Sunday, January 12, 2014

Influences and Writing

When I'm actually deep in the trenches with the first draft of a manuscript, I have a terrible sense of what Harold Bloom calls "The Anxiety of Influence." For me, the first draft is the pure essence of the story and while the final draft might be completely different as far as diction and plot moments and character movements, it will always retain the imprint and the pulse of that first attempt to capture the story. When I'm writing a first draft I do everything I can to avoid reading works in the genre I write in (you can usually tell when I'm writing a first draft because I read nothing but non-fiction for about three months straight), lest I be subconsciously influenced by an idea or image or phrase. I am even nervous about influencing myself with my own previous work (if you think this sounds neurotic, please take a glance at some previous "And Writing" posts and it will all make sense...)

However, now that I'm on my 1-month "in-between drafts" break, where I'm letting my mind clear and my manuscript marinate before I tackle revision drafts, I'm able to take a moment to breath and consider who my influences are and glean what I can from them. Who I love to read and who influences my writing are not necessarily the same, which I think is important, even if it sounds odd. So without further preamble, I'd like to share those writers who have influenced either my work, my writing process or my identity as a writer (or all three!) and I invite you to share your influences as well....

Elmore Leonard- for his style, his emphasis on dialogue and his all around "I don't give a..." attitude. And also for his reminder to never use the word "suddenly."
Daniel Woodrell- for his genre.
Ernest Hemingway- for his insistence on knowing nine times more about your story and character than you readers do.
J.D. Salinger- for maniacal devotion to his craft.
Stephen King- for the process of developing a manuscript (and taking a month break). And for his hatred of adverbs.
Jim Harrison- for subtly.
David Eddings- for the underbelly characters.
James Lee Burke- for the thrill, but also for the depth.
Cormac McCarthy- for setting the bar impossibly high, but giving a measure in the stars to always aim for.

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