Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hunger games

Ok, so, I'm a writer. An author, if you will. Last year, the IRS qualified it as "Hobby income", this year it will qualify as a job, but just barely. I have been cranking out about a novel a year since 2001 and I have 7 novels that I've called my hummingbird series.

Most authors read, and by read I mean they read a lot. It's common for authors to read dozens of books a year, if for nothing more than to "keep up" with the trends. A large number of those books are assigned to them to be read by their publishers so that one in-house author can make an 'honest' recommendation/review of another in-house author's book. It's a kind of 'I'll wash your back if you wash mine' thing, and is pretty much mandatory at most traditional publishers.

As an Indie, I've never been asked to do such a thing, and I never will. Even so, I don't read other people's books.

I haven't read a novel in a decade or more, probably closer to two decades.
Sure, I read the paper, keep up on some science mags and such, but I haven't read fiction since highschool.

I'm dyslexic, and that single flaw slows me down a lot. I read to myself slower than others can read something aloud. But that's not really what holds me back. I have to proofread a novel, mine, somewhere between four and a dozen times in a year. That's my dozen novels worth of reading in a year, and it wears me out.

As I crawled out from under my decade-old rock and slough off my mold and moss, I get a few books for my birthday a few weeks ago, Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games".

Yeah, after a decade of editing my own books, I couldn't help but nitpick at sentence structure, typos, flashback placement and such, but lets put that aside. Lets put it all aside because no book is perfect and, with absolute honesty, nobody really cares about these tiny blemishes except the snooty, want-to-be elitist class that just point them out to feel superior. The most popular tweets and blogs are full of far worse offenses, and nobody cares. Nor should they.

I took a week out of writing to read all three, cover to cover. For me, we're talking 8-16 hours a day, every day, for over seven days.

I liked them, enjoyed them really, and just couldn't put them down no matter how many nitpicky 'flaws' my editor's I's saw. I now see why so many of my few, but growing, fans say my series reminds them of hers. They're not the only ones to see it now.

But that isn't the point of this. Again, I don't do reviews.

I noticed something change in myself that I didn't anticipate. Sure, the series is moving, but I'm not talking about that. There is a reason to read other people's books that I never noticed before. No, it isn't to give glowing recommendations to other authors that work at your publishing house, an often mandatory form of free advertising. No, it isn't even for the entertainment value, of which in this case was very high.

It forced my mind back into that of the reader like nothing else has. I couldn't help but drop the author/editor side of my mind and become the reader of my teenage years. That's kind of priceless.

My entire series had been written on the assumption that nobody would really read it anyway. I was writing them for myself and for the characters that lived in them, but nobody else. The reader never entered my mind.

I assumed I'd be a failure, like most authors are, then I'd swallow my pride, say "at least I tried" and throw myself back into some other occupation, preferably one that paid more than $40 a month.

As a reader, I noticed she's very visually descriptive, where I rarely am. I tend to have a rigid rule of thumb that the description should take as long to read aloud as it takes the character to look at it. A glance should be a few words. A study might take a page or two. Probably I should do more of that, even though I tended to skim the fashion and food parts of her story, other's probably didn't. I forgot that others can skim parts they care nothing about too. . . that other readers might need more, or even want more. In other words, I probably write too selfishly for my own good.

There's a lot I learned while taking this week off from writing and dedicating it to reading.

It was more than just an enjoyable series, I think it may have changed my perspective in a way that a decade of writing never could.

And the perfectly swirled icing on this Peeta cake was I got to devour a delicious story in the process.

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