Thursday, October 9, 2014

BALANCE: READING AND WRITING



I've gotten out of the habit of reading, and writing; and I miss both activities. When I finished my FATE trilogy and began submitting to agents/publishers, and got rejections, and a few short words of writing advice, I started collecting books on writing. Those helped me hone my writing abilities. Working with critique partners and writing book reviews also helped. Yes, oddly enough, reading for another writer with the intent of constructive feedback made it possible for me to objectively look at my own writing (occasionally at least).

With all that writing, and reading for writing, I've lost the ability to just sit down and read a book for the enjoyment of getting lost in another world. Well, over the last couple years I have read some books that pulled me right in to the story, and then writing the review was a little more difficult because I didn't keep notes of the exciting and intriguing segments of the book, and I despise writing a review that simply says 'what an awesome book, couldn't put it down' even though its totally true.

During my first week of unemployment I indulged in a book not written by any of my author friends.
Stephen King is still, and will likely forever remain, one of my most favoritist authors. I've had his novella THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE for a couple years, and finally read it. What an awesome start back into pleasure reading; I loved reacquainting with the characters from the DARK TOWER series, and even meeting new characters in this three-short stories-in-one  novella style. The head hopping was a little annoying, but not so much it pulled me out of the story. A good example of a writing no-no that was done well.

Now I'm reading Dean Koontz 77 SHADOW STREET, its harder to get into due to the large cast of characters, but I'm sticking with it because I know I usually enjoys Koontz's writing, and I am sure the story plot will pay off when all the characters are inevitably brought together to deal with the monster. The characters are interesting enough for me to keep connected to the story; but I'm sure many readers would find it hard to read all that back story and character development. For now though, I'm constantly putting it down to do other things - house cleaning, watching TV, checking on blogs.

Notice how I'm still procrastinating wring my own stories. I'm a week late in turning in my chapter re-write to the my online writer's group (at time of this writing, hopefully by the post date it will be turned in and I'm starting something else). Unlike many writers who sit down to the computer ready ready to dive back into their WiP, I need some warm up time by reading something writing related, or even writing some comments on blog posts to get my fingers a typing workout. Sometimes that leads me to write a blog post. Yay me, I'm updating my blog!!

This isn't even the post I started out to write when I logged into my blog. I started off this morning checking my e-mails, and since I'm trying to get back into writing, and reading things related to writing, I decided to read some of those Writer's Digest and Quora Digest articles I have sitting unopened in my inbox.

As writing articles tend to do, there wasn't much new from the WD articles and I didn't even click on the "read more" link. But Quora had some interesting reading.

The first eye catcher written by Marcus Geduld was on whether you should start a paragraph with "however." He summarized his grade school experience with an English teacher who taught him all sorts of rules, which he discovered he could effectively break when he became a writer by explaining: "However, when I got older, I realized that the writers's job is to infect the reader's brain. He should use any means at his disposal to make readers experience. The only rules worth remembering are ones that help that process." This brought a smile to my soda-stained lips and brightened my writing desire with a "true that!"

I should have turned immediately to writing then, but just below the article was an intriguing title  WHAT IS THE POINT OF WRITING by Ellen Vrana. She advised writers: If you are defining success as "being popular" you really shouldn't be a writer. She listed some attention seeking authors who enjoyed the light of media, and some successful but not so popular authors who are reclusive and shun the public. Both author types had one thing in common though; Writers - professional, amateur, Quorans - write because they cannot not write. They have something inside of them that has to get out: characters, a story, a tale, wisdom, knowledge, opinions, viewpoints, questions, fear, frustration, answers, love. That statement made me think a about my own ability to procrastinate at writing, so I scrolled down a bit for some extra writing inspiration.

Marc Bodnic caught my attention with WHAT NOVELS HAVE THE BEST OPENING LINES OR OPENING PARAGRAPHS. He listed many of the classics you'd predict in his top 20: Moby Dick, Pride and Predjudice, Anna Karinna, Lolita, 1984, Tale of Two Cities, you get the drift. I was looking for my favorite first liner which comes from Charlotte's Web: "Mama, where's daddy going with that ax?" I didn't find it. I never read the story Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, but I'm pretty sure that 145 word run-on sentence for a first paragraph would have turned me off the book completely. Maybe not if I lived in 1759 . .

I read a couple more, a very good flash fiction that made me laugh, and a question on whether you need to be a good reader to be a good writer, and what what you can learn by reading effectively, even fiction, and of course this brings me back to me decision of whether to read today - that fiction novel I'm having a hard time dedicating to or some writing tutorial - or whether to sit down with this first chapter re-write and finally get it off my to do list. My deadline is quickly approaching.

