Daily Archives: August 21, 2011

Who has time to read?

I admit it.  I’m a very slow reader.  Very slow.

It’s not that I don’t like reading.  I read all the time, but I tend to read short stories and non-fiction books (which you can skip around in a bit).  I do read novels, but not that many in a year.  At one time, I was churning through massive tomes like Dune, Shogun, Stranger in a Strange Land and Clan of the Cave Bear, and was also digesting classics like The Razor’s Edge, Siddartha, Demian, The Stranger and a host of others.  I devoured everything by Robert A. Heinlein and Phyllis A. Whitney that I could get my hands on (a bizarre combination, I know, but I loved both of those authors).

But at some point I lost my ability to focus.  Maybe I need Ritalin TM.

I blame working for corporations for years, which demand that you juggle ten things at once.  I’ve learned to juggle, but I’m not really that good at it.  And the result is that I often don’t finish all of the myriad projects I start.

I do finish things I’m writing, though I tend to have several projects going at once, and hop back and forth between them.  But reading — unless it’s research for something I’m writing — tends to fall by the wayside.

But a writer must also be a reader.  I think it’s a law.  And if it isn’t, it probably should be.  I’ve run across far too many stories that read as though the author learned to write by watching movies.  As much as I love movies, the sad fact is, most of them are badly written.  Cliche’s abound, and the primary focus tends to be on looking cool for the camera.  Even good films are by necessity condensed.  (Yes, even Peter Jackson films are condensed.  Can anyone say, “Tom Bombadil?”)

If you want to write novels, you have to read novels.  It’s the only way to see how fiction styles are changing.  (And yes, they have definitely changed over the decades since I was a teenager.  Back then, romance novels were commonly in first person.  Now, limited third person is all the rage, with the author hopping back and forth between the two romantic leads.)  It’s also important to vary what you read, in my opinion.  It would be very easy for me to read nothing but M/M erotic romances, since that’s the genre I tend to write for.  And that would, perhaps, help me learn how to better please that audience.  But I really feel that it’s important to read a variety of types of fiction, in order to improve my overall writing ability.

So I do read.  But not nearly as much as many of my fellow authors at Dreamspinner do.  I envy people who can read a novel a day, or even one a week.  If I’m really engaged by a novel, so I can’t put it down, and keep picking it up on every break I have at work, then I’ll get through it in a week or two.  But more often, it will take a couple to a few weeks, with a strong possibility that I may put the book down and lose interest, when I pick something else up.

Ah, well.  It would be nice if I could learn to focus better, but at least I am reading.  Currently, I’m deeply engrossed in very nicely done novel (which I won’t name, in case I don’t finish it, but which I will review, if I do).  So far, it’s gripped me more than any other novel I’ve picked up in the past few months, so I think I’ll be able to get through it.  If not, it’s certainly no reflection on the author.

Blame it on ADHD.  I hear that’s fashionable.

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