This started out as a bullet point from yesterday’s post about how the new book was coming. But then I got too interested in it, and it broke free and took on a hideous life of its own.
As far as I can tell there are two kinds of fiction writers: those who read no fiction while they write, and those who constantly read fiction while they write. Let’s have cute names for them. We’ll call them Soloists and Thieves.
I’m the second kind. I can’t function as a writer unless I’m reading somebody else — somebody better than me — and stripping off parts and reverse-engineering special effects and so on as I go. Maybe I need somebody to compete with, or just somebody to remind me that things that seem impossible are in fact possible (for other people).
Maybe it’s an Oedipal thing a la Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence — I need that primal conflict with a father-in-art in order to be productive.
A more charitable friend — and fellow Thief — calls those other books “sponsor texts.” I just think of them as companions-in-arms. They fight beside you, loyally, and then when things get tough you wait till they fall asleep and then you mug them and roll them for whatever they’ve got.
I don’t understand how the Soloists do it. (more…)