Books · This Writer's Life

Getting Back into Reading.

As writers, one of the things we really should be doing is reading a lot, but it was around this time last year that I found myself giving up on reading. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it; perhaps the closest I had ever got was reading the newspaper online. Technically I guess I was still reading, but it was the reading of fictional works that I was having trouble getting into.

Perhaps I was so caught up in my own imaginative world, that I found it hard to concentrate on others. Or maybe, I just found myself focusing on Neflix. 😉

With the new year, I have been trying to rectify the situation and began reading an old favourite to try and get back into fictional books. I’m planning on reading up to thirty books this year and have recently got onto Audible as a way of getting through my ‘to read’ pile. Of course, I have created a wish list, which is getting longer by the day!

One of the good things about Audible is hearing a sample of the narrator’s voice and I have found this to be important. Your choice of book can come down to this factor and I have seen book reviews where the book doesn’t fare too well simply because of the narrator. So, it can be a case of hit or miss. Even though I have all the Harry Potter books, I have begun getting these books on Audible read by Stephen Fry. I just love the way he narrates them!

Because I’ve slackened off on reading, I have also neglected the social site, Goodreads, so I have a bit of catching up to do there as well. So if you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect with you there and it will be another incentive for me to get my act together. 😉

What do you do to get back into reading? Have you discovered Audible? How important is a narrator’s voice to you? Do you binge on Netflix?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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This Writer's Life · Writing Process

When a Writer Stops Reading.

For years, I’ve always considered myself a bookworm. Yes, one of those people who, despite having a pile of books on their shelves just can’t resist buying more, then wonders how they’re ever going to get all that reading in. In a household of gamers, I’d rather be curled up with a good book. In more recent months, however, my reading habits have dwindled.

Usually I have bouts where I’m an avid reader, but then I feel I’ve read too much and I need to take a break. The need to read returns once again and the cycle continues. This time around, I stopped reading and am finding it difficult to return. I’m currently alternating between two non-fiction books, but it has been a slow drip feed. My bookworm status has declined.

This is the longest I have gone without having a book or Kindle in my hand, so what’s gone wrong? I think there are two things at play. One is the fact that by getting Netflix, I have been getting my stories from a different medium. I have been watching both movies and television series, along with using Netflix to help with my research. This has helped me with my own writing, both in terms of ideas and craft.

The second issue I think is that by reading less, it has given me more time to focus on other things – like writing my own stories. This of course comes with its advantages and disadvantages. I am spending more time working on my current WIP, both in the writing and the planning process, as well as making plans towards self-publishing. Yet, as a writer I should also be reading, in order to help with my craft and discovering new books within my chosen genre.

Yes, this seems like a rather long hiatus, but I know that I will return to reading eventually. Perhaps it’s because this particular story I’m currently working on really needs to be written. Besides, doesn’t absence make the heart grow fonder? 😉

Are you a bookworm? Do you have long breaks between reading books? As a writer, do you find reading can be a distraction from your own writing?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

Writing In a Different Genre.

As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it. Recently one morning I woke up with an idea for a story title. I thought it sounded good – if I wrote in that particular genre. And therein lay the problem. Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?

For years I have struggled with this. No, I do not write romance, simply because I do not always like to see a happy ending. And right there are two important words – not always. So, sometimes I do like to see happy ever afters. In my teenage years I devoured Sweet Dreams Romance books, was introduced by a friend to Mills & Boon and enjoyed reading Jane Austen so much, back then I wanted to write just like her (yes, seriously). And just for balance I also read a lot of Stephen King (can you see my dilemma now?) 😉 This is why I believed my writing would be more suitable to women’s fiction, and my longest short story so far reflects that as there is no happy ending.

After I left High School, I wrote to Mills & Boon and received submission guidelines and a tape on how to write for them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. I believed I could not write a romance, but perhaps the real problem for me was that they were too formulaic.

Perhaps, also, my greatest resistance to writing a romance is because I always looked at it in terms of the novel. As I enjoy writing in the shorter form and thanks to self-publishing, lately I have some ideas for romances of short story/novella length. It is a starting point to stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting at the same time. Who knows if it will lead to something or not, but clearly such thoughts have remained repressed for some time. It just needed a little push. 😉

Do you write in different genres? Have you resisted writing a particular genre or are you happy to experiment? Has your subconscious told you something about your own writing and have you acted upon it?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Books · This Writer's Life

Listening to Audio Books.

After finishing reading a book on my Kindle recently, I decided to try something a bit different. I wanted to read more books, but minus the hassle of physically reading one. I visited the library and grabbed a couple of audio books (okay, four to be exact).

I’ve listened to audio books once before, but they involved CDs, which made it a bit awkward when it comes to being portable. This time around, all I need to do it put in one AAA battery, my headphones and I’m off and running. Much easier to operate, so I guess it’s a matter of finding what kind of device is more suitable to our needs. What I also like about this new selection of audio books is that on one side it has all the play buttons, while the other has a book cover (so cute) – and it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

So, why audio? As I am currently working on re-writes of two of my own novels, as well as outlining and researching for a new short story which will pan out to become something bigger, I felt I needed to read a book that was easier on my time. With audio, I can either sit and listen, listen to it while I go for a walk or listen in while doing household chores. I enjoy the flexibility of audio, and as a writer there is also the added bonus of actually hearing the book being read. Using our sense of hearing, rather than continually seeing the written word helps with our own use of words, especially when it comes to imagery.

At the moment, I am still at the experimental stage when it comes to audio books, but so far I have found them to be a great alternative to physically reading a book. After all, Frank Zappa did say:

Do you listen to audio books? What do you like about them? As a writer, do you find listening to books helps with your own writing?

