Fast Reader, Slow Writer

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Getting caught up in a good book is easy enough to do, especially in the winter. What’s not to love about curling up with a hot drink and a strong story and watch the cold nights pass by.

While work generally leaves me little time to read in the winter, this year I did a pretty good job of keeping up with my reading. I think being part of a 50 Book Challenge really helped, and, though I’m a little behind schedule, I’ve managed to not completely lose momentum.

Except when it comes to writing.

Reading is easy. Enjoyable. Cozy. Writing, however, is work. Most days it requires great effort to put words to page. The struggle is real. I would much rather sit and enjoy quietly turning the pages than curse-out a blank page or delete and retype a sentence that just won’t come together.

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So while I’ve read the books from my 50 Book Challenge, I haven’t been writing about them. I’m trying to get caught up now. Trying to remember the books I finished reading weeks ago and write something thoughtful about the stories and my experience of them. But if I thought it was difficult when the stories were fresh in my mind, putting off writing about them has not done me any favours.

I am a huge procrastinator when I have the chance. A habit only matched by my fiery determination once I set myself to a task.

I have three books to write blog posts for:

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

And three books to read:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Looking for Alaska by John Greene

The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu

The challenge for me this month is to write as much as I read. I’m trying to take it one book at a time and remind myself that while I did organize the books by month, the point is to read them all not read them as a prescribed time, so I’d like to have all the posts caught up by April. I really enjoyed all the books I’ve read. This was the first time I’ve read Alice Munro and the series of stories—wait, I’m going to save it for the blog post.

Happy reading (and writing!)

BJL

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All work and no reading make me something something

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I spend the winter sitting by a desk only going outside when the sun hasn’t risen or has already set. Every year I think I know what I am getting in to but somehow I find myself surprised by my lack of time.

This year was no different. I started off strong. I used my commute to read and to send emails to family and friends in an attempt to maintain the resemblance of a normal life. I think that lasted two weeks. Then my book just turned into another object I hauled back and forth between home and the office and emails to friends turned into emails for work.

But now it is spring. Now is the time to crack the spine of a new book. Now is the time to sit by the lake and plot the next chapter in my novel. Now is the time newness and growth.

I already have a couple books lined up to read.Come Thou Tortoise

First up is Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. This novel is the first I am reading as part of a book club that I joined through my local library. It is Grant’s debut novel and sounds delightfully unusual as one of the narrators is a 300-year-old tortoise.

I also have David Adams Richards’ Road to the Stilt House (1985) in my to-read pile for April. I’m excited to get back to Richards’ novels, though this has been called his darkest novel so I am preparing myself for a challenging read.

As for my novel, I have no specific goal except to write every chance I get and to work to give myself those chances. To that end, I’ve given up all but one of the time-sucking websites I use to frequent, which has already opened up so much more time in my day, and I’ve made good use of the focus view on Word – the extra step to look online makes me think twice about random browsing.

Spring is a hopeful time for me. My hope for this spring is to read a few good books and write a few memorable lines.

I’ve also made the leap to Twitter, so I hope I get to chat with more people about reading, writing, and all things books. Find me @rereadpages.

BJL

New year, new post

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Happy New Year!

Welcome back to re: read pages, the blog that looks for books worth rereading and discusses the art of writing all while forcing me to keep working on my own first novel.

I hope you all had a fun and festive holiday season. Since we are now in a new year, I have made some resolutions about re: read pages that I would like to share with you.

  • Writing for my novel has priority over writing for my blog – I lost a lot of good writing time by trying to maintain the quality and quantity of this blog. While I really enjoyed all that I did on re: read pages, it didn’t help me with my ultimate goal of finishing my novel.
  • It is important that I post, not when I post – while I will make every attempt to post two times a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, I will not hold on to an idea just to match up to my intended blogging schedule.
  • Have more fun – as I have in other areas of my life, I took things a little too seriously when writing for re: read pages. Reading is fun and this blog so should be as well.

That’s it for me for now. Do you have any reading or writing resolutions for 2015? Sound off in the comments below and happy reading.

BJL

2014 in review

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Looking back is always part of New Year’s Eve, and looking back over a year of re: read pages gives me a lot of joy. I hope you found some great new authors or books worth rereading as a result of perusing this blog. Thanks so much for checking in. I hope to bring more discussion, reviews and writing updates in the year to come.

Check out the year in review for re: read pages from WordPress.

Happy reading in 2015!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 990 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My words

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I reread my notes from my novel. Wow, there is a lot of information there – clothing styles, political alliances, modes of transportation, religious expectations, phases of the moon and more and more. And still I have blank spaces in my story. I am beginning to feel bogged down by research and frustrated by my lack of writing, familiar feelings, unfortunately. So I am going to set aside the research for a while, be okay with the blank spaces and star putting words on the page. They may not be perfect words but at least I won’t have a blank white page.

