The Snow Child: when the book you were writing has already been written

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I had been encouraged by many to read Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, a book that has (in that glorious way that books sometimes are) been carried forward by a force that will always be greater than decreed advertising and oily PR machines—readerly love. I had been encouraged.  It is your kind of book, your kind of premise. But I had also been warned by a friend who knows me well. I'm not sure but it might have a lot in common with the adult novel you'd been working on.

The adult novel that I had been working on, then put aside, for when the time was right. For when all the other work got done. It was always out there—a complete fifth draft that needed a substantial overhaul. It was near. It lived in a bright corner of my mind.

We tell ourselves that our stories can wait, and most of the time they can. But yesterday as I sat and read the first 100 pages of The Snow Child I realized that my own novel had waited too long. For while the book I was writing is far less direct than Ivey's tale, more saturated with language, less tied to a specific fairytale, I, like Ivey, am obsessed with the woods, with children lost and possibly found, with barren couples and what they see, what they want, what they wish their way toward. I am obsessed with trees in snow. I am obsessed with bird call and fox print. I was writing those obsessions down. I was writing about a boy who had entered my life, then was gone. I wasn't writing The Snow Child, but who would believe, if ever I now were to finish and publish this book of mine, that I had not somehow been influenced by it.

I will, I'm sure, read on. But not right now. Right now I need a little time to let go of a dream I once had. 


The1stdaughter said...

Oh Beth. *hugs*

I can only imagine how hard this must be. Sending you all my love. xoxo

Amy said...

aw, I'm really really sorry to hear this. :( hugs to you.

patti.mallett_pp said...

You will figure it out. You will. xo

Katrina said...

Oh Beth. I can just imagine the pain of this. And I admire you, too, for having the courage to trust your friends and readers by sharing the heartbreak of this moment. Somehow, you have to believe that your work is not for naught, that nothing is ever wasted, that your true treasure is intact. Sending love.

Kelly Simmons said...

no no no no. no. Nothing is ever how you, singular you, would do it. EVER.

KFP said...

Oh: painful. I have had this happen with articles I was working on, which was devastating enough, but never something as large as a book. I have heard of nonfiction books about to come out that sounded as if they would be like the one I am writing, striking fear in my heart, but...when they come out much to my relief it turned out mine was different.

The positive side of this is it confirms one has good ideas. Especially when the other book or article is a good book or article.

I agree with Kelly: "Nothing is ever how you, singular you, would do it." Especially you, Beth, who has such a singular style and voice.

I suggest you have another writer or perhaps editor or agent -- or perhaps your son? -- who you trust read your manuscript and The Snow Child and evaluate your manuscript in terms of your fears. That will "save" you from reading the book and possibly being subconsciously influenced by it. Then go from there, based on that feedback. Now is a good time for that, as you are unable to work on the novel right now anyway. That reader will also be able to evaluate/advise you on your manuscript down the ine as well.

I have a feeling it will work out, and for the best. Such as, the two will indeed turn out to be different or -- you will change something in yours in reaction, and the change will unexpectedly make yours even better.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I have been there and have taken both paths and believe you have the possibility of either path.

If you still need to write your book, I believe it can be done, with the unique viewpoint and flavor you will bring to it.

If you decide you don't need to write your book, I sympathize with you in the letting go. But writing the 5 drafts gave you something that will never go away.

Kelly H-Y said...

I'm so sorry. I do understand ... I had a similar realization with a book I recently read.

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