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Books · Life Lessons · Writing

Has Being a Writer Changed You as a Reader?

Some years ago I read a book that was popular at the time. It was not normally one that I would go out of my way to read, but there was so much talk about it, my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I borrowed the book from the library.

The book began alright and I gradually worked my way half way through it, when after a while, I felt the need to put it down. I began to wonder. ‘Is this it? How much longer does this go on for?’ The problem was – nothing was happening. There was no conflict, just people going about their business. I knew something had to happen eventually, so I picked it up again and persevered with it some more, but still, nothing was happening. There were no ‘blips’, just one long endless flat line. Boring! I didn’t waste any more time with it and returned it to the library.

A few years after this incident, another book came out that once again, people were raving about. My husband had become curious and eventually bought the book. He began telling me about the plot and thought the characters (made out to be intelligent people) must have been incredibly stupid if he could solve the problem before they could. Of-course the writer in me paid attention to that one straight away. My husband suggested I take a look at it. In all honesty, I could not make it past the first chapter. It was full of clichés and my writing brain couldn’t take any more. I began to wonder how this ever got published.

From these experiences I’ve come to learn that it is in our own best interests as writers to read widely. These two books may not have been ones I would usually read, but it made me aware of particular trends. It also gave me the courage to continue writing and work harder at my craft.

I quickly discovered that when a book doesn’t do it for me, to put it down and move on. Perhaps the real lesson here is that I shouldn’t fall for books that generate a lot of ‘hype’ and follow my instincts. 😉

How has being a writer changed you as a reader? Do you read books that ‘trend’? Is there a book that you’ve read recently that you just couldn’t finish? Do you see some published books as a way to improve your own writing?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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Books · Crime & Mystery · Movies/Television

Discovering Agatha Christie.

For months now I have been watching a lot of Agatha Christie – mainly Poirot and Miss Marple. I admit I’ve been pretty late on jumping onto the Agatha Christie bandwagon. The main reason, and perhaps foolishly, is because I was never interested in the time period her novels are set. Since watching Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, my opinions about that time period have changed; so too my interest in Agatha Christie.

Until her death a few years back, my mother-in-law was a great reader. Her bookshelves are filled with crime novels, so I have a ready-made library close at hand. Part of her collection includes the entire set of Agatha Christie novels. It was not until Poirot and Miss Marple appeared on television almost simultaneously some months back that I decided to take a look. As a result, I ended up watching every single one and I’d get quite narky if I missed an episode! I love both these characters with their little idiosyncrasies – something I applaud the actors portraying them doing so vividly. I cannot imagine anyone other than David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (and yes, I did shed a tear at the final Poirot episode, it was very sad 😦 ).

I have watched all the Miss Marple, but my favourite actress in the role is Geraldine McEwan (may she rest in peace). She played the role of a sweet and ‘innocent’ older woman so well. She would sit and knit and every now and again, when she was excited she would make little squeals of delight. My Agatha Christie binge wasn’t just centred upon these two characters. I also watched And Then There Were None. The plot was very intriguing and I enjoyed the various twists and turns throughout, especially the ending.

After all these years, Agatha Christie is regarded as the best-selling novelist of all time and named the ‘Queen of Crime’. Now that I’ve seen the shows, I definitely think it’s long past time I began reading the books. I believe this could take me a few years!

When did you discover Agatha Christie? Have you read all her books? Who is your favourite actor as Poirot and/or Miss Marple? Have you yet to discover Agatha Christie?

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Books · Writing

The Importance of Characters in Fiction.

Ross & DemelzaAt some point in our lives, I’m sure we’ve all felt a special bond for a book character. It’s one of the great things about reading – it makes sure you never forget the book and makes you want to return to it again and again. It was not until I read the Poldark series by Winston Graham that as a writer, I fully understood the importance of characters within novels.

Set in Cornwall, England during the late 1700s, the story focuses on Ross Poldark, his family and the lives of miners within the district. Ross returns home after fighting in the war for American Independence, to find the woman he loves engaged to another man. So what is it about this character that drew me to him? Maybe because it was my first real introduction to a brooding male (I would later come to thank the BBC, Colin Firth and Toby Stephens in later years). It is this kind of character that attracts readers; a past that makes them vulnerable, that makes them see their flaws and are willing to learn from those past mistakes. It demonstrates that despite their faults, such characters are not entirely bad as we get to see the goodness in them as well.

I just adored the relationship between Ross and his wife, Demelza; both in the books and the original series (and that’s where I’ll stay). They came across as a happy couple with a good sense of humour and a strong friendship. Unfortunately, like all relationships, things did not always run smoothly. Their marriage became tumultuous on a number of occasions and they had come close to going their separate ways, yet they managed to work things out and over time, made their marriage stronger.

Back in my high school days when I read the series, theirs was the kind of relationship I wanted with my future husband (minus the mishaps, and yes, I believe I’m lucky to have found that). It is certainly saying something about fictional characters when you wish for such a relationship in your own life. This is because the characters within the series come across as real people (and it is said that the character Demelza was based on the author’s own wife), and this goes for all the characters within the books. Other characters such as Jud and Osborne Whitworth are truly unforgettable. This series is one that I come to again and again as it feels like I am visiting old friends and I am always learning from a master in characterisation.

We are drawn to particular characters because of their personalities, which in turn, create their stories. If writers can create characters that come across as real people or even leap off the page, then they have created something truly special.

And if you haven’t read the Poldark series yet, I highly recommend it. 😉

Are you a Poldark fan? What are your thoughts on the series remake? What are some of your favourite book characters? Is there a particular book or book series you enjoy coming back to?

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