Next week, I will discuss my progress. My goal is seven new pages (no editing previously written ones). For now, I think I need to get up the courage to share some of what I have written already. So I am including a selection from a defining moment in Rosaline’s life. Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

Catalina’s scream cut the air. Rosaline’s attention snapped back to the shoreline just in time to see her sister being pulled down the river. Rosaline rushed to the water, flinging herself in the current and letting it drag her through the water.  The little girl’s head bobbed in the water ahead of her. Rosaline’s limbs, cold from her first crossing, felt as though they were weighing her down rather than propelling her forward. Rosaline kept swimming, watching for her sister’s flailing arms and calling her name. The river narrowed and the current increased in speed. Rocks jutted out of the water. Rosaline could no longer see or hear her sister. She was battered against the stones. Her head slipped beneath the water. She broke to the surface for a moment before being pulled under again. Rosaline pushed against a rock toward what she hoped was the surface. She gasped for breath as she came up into the air; Rosaline pulled herself from the river and collapsed.

Rosaline’s arm throbbed, a painful assurance that she was still alive. She slowly opened her eyes. She was in her own room, the curtains drawn, a candle flickering on the side table. She tried to lift her head.
“Shhh, you must not try to move, though I am relieved to see you awake,” Maria appeared beside her bed, checking her covers, pressing a cool cloth against her head. Rosaline shifted her gaze to Maria’s worried face. She tried to speak her sister’s name but only a thin whisper past her lips.
“Have a drink.” The cool liquid soothed her throat as she drank, but even that small act depleted her strength.
“Catalina.”
“Rest,” Maria said, tucking the blankets around Rosaline. Rosaline’s head began to throb like her arm. Did they not know that Catalina was missing? Where was her sister? White flashed before her eyes. The rush of the water sounded in her ears and then all was black once more.

The sun was shining on her bed the next time Rosaline opened her eyes. Her arm and head no longer hurt, so she propped herself up.
“You’re awake.” Her mother’s voice drew her eyes to the window. Alma’s dark silhouette turned; Rosaline could not see her face.
“Where is—”
“Do not speak,” Alma sharply cut off Rosaline’s question. “You have been sleeping for five days. How could you let her near the water? How could you let her fall in?”
“I tried—”
“I told you not to speak!” Alma rushed to the bedside, “We found her not 15 feet from where you lay. Her face blue. Her leg twisted. Her hands bloody and torn.” Alma’s face, now close to Rosaline’s, was pale. Her eyes were red and puffy. “You were supposed to protect her,” Alma said, pushing away from the bed and walking toward the door.
“Mama.”
Alma froze. Without looking back she replied, “I only had one daughter, and I buried her yesterday.” Alma stepped from the room, closing the door on the anguished cries coming from inside

Month One

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So, December is not the month I recommend you start a blog. Whoa. Between illness and the holidays, I kinda drop the book for this blog, as it were. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that I started re: read pages and I am looking forward to writing some more, but, not unlike the writing of my book, I underestimated the effort involved in maintaining a good blog.

Thank goodness for new years and fresh starts.

Welcome back, dear Readers, and Happy New Year!

Looking at how my first month went, I am going to revise the blogging schedule. Mondays will still be book discussion, but, for the time being, I am dropping it down to a bi-weekly update, with maybe a little commentary as I read to help keep the habit up.

So, please enjoy my take on a classic novel, A Christmas Carol, which you’ll find in the next post, and we’ll start fresh for 2014.

Going forward

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This week, I reread the pages I have completed so far on my novel. There were good parts and bad. In some places I just wrote in what I needed to find, for example “job title,” or “Transition” when I wanted to get to the next scene. I can see what I’m trying to do and still like the idea but it is so rough. So, so rough.

My biggest desire is to go back and smooth it out, work out the kinks and fill in the blanks but I am going to ignore that impulse. It can be fixed later. Right now I need to get more words on the page.

So I have made two goals for myself. First, I want to reach the end of my novel. I figure it should be a little over 300 pages when I am finished. If I even wrote just a page a day, I could be done before the end of 2014. I know that a page a day is an impractical way of writing because I won’t get the chance to write every day, but a goal of seven pages per week (minimum) doesn’t seem that impossible.

Second, I noticed a dependence on dialogue. I use it too much and skip over showing the scene. I need to start filling in those blanks, show what the character is seeing and add some heft to the scenes. I think this will go a long way in adding not only length but quality to the pages.

When I think of the books I admire, there is not very much dialogue. Part of reading great books is the hope that their greatness will sink in and influence my own writing. I’m hoping that the idea behind “you are what you eat” converts to “you write what you read,” kind of like I’m consuming nutritious novels instead of sugary beach reads. I like sugar and there is noting wrong with eating a little, but I have to eat my Grapes of Wrath, too.

I must admit, it was a little discouraging to go back and look at my old work. I remember being excited when I wrote it and going back to it with a cold read exposed its flaws. I know that there will be a lot of revision and ultimately it will make the novel better, but right now it feels like a long way between the first word and last word. So I am trying to focus on a quote from Earl Nightingale:

Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.

Writing a book seems like a good way to pass the time.