Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Don't Forget To Read

Writing has been an increasing struggle for me. It used to be that I was always making up stories, my brain was full of imaginings, and I thought my creativity would never run dry. Yet it's become difficult to write. It's become difficult to imagine. It's been difficult to develop plots. It's been difficult to stay excited about a project for any length of time.

Now, I can identify several factors in my own life related to growing up that are probably affecting this dry spell, but there's just one I'm talking about today...one that I think is a bigger factor than I realized.


I've been bemoaning the lack of reading time for awhile now, and also bemoaning the limited quantity of books that excite me. It's a rough place for a reader to be. And while I had an inkling for awhile that there was probably some correlation between my reading habits and my writing struggles, it didn't really hit me until recently, didn't fully hit me until I put together the stats.

2014 was a pretty good year for reading and writing. Sure, I still read some junk books, but the ratio of good books to poor ones was pretty encouraging. Only about a tenth of my total fiction intake was junk. I read a lot of Margaret Peterson Haddix--well-written, creative books that excite me--and several classics. I wrote approximately 3 1/2 books, some of it a rewrite, but quite a bit of it all new. Not only that, but I was finishing school and constantly doing volunteer work for a congressional campaign, with migraine problems. Yet, with so much busyness, a good fiction intake resulted in a good fiction output.

The ratio of junk to quality was higher in 2015. Not horrendously so, but definitely higher--especially since I read less books overall. I still read a good number of classics, but even among the quality literature, I still read a good bit of fluff. Like Winnie-the-Pooh and Beverly Cleary. Sure, they're children's classics, but they're not super inspiring and they don't make my imagination take off. The junk was balanced with some good fiction, but not enough. The quality didn't drown out the junk as well as it did in 2014, and my writing quantity was starting to suffer. I still managed to finish my major work on Time Captives, write the first (rather bland) draft of the Cassie Story, and write a novella, but all that work pretty much drained me. And I couldn't manage to recharge. Yes, I had a lot of stress going on in my personal life to make things difficult (moving, basement building, etc.), but it shouldn't have been too much worse than graduating and campaigning if my reading habits had kept up the way they had been.

2016, let me just say it, was bad. I only read 63 total books, and about half of the fiction I read was junk. It's no wonder I only managed to write one story, a rewrite, and it was a struggle at that. I read a few classics, like Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights, plus some good new stuff like Ilyon, Rizkaland, and Blades of Acktar, but when my main reading intake is Percy Jackson and Jedi Quest, well, there's not much Jane Austen can do to help. Yes, I got a job and had a very full year, but if my reading choices had been better, there's a good chance writing would have gone better as well.

My point in sharing this story is this: Do not forget to read quality literatureYes, if you're a writer, you should write, but reading is extremely important too. The quantity is important, but even more important is the quality. You can't write good books if you don't read them, so take in a steady diet of quality literature.
Make time to read, and make careful reading choices. It's more important than you know.


107 Total Books Read

Most Read Fiction Authors:
Margaret Peterson Haddix: 17 books
Katie Lynn Daniels: 7 books
Donita K. Paul: 5 books
Evan Angler: 4 books
Kendra E. Ardnek: 4 books
Lois Lowry: 4 books
Jaye L. Knight/Molly Evangeline: 3 books
Alexander Key: 2 books
Frank Peretti: 2 books
Lois Gladys Leppard: 2 books
Suzanne Collins: 2 books

Fiction Classics Read:
Silas Marner by George Eliot
The Honorable Peter Stirling by Paul Leicester Ford
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Other Noted Reads (the good and the not as good):
Becoming Nikki by Ashley Elliott
McKenna (American Girl "Girl of the Year") by Mary Casonova
Only a Novel by Amy Dashwood
Hunt for Jade Dragon (Michael Vey #4) by Richard Paul Evans
Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen
Adventures and Adversities by Sarah Holman
Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson
Holes by Louis Sachar
Movie Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Reckoning (Last of the Jedi #10) by Jude Watson

Writing Output:
Creighton Hill (1st computer draft--complete rewrite)
The Crossways (1st computer draft--almost complete rewrite)
Espionage (rough draft)
Crannig Castle (1st half of rough draft)


86 Total Books Read

Most Read Fiction Authors:
Kendra E. Ardnek: 7 books
Edgar Rice Burroughs: 5 books
Marissa Meyer: 4 books
Sarah Holman: 4 books
Margaret Peterson Haddix: 3 books
A. A. Milne: 2 books
Beverly Cleary: 2 books
Charles Dickens: 2 books
Claire M. Banschbach: 2 books
Baroness Emmuska Orczy: 2 books
Jaye L. Knight: 2 books
Katie Lynn Daniels: 2 books

Fiction Classics Read:
Tarzan Books 1-5 by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Other Noted Reads (the good and the not as good):
Amazing Grace by Faith Blum
Caddie Woodlawn's Family by Carol Ryrie Brink
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Meet Caroline by Kathleen Ernst
Storm of Lightning by Richard Paul Evans
Counted Worthy by Leah Good
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Disney at Dawn by Ridley Pearson
Implant by J. Grace Pennington
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Doctor Who: The Glamour Chase by Gary Russell
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Writing Output:
Crannig Castle (2nd half of rough draft)
The Crossways (rewrite of Time Captives storyline--roughly 1/3 of book)
The Cassie Story (rough draft)
Twisted Dreams (rough draft)


63 Total Books Read

Most Read Fiction Authors:
Rick Riordan: 10 books
Jude Watson: 10 books
Tanith Lee: 4 books
Shannon Hale: 3 books
Tricia Mingerink: 3 books
Chris Colfer: 2 books
C. S. Lewis: 2 books
Trenton Lee Stewart: 2

Fiction Classics Read:
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Pilgrim's Regress by C. S. Lewis
Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery

Other Noted Reads (the good and the not as good):
Rainland by Sarah Allerding
Lady Dragon, Tela Du by Kendra E. Ardnek
This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof
The Solid Rock by Faith Blum
Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii by Lee Goldberg
Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight
Gossamer by Lois Lowry
Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
Firmament: Reversal Zone by J. Grace Pennington
Far To Go by Noel Streatfeild
Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island by Mike Tucker

Writing Output:
The Cassie Story (1st computer draft--complete rewrite)

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