Thursday, April 28, 2011

When you read a novel similar to yours...

Tomorrow, I'm meeting my writing/critique partner for a Write-Your-A$$-Off Day! Okay, so it's not a full glorious day of clicking away at the keyboard on our novels, but my writing and critique partner and I are meeting up tomorrow night for the first time in awhile, and we fully intend to write and edit for a few hours. In fact, it was just about a year ago that we did our first write-your-a$$-off day, to much success.

These sorts of days are becoming more and more valuable to me. Rarely do I get long hours in one sitting to just work on my novel. (You learn to do a page here, a page there).

But that's beside the point. Rather, I've been thinking about how I think about my novel when I'm not really working on my novel. The characters follow me wherever I go. I see a girl on the el that embodies Anne-Marie much more than I ever even pictured. An article I stumble across mentions Charlotte Corday. Or I read a book that makes me think about my own... which recently happened. I'd been told that my novel is similar to Jennifer Donnelly's best-seller Revolution. In ways this worried me. What if it was too similar? What if my novel is seen as a copy-cat, even though this story has been bouncing around my head and my computer for years?

I laid all those fears to rest when I read it. There's definitely a lot of similar elements. Both lead characters get sent to Paris. Both girls have some demons in their life. Both struggle to find common ground with their dad. Both suddenly find themselves immersed in a diary and the French Revolution. Both time travel.

Okay, okay, that's a lot a like one another, but content wise? Not so much. Revolution is this wonderful tribute to the power of music and the unraveling of a French Revolution mystery. Through Charlotte's Eyes is about destiny, connections through time, and whether one murderous act can change the future. My novel is, in large part, about Charlotte Corday, but it's just as much about how Charlotte's actions affected the world--and one particular girl--years later.

It's in the differences as well as the similarities between the two novels that I learn a bit about where I want to see my close-to-final draft go from here. There's scenes where I need more French Revolution details. There's interactions between the past and the present that can be better fleshed out, like they are in Revolution.

But does this mean Revolution informs the way I write my own novel? Not necessarily. But it's inspiring to read something that takes a similar elements and goes in an entirely different direction.

And when it comes down to it? It's all about the story you have to tell. That's what I'll be working on tomorrow at Starbucks, making that story hit the perfect pitch by getting all of the details just right. It's my story to tell--but then again, it also belongs to Charlotte Corday. And that, my friends, is something Revolution knows nothing about.


Rachel Searles said...

That's an awesome way of looking at it. I get stressed out when I hear about a new book that's even remotely similar to the one I'm working on...I think that's an aspiring writer pitfall :)

Melanie said...

Hello, I've just come across your blog and am so pleased someone else likes Charlotte Corday! :)

Don't worry - I'm not writing about her as well, although I have two novels about the French Revolution due out! I get the same worries though when I see that someone has written something similar to me - I have a rule that I don't read books set during the same period as the one that I am writing on, but even so...

Melanie x