Monday, 27 February 2012

Books with the same topic as yours

Hello. First off I'd like to apologise for not being round to comment on everyone's blogs so much last week - I've been immersed in the Platform-Building Campaign and ploughing through the fantastically diverse list of entries, and being a man, I'm naturally no good at multi-tasking. Sorry about that, and I'll be making up for it!

I would say that if you're not involved in the Campaign, then you should definitely consider it for next time round (August, I believe) - apart from being an easy way to meet loads of new people (always a good thing), you get to see a little slice of their talent in their challenge entries. And I always think that the best way to get to know a writer and what makes them tick is through their writing.

I'm coming on to the main thrust of this post (which is not just about bigging up the Campaign - although I'm happy to do so). One entry in particular resonated with me for interesting reasons. You can check it out here. The reason is because it comes from a WIP which deals with the same subject as mine - amnesia. It's naturally fascinating to see how another writer deals with the same topic.

However, I don't think I would want to read the finished book until mine was finished, polished, scrubbed until I could see my face in it. Why? Well, for the simple reason of distraction.

You could see elements in the book that might make you think, "Why didn't I explore that particular avenue?" Then you would go back to your own book and try to change it to the point where it's taken in a totally different direction than what was originally intended, and probably wouldn't even work for your story. You could end up with a major mess on your hands. I also don't think it would be a good idea to be a critique partner with that person, at least for those particular projects. There would be too much confusion and cross-pollination, or even accidental plagiarism on one or both sides.

There are two books on my bookshelves that I'm yet to read - Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, and Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk. They both deal with this same subject too, so I don't want to go near them until my current novel is in my past.

So what about you? Do you avoid novels that deal with a similar subject to yours while you're writing and editing it (even if the plot is very different?) Or do you find them useful for inspiration and alternative perspectives?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm usually not reading while writing so I guess I avoid them.
Did the Campaign last fall. Focused on the A to Z Challenge which has garnered the best results by far the last two years!

S.P. Bowers said...

When I first started writing my current WIP I read a bunch of books about the same subject, just to make sure I wasn't writing something that was already published. I haven't really explored any recently and I can completely understand what you're saying. Sometimes I read my own MS and find a hint or allusion and think why didn't I explore that further? Luckily it's not too late to change.

Nick Wilford said...

Alex - Yeah, I meant to mention that some people don't like to read at all while writing and I do find it a little offputting/intimidating sometimes. Or, depending on the quality of the book, empowering!

S.P. - I can understand the need to make sure you weren't copying something already out there. The great thing is there can be loads of books with the same subject (look at vampires), but they will all have different plots. I wouldn't like to be thought of as bandwagoning though, so it's a fine line.

Shell Flower said...

It's amazing how so many books with similar basic elements there can be, but they are all so different. I don't generally read all in the same genre while I am writing, but I don't consciously try to stay away from similar books. I feel I am much more inspired by real life events that what I read when I am writing.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I think it is interesting to read books with a similar genre that I'm writing, but I usually don't get much reading done when I'm writing. :)

Angela McCallister said...

I'm having a hard time catching up with everyone's posts! Still working on it, but I'm in the middle of a four-day road trip from Florida to California. I had to schedule my book launch post for Alex's CassaFire because I knew I'd be in a hotel somewhere with questionable internet connectivity, lol.

As for reading, I do read voraciously in my genre, even my subgenres. I like to pick the books apart and see what worked for me as a reader and what didn't. My writing has never been influenced in any way on the creative level by what I read as of yet--only on a craft level. But I do cringe sometimes when I see a similar element mentioned. I sooth myself by focusing on the differences.

Tess Julia said...

Very interesting point, and honestly, I hadn't even thought of it that way before. My WIP is different from any other book I've seen out there, but if I found a similar one I might think twice about reading it now.

D.E. Malone said...

*I don't read similar books while I'm writing, but I do keep 1-2 books on my desk which have a similar voice as the story I'm working on. When I'm stuck, I read a few paragraphs for inspiration.

Michael Horvath said...

Inspiration can come from anywhere so I wouldn't avoid reading anything similar to what I might be writing.

