Writer’s envy. We know it, we hate it, we love it, sometimes we want to punch it in the face or scream out of jealousy. Writer’s envy is the proverbial angel and demon on your shoulders warring for attention, telling you you’ll never be that awesome or maybe, even, that one day, you will reach that level of creative genius.
Writer’s Envy 101
What is writer’s envy?
Well my dear grasshopper, writer’s envy is that little thing that happens when you, as a writer, read a book that simultaneously breaks your heart and fills you with such bliss that you seem to transcend your existence and start a whole new life in that imaginary universe. It’s that special moment when a book is so powerful that the world seems to stop and no matter how much you know you should move on and get on with your life, YOU DON’T WANT TO. It’s that little bit of ecstasy that floods your veins with warmth, douses your body in ice, and sets your soul on fire. Okay, enough with the theatrics, although I wholeheartedly mean every word I wrote, the truth is, writer’s envy is that green monster that latches on your back and whispers in your ear words that tear out your heart and cause you to angrily rip apart your manuscript and make you feel a tad bit errr…a whole lot like a writing failure. You want so badly to live up to this talent that you’ve fallen in love with that you start to hate it and yourself a teensy bit even if you won’t admit it.
That sounds horrible. Is it all bad?
When people think of writer’s envy it seems like a bad thing, something that messes with your head and causes you to frantically edit, edit, scratch the words out in psychotic circles like that creepy kid in The Ring, and break out the paper shredder. DON’T DO IT. While editing is not a bad thing, don’t give up. Writer’s envy can be very positive and in fact, might even help you on your way to becoming a better writer.
How, dearest blogger, do I use my writer’s envy to my benefit?
I’m glad you asked. Firstly, writer’s envy is a great way to recognize what works and what doesn’t. Look at how the characters interact. I’ve often found that even more so than a great story, realistic, funny dialogue is hard to come by, but when you find it definitely take notes because this is no easy feat. Secondly, after staring at your manuscript for who the heck knows how long (often I find myself slipping into a catatonic state wondering just where to go next and what I need to edit to fix where I’m stuck) this might be an eye opener. It could inspire a fresh look at your manuscript and maybe, from another writer’s perspective, you can reevaluate your own writing. Third, inspiration. Inspiration is one of the most all-encompassing, wonderful gifts a writer can grant a reader or fellow writer. Ideas sprout other ideas, and perhaps may entice you to explore a different plot route. Now, PLAGIARISM IS BAD. That’s not at all in any way, shape, or form, what I am suggesting, I simply mean, check out what you love and see how you can apply that feeling to your own writing.
Now that we’ve gotten the foundational info out of the way, here are my top 5 series that inspired my writer’s envy:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
From the second I started Daughter of Smoke and Bone I was hooked. My cellphone lockscreen and background reads:
Once upon a time, an
angel and a devil
held a wishbone
And its snap split the
world in two.
I’m probably unhealthily obsessed with this series. It’s magical, it’s lyrical, it’s like a fairytale in a whimsical Prague setting that you know is destined to end badly but the hope that love with prevail despite an epic battle between heaven and hell and the possibility of death around every corner. This love story is unlike anything I’ve every experienced. AND it’s so much more than a love story. It’s full of life and real, raw, glimpses into the heart. The beautiful depictions of Prague are captivating, the characters are brilliant, and the story. Holy hell, the story, left me speechless. It’s the kind of life changing read that you will never forget and you will be thinking about it for the rest of your life. Karou and Akiva trump those sappy star-crossed tweens Romeo and Juliet and good riddance. I’ve been to Eastern Europe and have never written a story set there but this made me want to, badly.
The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
I’ve always thought the fey were evil. Ever since Tinker Bell and her hair pulling stunts in Peter Pan (though I hated Wendy). Firstly, iron fey, seriously? What a fantastic, bold, unique idea. The fey world is so detailed, it’s borderline Middle Earth. Seriously, the amount of painstaking, calculated description in itself is awe-inspiring. I have so much respect for Julie Kagawa. The Iron Fey world was so real that you could almost believe fey live among us, preying on the innocent, slaves to their own whims. The sheer evil, the emotional capacity, the amount of feelings that this series opens up to the reader…I’m speechless just thinking about it.
Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi
I like dystopian, I’d even go so far as to say that I love it. Under the Never Sky takes dystopian to a new level. It’s unusual in such an innovative way. Generally dystopian tends to lean towards science has destroyed us or saved us depending on the view in a very Frankenstein way but this is beyond futuristic science fiction, this takes the world and divides it and then throws catastrophic storms that can destroy entire villages. The evolution of people, allowing them to have developed abilities to cope with this is incredible. The tribal vs civilized, the outsider, the creepy, overbearing government, and the passionate love is just not something that usually works so well together but in this series it feels a lot like destiny.
Luxe series by Anna Godbersen
Told from different perspectives, set in a world far removed from our current time, Luxe takes everything you love about Jane Austen and makes it contemporary. From the mannerisms, the affairs, the word choice, the splendid dresses, the conflicted emotions, the social hierarchies, the war with propriety and how that stifles the spirit. SO MUCH is going on in this series. These girls are relatable, emotional, but such strong role models. This is the series that I look at as a model for a powerful, compassionate, yet head strong female lead with so many facets to her heart.
Desolation by Ali Cross
This series is not only a study in psychology and behavioral patterns but you will definitely question the nature of evil, whether it is ultimately a choice or something that you’re born with. The story is tragic, broken, but so full of hope and desperate longing for a love that eclipses time. Redemption, pain, and the struggle to overcome a past that sinks its teeth in and doesn’t want to let go. The main character is bold, brutally honest, and she walks the fragile line between adoration and loathing. Her character by itself, without the love story, without the battle of good and evil, her internal struggles and quest to find herself as a person apart from the world she was born into…wow, seriously, wow. Between the kickass battle scenes and sexual tension that steams off the pages, it is my go to for authentic, perfect love and how that love can make a person want to overcome and face battles that they never believed they were brave enough to attempt, let alone win.
If the weird sizing is bothering you, it bothers me too but if it helps, you can think of them in size order of which inspired my writer’s envy more.
What are some books that have inspired your writer’s or even reader’s envy?