We writers are supposed to write. We’re also supposed to read. And we must juggle both along with jobs, meals, friends, family, and the unexpected surprises that come up along the way.
I am amazed by people who can sit quietly and read an entire book in one sitting. I would have a nervous breakdown if I tried to do so. I wish I could, but I can’t sit still that long, no matter how enthralled I am with what I’m reading. I have to get up at some point and walk around…do something else…process what I’ve taken in so far.
Maybe it’s a function of my writer’s mind, but I find myself somehow needing a break at times to ponder not only the words on the page, but how the sentence structure, pace and style come together to make me feel one way or another. I try not to allow myself to “guess” what’s coming from a writer’s point of view. Sometimes, I see foreshadowing and know where it’s going. Other times I see it and am pleasantly surprised when the author goes other than the expected route. Occasionally, what I think is foreshadowing isn’t at all.
But at the end of a novel, I like to think back to those twists and turns and how the author did (or didn’t) pull them off. It’s like a writing lesson for free.
I’m a painfully slow reader. If I get through a chapter a day, I’m doing something extraordinary. If I get through three chapters a week, I’m doing something above average. Most of the time, I’m afraid, I have the book I’m currently working on nearby, with the best of intentions. I want to read it. Really, I do. But there’s something always coming up that takes me away from it.
I will confess that I listen to audiobooks quite often. When possible, I read a book and listen to the audio version at the same time. I like experiencing the same story two different ways: one through the eyes of a reader who must make up every facet of the story in his imagination, and the other through the ears of a listener who is hearing the same words. It’s interesting to me how the same sentences,when read by me and then spoken by someone else, have subtle differences in the way my mind processes them.
My favorite author, as you probably already know, is Dean Koontz. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t finish most of the books I was “required” to read in school. I never enjoyed reading that much, especially when I didn’t get to choose my own selection. I found a paperback copy of “Lightning“ once, and would read it after I finished my homework in study hall. I realized, about halfway through the book, that I was actually hooked! It was full of twists, and each time I thought I had it figured out, it went a different way! And the pacing of the book was somehow just what my reader’s mind had been looking for but not finding from other writers.
It wasn’t Koontz who got me interested in writing, because I was writing long before I ever picked up that copy of “Lightning.” But it was Koontz who got me interested in reading again…and it was also Koontz who made me realize that it’s perfectly possible to find a book out there that tells a story in a way that can make you keep coming back to the book rather than putting it aside. I’m still grateful for that.