As a musician, there are just so many notes to use, it's how they are put together that makes a song different. I couldn't imagine not listening to metal if I was laying down a hard rocking track, or hip-hop because my friend wants me to help her with a song of that genre. I just apply the same thoughts to reading and writing.

Sarah Tokeley said...

I tend not to read anything in the genre I'm writing in whilst I'm galloping through the first draft. It's just safer that way :-)

Unknown said...

I tend to stay away from books I know will be in the same vein as one I'm writing. I might read something from the same genre, but I'm even careful about that. I want my ideas to be my own and not tainted, even marginally, by another's.

Good topic!

alexia said...

I often don't read at all when writing a first draft because it's all I have time for... but if I do take a little reading break I make sure to avoid books similiar to mine, for the reasons you mention.

Colleen said...

Interesting question...I don't get inspired by reading novels, but whatever nonfiction I'm reading, or sometimes shorter work (fairy tales and myths in particular), will usually creep into my WIP in some way or another.

Nick Wilford said...

Shell - Yeah, real life is a bigger inspiration for me, I just think if I read those books on the same topic as mine, I might be led down a certain path by their ideas and I want it to be all my own.

Krista - I like reading books in the same genre, just not the exact same subject.

Angela - I would have thought it would take longer than four days to get from Florida to California! America is huge. It sounds fun.

There's a lot to be said for analysing what worked in what you think are the best books in your genre.

Honey - Yeah, the other thing is it could be disheartening to find a book already published which has similar themes to yours. But it's not your fault, and each of us is going to have a different take on a subject.

Dawn - Sounds like a good idea!

Michael - What a great analogy. Yes, it's important to remember that we will all come to a topic from a different angle and have different ideas about it.

Sarah - I like to read all the time, but I'm quite wide-ranging in what I read. I suppose what I write would have to be called thrillers, but I don't even read that many of them! I just write the story that comes out, and I don't want to be too influenced by thinking of what elements a thriller is "supposed" to contain.

Michelle - I agree completely!

Alexia - I'm the same, except I always like to read something. It usually is completely different to what I'm working on.

Colleen - I think a lot of stories and films have similarities with myths and fairy tales. They kind of pervade our subconscious.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, I came to your blog via Jayne Ferst's A Novice Novelist. I took part in Rach's campaign last fall and enjoyed it so much. I was traveling this time around, so had to skip it, but am looking forward to her next.

In answer to your question, I actually do read novels by others that are writing about my themes. I do like seeing how others handle it, and sometimes it makes my own writing a little richer to pick up a few clues about setting and time frame. Part of that is probably because I'm working right now on an MG novel in a historical setting, and it's helpful to see what things are called, etc.

Nick Wilford said...

Elizabeth - Nice to meet you. I see what you're saying, but I do worry that things I pick up from other books would distract me from my own "vision". Great if you can work that way, though!

C.B. Wentworth said...

The only similarity I've come across are characters who share the same occupation as my main character, who is a photographer. I've learned a lot from other authors about how photographers see the world around them, which is where I had the most research to do. It was very helpful to have something to supplement all the camera and dark room logistical research I had done. :-)

Nick Wilford said...

C.B. - Yes, I can see how that would be helpful. You can learn all there is to know about the physical process of photography but that's not going to help you get inside a photographer's mindset.

Megan said...

Hello! Thanks for following my sad little blog! :)

I like to read books that are somewhat similar because I do feel that I can learn from them. What's really frustrating is when you think there is one major similarity and you start reading and it pretty much feels like they wrote YOUR book. Obviously it won't be the same, but it's so discouraging!

Also, I LOVE Scotland! Spent a week in Inverness last year and adored it.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Yes. I definitely avoid novels close to mine until it's done. Luckily mine isn't a common one, but I definitely think it does more harm than good! People write so vastly different that of course they wouldn't be too similar. But I'm afraid I might make it more similar than it would've been otherwise if I gave myself the opportunity to be influenced by it.

Nick Wilford said...

Megan - Hello! Yes, I know what you mean, especially when the book is a big deal - you feel like if your book gets published, people will accuse it of copying.

Glad you enjoyed Inverness. We stayed there three years ago when our baby was eight months. Did you spot Nessie?

Peggy - I think you summed up much more eloquently what I was trying to say in my post. Thanks!