Reading week(s)

Stack of books

Paula’s Post #22 — Hello out there? Is anyone still listening? Er… reading?

When my fellow 5writers voted to continue our blog posts, I must admit I wasn’t fully onboard. Sure, blogging about our 5 month marathon was fun, but my inclination was to say ‘hey, it’s over baby’. At least until one of us has some good news to report.

On reflection, however, I realized that my colleagues were right. It isn’t over, not for Joe, not for me, not for Karalee or Helga or Silk. We are at different stages in our writing. Joe has completed two full drafts, (Wow! Way to go Joe!), while I’ve only completed a first draft. Karalee, I’m guessing, is close to being done, then we’ve got Helga in the middle and self-proclaimed Tortoise, Silk, bringing up the rear. I can see why the three yet-to-be-finished writers, especially, would appreciate the continuing support from our readers as they work to finish their first drafts. But Joe and I need your support, too. And your ideas, and maybe, if we’re really brave, some Alpha and Beta readers. People willing to read our rough drafts and provide input.

But that isn’t the only reason to keep up with our blog. The writing life can be a lonely life and if we still have followers out there listening to what we have to say, provinding encouragement and rooting us on, we  want to keep our readers in the loop.

So, for anyone who is interested, while Tortoise and her friends use the next few weeks to play ‘catch up’, I’m going to indulge in a variation of ‘reading week’ (or more likely reading weeks). We’ve all put a lot of pleasurable things aside during our 5 month epic challenge and for me, one of the most difficult to give up was the simple joy of reading.

Now, it would not be entirely truthful to say I didn’t read at all during the past 5 months. I did. Including a marathon session over Christmas when I ploughed my way through Ken Follett’s World Without End the sequel to his enthralling, epic, Pillars of the Earth, a sprawling historical novel chronicling the building of a Cathedral in 12th Century England.

World Without End

World Without End starts in the early 14th C and concerns the lives of citizens of the Cathedral town of Kingsbridge, the same setting as Pillars of the Earth. It doesn’t sound like scintillating stuff, but trust Ken Follett to mix in enough scenes of gratuitous sex and violence to mix things up and keep readers interested in mortar and flying buttresses. But for me, the joy of reading World Without End was somewhat diminished by the consequent guilt I felt, every time I pondered how many pages I could write in the time it would take me to read all 1024 pages of this massive tome.

I also feared that, midway through my novel, my characters might suddenly start sounding like 14th Century merchants and peasants. So you can see why I was a bit distracted, even when I did give myself permission to read.

I’ve heard that at least one successful, popular novelist, Mary Higgins Clark, admonishes against reading while writing, proclaimed that, while working, she simply can’t read other authors’ novels.

But I’m not liket that. At least I hope not. Because reading gives me ideas. Hints at how to subtly portray complexities of character and techniques for keeping multi-character dialogue from becoming stilted or confusing. Often, I feel one can learn more from reading the works of successful writers then from just reading ‘how to’ books on writing.

But these aren’t the only reasons I read. Like you, I find reading not only mentally and emotionally engaging but also just plain relaxing. Sometimes, I want to just enjoy ‘story’ without my ‘author’ persona creeping into the picture. But she’s always there, lurking in the shadows. Right now, she’s telling me to read more YA Novels.

Switching up genres has been a challenge for me. My favourite authors are mystery writers like Michael Connelly, Elizabeth George, John Grisham and now also Canadian’s Peter Robinson with his wonderful DCI Banks series and of course Sean Slater, and his fantastic Jacob Striker series. You may not be aware that Sean, a Vancouver police officer, is one of the ‘founding members’ of our critique group, the group that has now morphed into the 5writers.

So, with a lot of mysteries and thrillers in my personal library, I found it quite difficult to switch it up and embark on a YA Novel for the 5writers project. I especially had difficulties specially keeping my story ‘age appropriate’ and my character’s ‘voices’ authentic. Before writing the first draft of my own YA Novel, I read a trio of novels penned by popular adult novelists including James Patterson, Kathy Reichs and Harlan Coben.

But I know that’s not nearly enough.

So for the last week, I’ve been reading Divergent, the remarkable debut novel by Veronica Roth, a young author who states the idea for the novel came to her while still in college. Ms. Roth is close enough in age to her young protagonist to ‘get’ what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling, what she needs and what she wants, but for those of us of a certain age, we need to do a little more work.

Divergent is both compelling and a fast read. I admire Ms. Roth’s ‘world building’ abilities and also her ability to show her readers a strong female protagonist. She deserves congratulations: film rights have been sold and the studio, Summit Entertainment, is in the process of casting. The title of the film will also be ‘Divergent’.

So I’m going to be busy. Divergent isn’t the only book on my reading list, just the first one. I’m going to be reading quite a few YA novels over the next few weeks, maybe even months. When I’m ready to start the second draft of my novel, I want to have a solid idea of the YA genre. My characters need to be fleshed out, sub-plots developed and dialogue sharpened until it sounds authentic.

So, happily, reading is going to be my avocation for the next several weeks. If you’ve a great YA novel to recommend, I’d love to hear from you! If you have any other suggestions for this 5writer, your input is most graciously welcomed. Thank you for sticking with us!

5 thoughts on “Reading week(s)

  1. I’m still listening with fascination at this process. I especially like your recommendations for reading as I enjoy the same type of novel. I’ll be in PS for a week starting march 9th so hope to see you and John and Gryphon and Tessie at some point!

  2. Oh. You want YA? Start with Orca Book Publisher’s list. Not their hi-lo series, but their regular offerings for teens. Some of the authors include: Robin Stevenson, Michelle Mulder, Sarah Harvey and Beth Goobie. Read Ann Walsh. She’s been published by Orca but several other Canadian publishers as well and has a rerelease and a new publication coming out soon. Chris Crutcher is another author – he’s a Yank, but his books are realistic and gritty and honest. You could try mine – Feral, out from Orca, too, although that’s not your usual YA. That ought to keep you going for a while! Here’s a link to Orca’s teen list:

    • Thanks Bev, both for continuing to follow us and also for the excellent YA suggestions. Just finished Divergent last night. A good read at the start, but the ending sort of…. oops, better not put any spoilers out there. I’ll be checking out the Orca list next, including your novel. Really appreciate your help,

  3. Love your idea about writing about reading … all other (good) reasons aside, this is how we’ve come to keep track of each other. Consider yourself tracked! Soon we’ll connect again in person, I hope. Will be in touch on that!

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