Saturday, November 10, 2007

Time to Read

A lot of people say to me, "How do you read so many books? I don't have time." As many of these are writing students, I don't have much sympathy because I believe you have to read widely in order to write better. Reading as a writer teaches you lots of small but vital things about writing that you don't really learn any other way. I'm always thinking, Wow, that's a great piece of dialogue - I must give that to my class to read. And sometimes I give them a writing exercise based on it.

How do I read so much? If I'm working at home, I read at the breakfast and lunch table. I read at night instead of watching TV (or as well as - most TV shows don't require 100% concentration!). And I always read for at least half an hour when I go to bed. On the weekends, if I'm not working, I read as relaxation. When we go up to the bush for the day, I spend a lot of time sitting under the trees, reading. I always take at least three books in case I run out. I am a fast reader, I guess, but only through practice.

Being a fast reader means that books I don't like so much get read pretty quickly, but if they really don't appeal, I toss them. Once upon a time, I'd persevere but not any more. Too many other good books out there to read.
I've just finished The Day the Gypsies Came by Linzi Glass. It's set in Johannesburg in the 60s, and has an awful cast of characters, nearly all of whom are very unlikeable. The main character is weak and doesn't act until the end, when it's too late. I struggled to finish this, but in the end I was glad I did for one reason - the relationship between the main character and the Zulu gateman, Buza. It was wonderfully written, and made the ending, despite all the other horrible things that happened, worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

I'm always reluctant not to finish a book becuase I feel that there is the possibility of redeeming itself at the end. On the other hand, my friends are always telling me that there are so many good books out there that I should stop wasting time on the bad ones.

Of course so of the 'having to finish' is about classics such as The Catcher in the Rye which I didn't like, but as a writer I felt I had to finish.

Sherryl said...

But those ones you have to force yourself to finish - do you ever find yourself thinking 'How did this ever get published?'
I think with the Glass novel, it was the setting and the awful situation that sold it. And I'm sure others will love it.

Kristi Holl said...

This is a good reminder to me to read more--AND that if I make use of the bits of time during the day (like mealtimes and when stuck in traffic) that I can get through a lot of books--especially since most children's books are pretty short. I do like to see how other authors handle things--and what gets published despite how many "rules" were broken!