You see I finally opted for writing a blog post. Its over a thousand words - thanks for reading this far, if you didn't just skim to the end - and I'm considering using this post as my daily word count. LOL, I'm hearing the collective gasp even though I'm scheduling this post a week from this writing. However, one of my greatest strengths at the day job has been my ability to prioritize, and I woke up this morning with the intention of completing, editing and submitting my chapter re-write before going to bed; so that is what I will do. I'm sure.

I'll let you know how well I did in the comments when this post is up.

Do you have a writing and reading schedule? How well do you stick to it?

28 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes the brain just takes time to warm up to writing. Even if reading all of that didn't inspire you to do more than a blog post, you still wrote, which is good practice.

DEZMOND said...

I never have time to read, especially when I'm spending half of my working day translating

Pat Hatt said...

Can be a hard balance indeed, especially with all of life's crap. Writing takes priority for me if I have to pick one of the two

Nilanjana Bose said...

Cannot not read. Cannot not write. So true!

No longer have to meet writing deadlines right now, thank goodness, but did monthly ones for an ezine for two years. I find schedules are easier to follow when they are external, for an editor, as compared to self imposed ones.

Wish you productive and pleasurable writing/reading days.

D.G. Hudson said...

I read while I'm eating, since hubs is still in hospital, and trying to make a habit of reading some ebooks before signing off for the night (since I review them).

I'm trying to take a bit of advice by the writing books and try to write a few lines or paragraphs each day. I have to sign off the blogosphere or I keep checking things there.

Good Luck with getting back into the writing mode, Donna. Although some days I think I'll pack it in (the blog), I know I won't. It's an outlet to keep the mind active. I wouldn't have time to read books if I did other social media, so I don't. You'll find what works.

Stacy McKitrick said...

A schedule? Haha! Yeah, I wish.

I read on the treadmill, though. It'd be boring to walk without reading. So there's 30 minutes of reading a day (at least 4 days a week--and I've been good going that often for the past 5 weeks!).

I usually start writing around 10:30 (after my breakfast and shower). I have to stay away from the internet or I'm screwed. I know once I start writing, I won't CARE about the internet. But sometimes I slip and take a break and the next thing I know it's 5pm and I haven't reached my writing goal. Bad me. I need to kick my butt in gear! I need willpower!!! :)

Denise Covey said...

I read far too much, which probably explains why I've never yet finished any of my mss, although I'm furiously editing my romance. My shelves groan with how-to books, but as I told you, nothing surpasses the Margie Lawson Deep Editing online classes for me. Now I'm powering through Fijian Princess incoporating some of the techniques I've learnt. If i ever get it published, I'll be giving Margie the kudos.

Take it easy Partner. Enjoy your unemployment while you can!

Big birthday coming up! I celebrated mine yesterday.

Denise :)

dolorah said...

Alex; yep, at least I wrote something :)

Dezzy; well, that is still reading :)

Pat; I don't know how you have time to write all those books and keep up with blogging. Sheer talent.

Nila; yeah, I'm a more productive writer with an external deadline too. I need to find some ezines to write for.

DG; this is pretty much my only social media too. Like you, I have to stay away from internet and FB just to get anything else done on my computer.

Stacy; I want to trade my eliptical for a treadmill so I can read while I walk also. I'm short on will power too.

Dx: Happy birthday to you too :) I need to check into an online writing class, get myself jumpstarted back into writing again.

Botanist said...

Welcome back to the blogging world, Donna, and I hope this new start goes well.

I like the approach Marcus Geduld takes. The writer's job is to infect the reader's brain. It's not to score a "perfect" mark from some academic. I hold to the thought that the only truly inviolable rule in writing is "Do what works!"

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have a 'plan' for when I'll write and when I'll read. Lately I write during the evening and read from 11pm to midnight. I think it's totally okay to count blog posts in your daily word counts.

Lexa Cain said...

For several years I mostly wrote and critiqued my CPs' work. But this summer I started reading. It's hard to find anything I can get past the first chapter on because I can't shut off my inner editor, but I found a few writers I really enjoyed and devoured their books. I think it's helping me develop as a writer. Sometimes it's good to just read and soak things up rather than to write.

Andrew Leon said...

I have a writing schedule; it's what I do five days a week, and, yes, blog posts count into the writing.

Reading is more complicated, but I'm doing much better this year.

Medeia Sharif said...

I squeeze in 3 novels a week. I create a weekly writing goal that I usually carry through.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I go through dry spells in writing, where I don't have the time, and when I do get the time, I'm so tired that I can't think to write. I tried to jumpstart it today by opening up a story I'd gotten stymied on and writing a couple paragraphs. I'm hoping to do more tomorrow, but I figured this way I'd get a start. Good luck with your goals!

Anne said...

I try to write everyday despite some dry spells every now and then. Reading though is more difficult because of the lack of time due to work. Though I know that to write well, I should read more. Funny, isn't it?

A Beer For The Shower said...

Procrastinating in the name of Stephen King is always a good thing. The Dark Tower series always has been, and probably always will be, my favorite series ever.

