Monday, April 28, 2008

Irregular Reading

Tip of the Day: Don't let your kids pick out all the Jelly Belly flavors. They'll pick out fizzy soda flavors instead of Cinnamon or Caffe Latte. That's just not right.

As a reader, I am a writer's nightmare.

Once I put down a book, I very well might not pick it up again. If your main character reaches a point of any peace or rest and I can imagine her living happily ever after from then on, I'm not picking it up again. If you change viewpoint characters too often, I'm not picking it up again. If your main character overcomes obstacles too easily, grr, I'm really not picking it up again. Like if your main character changes everyone's beliefs by making a speech, or slips past the bad guys by crawling under a desk, as happened in the last two books I didn't finish reading.

That's definitely the difference between how I read now and how I read as a teenager. I used to finish everything I read. Now ... forget it. Sometimes I don't finish books that I was really enjoying. For example, I've read about 2/3 of Octavian Nothing. Love it. I think M.T. Anderson is a genius. Yet I haven't finished the book. It's been sitting unopened on my bedside table for weeks. It's like I got my full quota of enjoyment out of it or something.

The problem is that I'm not a disciplined reader. If I love a book, I can't put it down. As a result, I don't read before I go to sleep, because I've spent too many sleepless nights reading and I've learned not to read before bed. I can't read in a car, either--motion sickness. I don't have a set time of the day or week to read! I'm such a slacker! I read here and there, I don't finish half of what I start, and I never read all the books I mean to. What kind of writer am I?

On the other hand, I read to my 9-year-old for half an hour a night. That's pretty disciplined, and we read above her reading level. Also, I'm usually doing critiques for two or three people a week. And my critique partners are writing fantastic, interesting stuff that I want to finish.

But does that justify my sloppy, irregular reading habits when there isn't someone else expecting me to read? If I decided I "should" read a certain amount each week, would it suck some of the enjoyment out of reading? (This is all part of the bigger question: how do I fit everything into my life I want to do? But I'll start small.)

Obviously, this is preying on my mind. I want to painlessly reform my reading habits. Can you all tell me what works for you?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

10 comments:

DeenaML said...

I totally agree with just putting a book down now when it doesn't do enough for you. There's too many FAB books out there to spend time on those that are mediocre. So I'm totally with you on your reading habits! And reading to M every night is a brilliant way to stay disciplined!

I read while on the exercise bike. It totally passes the time better than TV alone, and I can get abt 50 pages read in 30 mins, and I'm forced to sit there for the entire time.

Ghost Girl said...

I am so with you, Kate! My reading habits are dreadful. Like you, I read to my son every night (for 30-45 minutes). I'm in the middle of research reading, but even that is spotty. The last mystery book (which I love!) I was reading, sits sad and neglected on the bottom shelf.

I have a stack of YA to catch up on...I'm just having a hard time focusing. Maybe I should make a reading schedule. I'm just after making a chore schedule for my son...why not?

Emily Marshall said...

I've put down way too many books lately. I think part of the problem that when you become a writer, part of you can't help but analyze books as you read them. So unless it's so stellar that you can completely loose yourself in the world to forget you are a writer, it's harder to read. It looses some of the enjoyment, since part of your mind is working to determine what in the book is good, how it could be improved, and what aspect of it made it publishable.

Well that's my problem at least.

And Deena, I applaud you for being able to bike and read at the same time. I tried that with the treadmill, which shall we say less then desirable results. I almost fell several times.

meryl's musings said...

To all of you that post -- I find myself never wanting to miss a day of what gets discussed here. Ever since Emily mentioned this to me, I have found myself nodding in agreement, feeling some vindication in working so hard and having people wander what I do with my time, or the best part, getting some great tips. Thanks to all.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Okay, I think I need to get an exercise bike. I've tried reading on the treadmill, and it just doesn't work for me.

I pretty much only read for bed. And a little more on the weekends. I've been disappointed a lot lately too. And I just don't have the time or patience, so a lot of books have been returned to the library unfinished.

The thing I've found a lot lately - a great idea, something unique in the way of a story idea, but just plain bad writing.

Kristina Springer said...

Ah yes. There are books that I just don't like enough to keep reading but I want to finish them just so I'm familiar with that author's work/know the whole story/didn't waste $$ etc. So here's what I do-- I have a sorta tier system. If it's a great book that I'm really interested in it goes on my nightstand. I have the kids' nap time to read everyday. If it is a so-so book that I'm kinda sorta interested in but not a ton, it goes in the downstairs bathroom. Because I'm guaranteed to hit that bathroom a few times a day. If it is really kinda craptacular but I feel obligated to finish? It goes in the upstairs bathroom. That is the rarely visited bathroom but it will get a few minutes of read time at least once a day. I just moved an awarded book by an author I really like personally from the nightstand straight to the upstairs bathroom. I felt bad moving her there but it just was not nightstand worthy. :-)

Emily Marshall said...

Ha. Your tier system cracked me up Tina.

Ghost Girl said...

"Ha. Your tier system cracked me up Tina."

Ditto! LOL. And I think if I tried to read on the treadmill, I'd crack my skull!

No way could I read for bed. It took me years to retrain myself not to fall asleep the minute I open a book--terrible habit that arose while trying to study in college. What can I say? Small room, the only comfortable spot to read/study was the bed. BUT...My body was already programed to sleep on the bed, so it quickly learned that reading and the bed should have the same purpose...

meryl's musings said...

Deena - thank you for your comments on my blog regarding Racing Lingo 101 -- it will end up in a story eventually! Thanks!

DeenaML said...

I cannot read on the treadmill either! Only the bike or I DO fall -- or get motion sickness. :) All that bobbing around.