Having less time to read is an unfortunate consequence of writing. It’s easy to prioritise getting your own words down on the page over reading the work of others, but over the past year and a half I’ve ruthlessly carved out more time for reading. Even though I knew my writing time would suffer as a result, modern life throws so many demands on our time that I guess, looking back, the decision was a kind of stubborn refusal to give in to that and relegate one of my driving passions. Plus, I was starting to feel somewhat fraudulent by considering myself a budding fantasy author while spending less and less time engaging with that genre [although ‘community’ might be the better term]. It’s meant less time for watching TV, playing computer games, spending time with real people and (as predicted) actually writing, but I’ve never been happier. And it just so happens that the greatest benefit of this has been for my own fiction.
It’s rare nowadays that a book can completely sweep me away in its narrative or world. It’s great when it happens, don’t get me wrong – to some extent the writing becomes invisible and I find myself living the story, there’s no better feeling – but more often my writer-brain is constantly chirping in; dissecting my emotional responses to things; breaking down character motivations; studying scene construction and syntax; or asking myself, how would I have written this bit differently? It’s great training to be a storyteller because you’re constantly learning, improving and critiquing – especially when you don’t like or enjoy what you’re reading.
So by making more time for reading, and analysing others’ work from a “writerly” perspective, I’ve found my ability to self-edit has improved dramatically. I’m currently editing my novel Rogue Arcanist prior to publishing it next year, and it’s been surprising how much distance I’ve been able to create between myself and the text. That’s always a struggle when you’ve written something you truly care about, but actually, I’ve found it much easier to apply that critical eye to my own novel as a result. I’m more comfortable – and eager to – interrogate my writing, asking myself why I’ve chosen those words in that order, and what effect are they having and why. And perhaps most importantly, what might work better?
I’m less precious about my own work – at least in the sense that I want to take a hammer to it and see what holds up and what doesn’t. It’s liberating, and I hope it makes for a better reading experience for those who kindly decide to spend their time reading my stories.
P.S. And I couldn’t leave it there without sharing some of those stories I’ve enjoyed the most recently…