To Read or Not to Read

by Mary Rehmann
Published on: September 23, 2012
Categories: Other Topics
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Comments: 2 Comments

To read or not to read?  That is the question that nips at the heels of aspiring writers.

Some years ago while carpooling home from a crit group meeting, I told Scriva Addie about this book I’d been noodling about for quite a while.  I was bored with my current novel-in-progress, and I wanted to dive into something new.  After listening to a brief sketch of my idea, Addie asked if I’d ever read a book she’d heard about named W—-.

I hadn’t, but I thought I ought to maybe check it out.  Or maybe not.  Or maybe later.  Or maybe before I got started.  I let the question of whether or not I should read the book bounce around in my brain for a good four years or so.

Fast forward to this summer; I finally had time to pick up a few YA books I’d been intending to read and also start tapping away again at the books that have been yammering away in my head.  Imagine my dismay when, in a flash of why-the-heck-not, I finally picked up the book Addie had mentioned to me so many years ago and discovered that it was uncomfortably similar to what I’d been plotting in my head for so long.

I nearly dragged the file to the trashcan in dismay, but then I talked it over with the Scrivas, and, again, their collective wisdom overwhelmed me.  While there are some definite down sides to having the story you’ve been meaning to tell already told, there are some possible up sides, too.  I’m redefining characters, remapping plot lines, and adding complexities I’d been wishy-washy about before.

So fear not: someone else’s story is just that.  Your story is your own, and reading something close to it might help you craft it even more finely.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

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  1. Sabina I. Rascol says:

    That is indeed the question, Mary. I’m opting for the other road–not to read. There are two re-tellings of a fairy tale I want to do which I’m resolutely not reading. (Watch me in a pose familiar to anyone who’s ever grown up with siblings–fingers in ears, eyes closed, repeating: “I’m not reading, I’m not reading, you cant make me, I’m not reading!”) Nicole told me that the other novels are nothing like what I have in mind, but I decided I still need my mental space completely clear.

    Hmm… I have been optimistically considered which of my many projects to work on once I finish the historical novel I’m working on (“optimistically” because I have such a ways to go yet). Maybe it will need to be this re-telling, so I can read the other two versions!

  2. Mary Rehmann says:

    Sabina,
    If I had the chance to do it over again, I think I wouldn’t have read the book. While it has forced me to define what is different about my story, it’s caused me into that horrible loop where I’ve started revising before finishing. I like your plan.

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