,” the fifth book (I think! I’ve lost track now) in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Since it is the fifth such book in a series, I have grown very fond of the heroine, Clair Fraser, a time-traveling Englishwoman/doctor-healer in both the 20th and 18th centuries. And sometimes, when I sit down to work on the sequel to The Outer Banks House, my own heroine Abigail comes out sounding a bit, shall we say, English. This just won’t do, since Abigail is a 19th century Southerner and teacher. Also, my style starts to mimic the writing style of Gabaldon, which often makes use of long and descriptive sentences and detailed dialogue. Her language is beautiful, and easy to read, making it easy to get lost in the stories she’s telling. But when I go back and re-read, I find my writing bloated, compared to how I usually write, and I delete and refine over half of what I wrote. 

But I can’t stop reading the Outlander series! I’m addicted. I look forward to reading it every night. And the same goes for any and all books that happen across my bedside table. I could never stop reading, just because I’m a writer. Reading is a pleasure for me, and it often informs my own writing. I’ll sometimes stop in my tracks and marvel at the way an author used language, or twisted a plot, or just plain made me cry. I’ll try to see how I could do the same thing in my own writing the next day. Reading grew me into the writer that I am today.

I have, in the meantime, grown more aware of my writing, how I need to be true to my own voice and style. Every word, every sentence must ring true for me or it’s the delete button!

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