Crystal Collier said...

First of all, I ADORE Koontz. That guy has mastered the art of writing.

I totally have a schedule for reading/writing...I'm just completely off it right now thanks to a book release. Typically I exercise on my elliptical in the morning, and while doing that, I study (writerly technique stuff). Writing comes next, so I can practice everything I just read about, and in the afternoon (when my brain is shot), I spare a couple hours for reading.

Tara Tyler R said...

i have trouble getting into stories when i have so much writing, reading and responsibilities that take away from it all too... my trusty dance with dragons is always there for my bedtime enjoyment and many books await on my kindle/nook apps while i wait picking up kids from practice... (i love king & koontz too =)

what a lot of info you shared! writing reading is productive - and so is blogging! count it!

Rachna Chhabria said...

I am trying to write a little everyday. There are days when I read a lot and there are days when I just write, write and write some more.

Elsie Amata said...

King and Koontz are two of my favorite authors. I absolutely love the Dark Tower series. My son has no idea how lucky he is he didn't have to wait for years before the next book was released in that series. Hmmpfh!

I took your advice and just ordered Wind Through the Keyhole. Can't wait to visit with the characters again. Thanks!!

dolorah said...

Bob: yeah, Geduld has a good philosophy, something to keep in mind when my eyes are full of wishful dollar signs :)

Susan: a good plan.

Lexa; I agree. Glad you also found some authors to enjoy.

Andrew: 5 days a week is good, my goal also.

Media: well done :)

Shannon: yeah, I opened word to write on an old story, and ended up starting a new one. Go figure, lol.

Anne: a vicious cycle.

Beers: Thankee Sai's

Crystal: hmm, sounds like a plan I should try. Good luck with the tour, it seems to be going well.

Tara: my what a busy lady you are, and you use your time well.

Rachna: I get on writing jags too. The words come easier in a long stint for me.

Elsie: cool, I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Cherie Reich said...

I have a daily schedule. Whether it contains writing and/or reading depends on the day. Sometimes I stick to it. Sometimes I just end up reading all day to avoid the writing/editing I'm supposed to be doing.

Chris Fries said...

Hey, I finally found your new blog!

I too miss the time I used to spend reading and writing. But I'm doing much more guitar playing than I had for years (although not as much recording lately) -- so the creative muscles are still getting at least a little exercise.

I'm also much more social than I ever used to be when I was younger -- so a lot of that solitary reading and writing time is now spent interacting and relating to family and friends. So I tell myself that I'm gathering perspective on things to write about. ;)

I often wish for another 12 hours a day.

Hang in there -- life comes in cycles and waves. If you're a writer it will come out at some point.

Robin said...

When I am stuck in my story I often read a novel. My best bet is an author whose style I admire... because I learn so much. *And, yes, it is now impossible for me to just read without noticing things like awesome description, active verbs, etc. The upside is that each time I pinpoint something I truly like in a writer's style I can attempt to modify it to fit my own.

You could always write a 1,000 word blog and break it up into three parts (three posts), which would make your blog more active and keep your word count where you want it. Just a thought...

Romance Reader said...

I have a writing schedule which I miss daily for reading!

J.L. Campbell said...

I don't have a schedule for reading or writing, but I know I should try and write every day. Sometimes I get on a roll and read books back to back, forgetting that I should also be writing.

Lorelei said...

Well, yes. I did read your 1,000+ blog post--Yay You! First time to your blog, too (about time, right?) And I've put in for subscription to your blog...

You had a wide range of topics, but since you spent the most on the writing thing (or was it procrastination?) I'll make comment on that.

Yep. I'm sort of doing that too, but also, I've got one book in the queue here, and I'm trying to get ready for a December release (OMG! I don't even have my cover, yet!), and I've got two books which are not quite yet finished. One is my 8th book in series, but that will get done eventually.

I find that if I'm stuck, I might read some chapter of mine and begin working on it (editing), and that sort of gets me in the mood--to write, of course.

Good luck on this. Sometimes you simply need a break from writing. Your brain is tired. Maybe you need a little boost to get it going again. You'll find it.

Oh, and I would take whatever WD writes about on writers with a grain of salt. Unless these people write something other than WD articles, the don't now squat. I used to read their magazines. The only one I fell has a handle on this is James Scott Bell.

Okay, I think I've just matched your 1,000 words with my comment here. Ta!

Amalia Dillin said...

I read fiction voraciously. And sometimes it takes over my writing time, because I just can't put a book down -- I actually did, once, try scheduling my reading. I promised myself once that I would not read anything until I'd finished writing some manuscript or other -- I don't remember which project it was, I only remember that it ended disastrously. I felt run down and even less motivated to write than I had before! So I quit trying to limit myself and went back to my usual reading habits and just made peace with the fact that reading fiction helps me to write because it recharges my batteries, and if that means some days my word count is lower (or non-existent) because of a good book, so be it!