Friday, May 30, 2014
By K D Grace
It’s so easy for a novelist to get caught up in the work and the PR and the marketing that goes along with the writing. Sometimes it feels like weeks can pass before I raise my head and take a look around. It never all gets done and I wouldn’t want it to. There are books on my internal ‘to-be-written’ calendar that may not get written until 2050. There’s so much more than I ever have time to put on the page, and then there’s promoting and pimping what’s already out there. Days come and go. Seasons change, and sometimes I hardly notice.
But every once in a while, I look up from the laptop, raise my arms above my head and give a good stretch and there it is, an epiphany. I had such an epiphany just before Christmas. It shouldn’t have been a surprise because it’s something I’ve always known, something that I’d just pushed aside because there was no time, something that was too important NOT to make time for.
We were FINALLY taking a little bit of holiday – going to Rome, which is one of my favourite places on the planet. I was in between books, having just turned in my latest manuscript, and was as caught up on PR as I was ever likely to be, so I did something bold and decadent. I downloaded J R Ward’s Dark Lover, and read a novel strictly and totally for my own indulgent pleasure. I wasn’t looking for deeper meaning. I wasn’t aiming to see what’s going on in my genre. I wasn’t trying to learn a new skill or do research. I absolutely, 100% was looking to be entertained.
Frankly, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to focus, since I was still on the come-down from the manuscript I’d just sent off. Wow! Was I wrong! Starving woman … banquet … You get the picture. When I wasn’t wandering around Rome and the environs, drinking in the scenery, the history and the ambiance, I was reading. I read Late into the night; I read early in the morning, I read over breakfast and in the underground. Whenever I wasn’t playing tourist, I was reading –three novels. I was in heaven! I’m not a fast reader, and okay these weren’t tomes by any means, but for me, it was epic! And it was a powerful reminder of why I read for pleasure, and how much I’d lost by not reading for pleasure.
Time! That’s always my biggest complaint. The bane of my existence is that THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH!!! Who the hell has time to read for pleasure? That was the question I’d been asking myself for the past few years as I worked at becoming a published novelist, as I worked at pimping what I’d written. It’s a complaint I hear often from other writers. It’s a complaint I hear from lots of people, actually.
Amazingly, what I discovered in that exquisite week in Rome is that I can’t afford not to take time to
The Escape is always followed by the return. I go back to my own work more relaxed and more focused because the break I’ve had is a total break. The return is followed by the analysis. That takes place in the shower or while I’m cooking dinner or doing laundry. The analysis is not hard work; it’s just reflecting on what makes the novel I’m reading work for me, or not. Were the characters endearing? Were they irritating? Did the plot move me? Can I predict what will happen next? Beyond the kind of analysis all writers do when they read something someone else has written is the idea that I’ve derived pleasure from what I’ve read. I’ve engaged in someone else’s story and immersed myself in it. That’s always a prompt for me, a little push to make me consider my own stories and my use of craft to immerse readers in the tale I have to tell. Immersion in my own story is, for me, a given. It’s what I’m most obsessed with. It’s what I have to do to make the story work, to make it a total immersion experience for my readers as well.
Yes, there’s a lot going on at a lot of levels, and reading could very easily become an exercise in improving my own work. No doubt it’s always that on some level, but the truth of it, plain and simple, is that reading gives me immense pleasure, and I’m very glad that it’s once again an integral part of my writing life