Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reading Habits

I confess, I have really sketchy reading habits. You'd think a writer would read anything and everything, including the backs of cereal boxes. Well, I confess that I do, in fact, read the backs of cereal boxes (and some of that stuff in the "nutrition" block is pretty damn shocking if you ask me). I read the backs of hand soap bottles, and the circulars that come in the mail...but lately, I haven't been reading many books.

Shocker, I know.

Now a big part of that is that I've got two small children who constantly need Mom to come help them with this or that, and that "this or that" often includes reading books themselves, along the lines of Fancy Nancy, Strega Nona, or Hedgie the Hedgehog, and I've become quite the connoisseur of just how Mat and Nat Sat on a Fat Cat. And Walter the Farting Dog will probably live on our family Keeper shelf for many decades to come. So yeah, I guess I do read quite a bit, just not the stuff I pick out.

But even when I get the rare moment to sit down and read something for my own enjoyment, the last thing I end up reaching for is my TBR pile. And it's not just because I want to use my time for writing, either. It's because I know I'll mess up a good thing by trying too hard.

I have this tendency to read like a writer, even when I'm not trying to do so. About the only author I can read without doing so is Terry Pratchett. With every other author, I'm reading the words, feeling the story (sometimes) and at the same time, seeing through to the wireframe of the mechanics underneath. This is great for my own education in learning to be a better writer, but it is lousy for reading just to relax. And when I'm not absolutely excited about reading a story, I'm seeing through to the money I paid for it (which kills me because I used to think I'd never in a million years begrudge money spent on a book. It hurts my principles to do so)

So I've embarked on a campaign. I've noticed that I flinch less when I spend money on ebooks (maybe because the evidence is easier to hide from the family budget gatekeeper?) and I've got some discount coupons rolling in from places like Fictionwise and All Romance Ebooks. So I've set out to start a campaign to Read For Fun. When I shop, I do so and consciously decide to shop as if I'm not a writer. As if I'm a reader, and a not-very-savvy-about-the-industry one at that. Like I used to be before I learned all the ins and outs of the publishing world and marketability versus storytelling mechanics versus hooks, characterization, show-don't-tell and all that framework that helps an author build a good story, and force myself back to that blissfully unaware state where I bought everything I could from the UBS or the discount rack and read 'em all, good bad and ugly.

I've started looking for free reads online (thank you Tor, now get your authors' backlists and frontlists out in e-format too and we'll be happy campers) to introduce my reading self to new authors. And one day soon, when I've scraped up enough change to be able to show my face back at the library without them siccing Dirty Harry on me, I'll be going back there, too.

I've learned a lot and studied hard to get to be where I am as an author and to know my industry, but sometimes you need to leave all of it behind for a few hours, too, in order to remember why you wanted to learn it so badly in the first place.


Savanna Kougar said...

Xandra, i have precious little time or energy, due to my health, for reading, and certainly not much of a budget.
However, if you're ever interested in reading any of mine, I'll send them to you in PDF format.

Skylar Masey said...


I agree about not enough hours in the day to read. I was just thinking the other day I need to carve out more time to write. But I was like where can I find a hole except for time I now use for sleeping?

I have gotten to read new authors through the interviews though. And because some of the books are by friends or acquaintances, it's more fun than work for the most part. Except for those deadlines...that are like any other part of the work :0)

I hope you get more time to read, and thanks for pointing out TOR's free reads!