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

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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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Writing · Writing Process

Emulating Other Writers

anne-hathaway-in-becoming-janeYears ago when I started taking writing seriously I wanted to emulate a particular author I was reading at the time. By this stage I had done a fair amount of reading and I was doing a couple of writing courses by correspondence. It may sound silly now, but back then I was a Jane Austen wannabe.

In High School, some of my reading involved books such as the Sweet Dreams series (which I bought by the truckload) and borrowing Mills and Boons romances from one of my girlfriends. I was smitten by the ‘love bug’. I began writing my own romances, but I soon abandoned them as my plots were paper thin.

After leaving school, I persisted with the romance genre, despite my poor writing efforts. Romance novels were popular; there must be something I was doing wrong. So I sent away for a tape from Mills and Boon on how to write a romance novel. I went over that tape a number of times; trying to work to their formula, but still I couldn’t master it. It was around this time that I had moved on to different reading material, such as Richard Laymon and Catherine Cookson – I even struggled through Lord of the Rings (and struggle I did, but I eventually made it to the end). I even read the Brontes, re-visited some Stephen King and an old favourite, a gothic romance named Dragonwyk.

I soon discovered I had moved away from being a Jane Austen wannabe. I could never really write a Mills and Boon; there was no ‘passion’ in it for me as a writer (although these days I may still try writing romance – never say never  😉 ).

It took a while, but I found that there’s no harm in emulating other writers when we start out. It helps us to learn our craft through reading; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, our genre or genres, as well as finding our own voice. That’s the time when we need to stop emulating others. Just like there is only one Jane Austen, there is only one you. Let your voice be heard.

Have you found your voice by emulating other writers? Who was your ‘wannabe’ author? Have you tried writing in a genre that just wasn’t really your ‘thing’?

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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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Books

2012 – Australia’s National Year of Reading.

In Australia, 2012 is the National Year of Reading.  It’s a joint initiative of government, local libraries, writers, booksellers, schools and many other interested parties to get the nation reading.  It is estimated that a staggering 46% of Australians can’t read.  As a writer, reader, and concerned parent, this leaves me wondering what has happened.  It would seem that the days when we used to call ourselves the ‘clever country’ are long gone!

Personally, I think every year should be a year of reading.  In a household surrounded by computer games, game consoles and i-pads, it would seem I am a bit of a lone voice in preferring to have my nose more securely in a book, traditional or otherwise.  I spent the entire year of 2011 reading to my daughter the entire Harry Potter series – probably the last time I would actually get to sit reading to one of my children.  Just by taking that tiny initiative, she is more interested in reading books than her reluctant thirteen year old brother (and she’s probably read more than him, too).  All I can say is bless you J.K. Rowling!

I’m looking forward to reading books by authors I have never read before.  I’m also looking forward to watching my ever-increasing ‘to read’ pile get lower (yeah I know – that will probably never happen)! 🙂

Will you be reading more this year?  Read any good books lately?

Free image by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Books

Kindle Surprise.

There has been a fair amount of talk about digital books.  I have always firmly planted myself in the ‘traditional books’ camp.  Before Christmas, my husband bought himself a Kindle, which aroused my curiosity in digital books.  I thought they would come in handy for rare books or out of print books, so I asked my husband if he could get me one.

When my Kindle arrived, my husband and I went through the Kindle store looking for books for me to buy.  My husband was beginning to lose his patience with me because I could not come to any quick decisions.  Like any good bookshop, I was inundated with too much choice.  He was beginning to question his decision on buying me a Kindle after all.  When I finally decided on something I couldn’t stop, so that my husband complained I was spending too much and it wasn’t ‘play’ money.  Clearly, I was damned either way!

I bought about six books and have so far finished reading one.  It has taken me a little while to get used to finding my way around and I’m still no expert, yet I would have to admit, I’m not so against digital books as I originally had been.  With the Kindle, there is no glare, you can change the font size, it’s environmentally friendly and it’s so handy to fit it in with your luggage rather than a couple of books taking up valuable space.  I can’t exactly put it on my bookshelf though, so I would need to know what books are on it.  My husband is currently buying books he already owns for the Kindle and I might resort to doing that myself one day.

I now have my feet firmly planted in both camps; however, I would have to admit you can’t go past the traditional book form.  Digital books certainly have its uses, yet they don’t have the same feel or smell of a traditional book.  It’s still early days for me yet.

If you own a Kindle, I’d like to know what you think.

Free image by Tina Phillips courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net