Reading as a Writer

wing and clawNot long ago, I pointed out to my critique group that since I’m writing an early middle grade novel, I shouldn’t read middle grade fiction.  “What do you mean that you’re writing middle grade but you never read middle grade?”

Sigh.  No.  Right now.  Right this moment.  For the next month or so, I probably shouldn’t read midde grade.  Why because I’m drafting an early middle grade novel.  I have discovered the hard way that if I read a novel written at more or less the same level with amazing voice, it hijacks my voice.

This time around, I made the mistake of picking up Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park.  WOW.  Wow.  wow.  Every now and again I pick up a book and think “I wish I had written this.”  For me, this is one of those books. That’s the good news.  I’ve found a book to go all fan-girl over.

But the bad news is that I’ve lost my character’s voice.  Not entirely.  Every once in a while Clem once again sounds like Clem.

She never sounds like Park’s character.  That would be another problem altogether.  When I lose her voice, she sounds all Midwest neutral.  She has no accent.  She could be announcing the news.  Pbbt.

So how am I going to rediscover Clem’s voice?  First things first, because I am Fan-Girl, I’m going to finish reading Forest of Wonders.  Then I’m going to reread the begining of the book.  That’s where I heard Clem’s voice loud and clear.

I’m not going to find where I lost it.  I can fix that later.  And I know there will be plenty of things to fix.  But I am going to read it and reread it where her voice comes through.  Hopefully it will allow me to reclaim it as I move forward.  If not, I know what speech patterns inspired this voice.  Push comes to shove, I’ll take a road trip down to the Bootheel.  Otherwise I’ll see if I can find a radio show or something that will allow me to hear what I’ve lost.

Until then, I have a boy and a bat and a girl and a bear and some other critters and kids to read out of trouble.  Excuse me, won’t you?