I would like to say that I am a complete original. My ego would prefer that I depict myself in this essay as a creative genius who oozes unique ideas all the time.

Honestly? Well if I’m being honest, then I have to admit that whatever I am currently reading heavily influences my writing style. My NaNoWriMo novel for 2011, which I am still working on, is more than a little colored by the fact that when I started it I was reading REAMDE by Neal Stephenson. A suspicion haunts me that if I were to suddenly ditch the Stephenson book and pick up Emily Brontë, the tone of my own novel would change in turn. In order to keep the tone the same throughout the novel, I’ve made a pact with myself to only read that one novel while writing this book.

I’m not proud that my creative work is so easily influenced by what enters my mind from the outside. It seems like a distinct weakness in my writing abilities. I may be embracing this weakness for NaNoWriMo, but on other projects I have deliberately sequestered myself from media in order to keep other people’s ideas out of my work. I was writing a voice over script for a World War II documentary a few years back. Everyone I told about my project recommended watching a television series called Band of Brothers. I was curious but I waited until my project was finished to prevent any subconscious lifting of ideas.

I read somewhere that one must must write one million words before finding their true voice as a writer. That is what I’m shooting for, 1 million words. If I participate in National Novel Writing Month every year it will take me 20 years to achieve that goal. I really can’t wait that long. If I take the magic number from NaNoWriMo 1,667 and write that many words every day it will only take 20 months to reach 1 million words. This seems like a much more exciting proposition. If I keep writing as much as I did during November, I should be on schedule discover my true voice in around two years. I’m not sure if my editor will allow me to make up tags here on Confabulator Cafe, but if I can I will create the tag “1 million words” or something like that and keep everyone updated on the progress towards my 1 million words goal.

Optimistically, perhaps after crossing the 1 million word mark I will not need to isolate myself from media in order to keep my writing voice strong and original. Neither will I be a slave to imitation. Eventually I will be able to write authentically and from my heart all the time. In the meantime I am moving purposefully toward that destination of 1 million words and hoping that I can finish my 2011 NaNoWriMo Novel before I finish reading this Stephenson book.

Muriel is the creator of 'Documinutes: 60 second documentaries' and a contributor to the podcast 'This Manic Mama.'


  • dave says:

    I’ve never read Stephenson, but I thought your ’11 book had a definite ‘vibe’ to it (I think I said Mieville, but that’s because I don’t read very widely, and that was the closest I had). If that’s you ripping somebody off, well, it worked okay. I think that this kind of stylistic imbuing is hardly ever going to be bad, because you’re your own writer too, with your own story, and those will dominate the outside influences. So in the end, it’s probably a good thing, because each of your works will have a nice difference from the others. Or you could even use that effect intentionally, reading different things during different phases of your novel, to give them a tone.

  • Lorraine Gehring says:

    I think you have an original voice now. Further writing will only strengthen it.

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