I would imagine that most fiction writers originally got into writing for the same reason – because they loved reading. Devour enough books and the urge to write one yourself becomes almost irresistible, whether you’re inspired by a great book or thinking ‘I can do better than that,’ about a mediocre one.
It was certainly the case for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been constantly reading. I was one the sort of child who had to be regularly told to stop reading and play outside (see bizarre picture below for just how much tiny me loved books!) I’ve long believed that the longest, dullest train journey would be fine as long as I had a moderately interesting book. When I found a really good one, I could disappear into it for days.
I’ve been writing for nearly as long as I’ve been reading. I wrote endless short stories as a young kid, thoroughly encouraged by my mum, who loves reading and writing as much as I do.* I wrote a surprisingly decent (for a prepubescent anyway) fantasy novella at the age of ten, and a proper paranormal novel at the age of seventeen. I still maintain that the latter would be sellable if I could ever be bothered to edit out the worst of the teenage ‘emo-ness’ and give the characters sensible names.
For the last two months however, books have absolutely dominated my life in a way they never have before. I published Oxford Blood on October 19th. For weeks before, I’d been editing and formatting and working with my cover designer. For weeks afterwards, I’ve been promoting and maintaining a web presence, as well as editing Screaming Spires. And yet last week, something suddenly struck me. I had neither done any proper writing nor read an actual book in months. Something seemed horribly wrong about this scenario.
Therefore, despite the fact that I was desperately trying to edit Screaming Spires in time for a January 2013 release, I decided to take a step back and have a go at NaNoWriMo to get the bulk of The Cavaliers Book Three written. It might mean Book Two slips a little, but at the moment, I couldn’t care less. It’s going really well so far, and had reminded me how much I love both writing and my series.
Last night however, I stepped back even further. I try to review every book I read, and a quick glance at my Amazon profile shows that between January and September of this year, I read 20 novels. Since then, nothing. I work full time (and I do mean full time – 10 hour days usually) and in the evenings I do a lot of work on my books. Taking time out to actually read seemed like it would make the whole edifice collapse around me, especially once I started NNWM-ing. How could I reach 50 000 words when I was wasting time reading someone else’s?
Then yesterday, as I tend to do, I popped into a charity shop on my way back from Pilates. And because I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover, I bought this – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004LB59QO – to treat myself to at some point. Then I accidently started reading it. The book was pretty good, though that isn’t the point of this post – if you’re interested in my thoughts on The Iron Witch, check out Goodreads, where I’ll endeavour to write a review within the next few days). I ended up reading half of it last night and the other half this morning, feeling slightly guilty, but too wrapped up in the story to care. But then guess what? Far from failing behind, I wrote 4000 words today. Reading something new reminded me why I love books and thus why I love to write. It revitalised me.
So to any writers out there, especially those stuck in a rut, feeling a bit disillusioned or spending all their time blogging/tweeting/”Goodreading” etc, however busy you are, and however desperate to promote your current releases, make sure you’re actually writing and make sure you’re actually reading. Never forget that the former is the point of it all and the latter is almost certainly your original inspiration.
*One thing all authors whose books contain ahem, saucy scenes, seem to get asked if whether they were embarrassed to let their mum read them. My mum used to churn stuff out for Mills and Boon. I was more worried that she’d offer critical editorial advice than that she’d be offended!