The R Word

February’s a short month, but I feel like each month could always be shorter. Now that I’ve posted up the result post for challenge #2, my eyes are on March. As a heads-up, it’s just as much about reading as it is about writing.

In many respects, each of the challenges I’m working on are little steps in the direction I think I need to be in, and one of the things that I really need to do more of, is read.

My appetite for reading was a lot bigger when I was younger. I don’t mean a mere few years ago, but when I was kid. I read a lot, and could easily go through a book in a day, where now I’m lucky if I can read through a book cover without getting distracted. I just don’t read as much as I ought to.

I wish it was because of bad writing. I can pinpoint to a few books that killed my urge to read as much as I had been, because I just found them to be horrible messes – the worst of them also butchered one of my favourite settings to the point that I’d hesitate before getting any book set during the spanish conquest of South America. No, it wasn’t everyone’s go-to example of bad writing. Either of them. Long before horrible teen vampires and their alternate incarnations flooded the world, other bad writing existed, and will continue to exist once this current nightmare is over.

I want to say it was easier when I was younger. I know there was more free time when I didn’t have a full-time job, but lots of people find the time to read. I could obviously read more, though I realised some time ago that there isn’t time enough to do everything I want in life. You can’t read every book, watch every movie, meet every person, or see every inch of the world. I said something along those lines in the previous post, about the stories I could write and such.

In those early years, I also had more enthusiasm for reading. It was still new to me. There was still so many words unknown to me, that I wanted to know the meaning of. I still wrote, and can remember that around age 7 or 8, I wrote a four-page story in class, and turned it into a 26 page story for fun. That would be the Ghostbuster’s fanfic I mentioned in an entirely different post. I wanted to tell my own stories from about the time I learned that stories could be told.

At that time, the best way to learn how to write stories, was to read them.

We had a lot of books at home. They were old fabric-covered books, coming in a huge variety of either green or blue. Some classics, and a bunch of other old ones. I know I had Finding Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues to you humourless bastards), Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine. I might have even borrowed books from my Pop, but in the long run, it was the library that gave me access to most books – first the one at school, then the local council one.

Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are there in my memory, as well as a few other… bits. Everyone had Roahl Dahl books, and I know The Jungle Book fits in there somewhere too. Over the years, there were a lot more other classics that stood out, The Iliad, One Thousand and One Nights, and even non-fiction in the form of Emerson’s essays. Going forward, there were a huge number of others – a bunch of science fiction, and… there’s honestly no point me carrying on about the books that I’ve read, or the influence they had. The point of this was that I need to read more than I currently do, not say “Oh, but I used to read a lot, so I should be exempt!”

So, in March, I’ve set a really mediocre goal of reading a book. I haven’t chosen what the book will be yet, but it’ll be something at home – the real push on  that is that I (and anyone else doing the challenge) then needs to write a writerly review of it. It’s not just about the reading, but actually doing it consciously. I hope to still be entertained, but I’ll be trying to read it as a writer.

Considering that’s the whole goal of the challenge, I should elaborate. I’ll read, but also look at how sentences are constructed, how themes are reflected – the old high school book review approach. Take a look at each character, decide what I think works about them, but also what doesn’t. How the setting feels, what details I’ve ‘imagined’ are part of it, and well, all that sort of stuff. It could get long, and at the moment, I’m leaning toward either fantasy or scifi, mostly because it’s the sort of thing I prefer to write.

I suppose that’s the rub with writing – time gets so short, that reading for fun is often a luxury.

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