Reading, and story time, and writing

The close of March is upon us, and I’m sad to see it go. We had our first summer-like day here, yesterday. The sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy and white, the land was drying out, the temperature hit the 70s, and everyone I came into contact with was very happy to have a break in the rain. As for myself? I’m already looking forward to autumn’s arrival.

It’s silly. We have another good three to four months of the rainy season. And I am happy that it’s warming up enough that gardening without turning your fingers into fingercicles. We have a newly created garden bed in our backyard that is waiting for me to go and turn over the grass that has grown since it’s implementation, and then we’ll start planting veggies. (Lettuce, tomato eventually, cukes, zucchini, peas). I have our front patch to reclaim from moss and grass, a rosemary plant and two trees to put in, and our bulb-bowl that we purchased for Ostara (a cluster of tulips, two hyacinth, two grape hyacinth, some crocuses, some fancy narcissis) to get into the ground. I’m looking forward to that, I really am.

If only it wouldn’t get so sunny. If only it would stay below 70.

The mornings are still quite nice, and I comfort myself by knowing that for most of the year here, the morning does not get that much warmer than they are now. But I’ll miss the biting chill.

The dog is happy, however, so that’s really what matters. He hates the rain and the cold, and the dark.

I did not double my word count during the second half of March. I’m starting to want to pay attention to that (I can’t remember when I last tallied it) but not in such a way as to make tracking more work and take away from the joy of writing. Unlike last year, I’m trying to stay aware of what my patterns are and adapt, rather than trying to apply goals that work against myself. It’s silly, maybe. It’s mostly attitude more than the actual “thing” I’m doing. Objectively, tracking word count and progress is the same, either way. Where my mind is at, how I’m viewing the progress, is all subjective.

I’m reading through, slowly, Reading Like A Writer. I’m two minds about it, about any books on the technical side of the writing craft. It’s entertaining, even if it is making me find books I wouldn’t otherwise find and read them — which, heh, I don’t NEED, as I’ve already spent more time reading than I should have, this month — but I’m reading it with some trepidation. Every time I pick up the idea that I “ought to” be writing with some goal other that telling the story, I sputter out and stall. I’m not a close-reader generally (this changes during story time, naturally) and I value my ability to read fast. I don’t sound the words out as I read, I don’t think them in my head, I see them, and there’s a meaning-association that I don’t need *sound* for. I don’t want to start reading that way all the time.

But I am enjoying our story time reading quite a lot, and I do think that writers really ought to read their work out loud. I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors — I’ll use Patricia Briggs as an example, because I adore her work, even if I wish she’d write more secondary world fantasy — possibly don’t, or possibly have a different ear than I do, because oh do I stumble through story time with her books. (Which doesn’t make me love them any less, mind.) Anne Bishop, to use another (and recently featured at story time) example, is greatly fond of long, active sentences. On the one hand, it’s refreshing in a world saturated by short, economic sentences and they delight me. On the other hand, I’m not reading for an audiobook, in a studio, where we can stop and edit as we need to. We have had some hilarious, “Okay, wait, try that again!” moments while I figure out where to put pauses and emphasis.

Reading things like Reading Like A Writer also makes me stop and wonder over things like, am I not like other writers? I don’t have a huge grammar study background. I enjoy reading things like stylebooks and dictionaries (don’t you judge me!!) and I like reading different ways of writing, but I don’t like dissecting. I don’t like taking the technique of writing away from the story, to hold up and dissect.

I suppose it could come down to what sort of writer you are, inside. Do you write so you can play with language and structure and technique, or do you write to tell the story, and grammar and language and technique are simply tools to help you do that? I’m certainly in the latter camp. And I don’t think there’s a wrong way, and I don’t think one is only one type of writer or another. I *do* like learning the different ways people approach things, and I do enjoy that I’m a bit of a pedant, and I try to keep that in my writing rather than letting it spill over into real life. And, knowing the history of writing, of language, of dictionaries, of the fluidity of language, and how modern a concept words being said or spelled just so is, how young, how barely a blip on our literary background, I realize that getting annoyed over misplaced apostrophes is silly and pedant. It’s an interesting inner war.


I’ve recently finished reading Farnell’s The Cults of the Greek States Vol 3 which lead to some interesting conversations on the bus (and by interesting I mean annoying.) I’m currently picking through The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England and it’s one of those books where quotes are not translated, and really, I can’t handle the Latin. Sometimes, I can, if the context is clear enough, but . . . feh. Also, some other reader at some point noted the book to high heaven, and he seriously had a bee in his bonnet over what the author meant by Christian, and so that’s adding some fun giggling and eye-rolling. Off-line message train wrecks!

For story time, we’re working through Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books. Have read the first two books, the short novel The Prince of Ebon Rih and Zuulaman short story, and we are on the third book now. I forget how much I love Lucivar. We have renamed Hekatah, which is too close to Hekate for me to be comfy with, to Hekaduh, because she’s repeatedly so stupid. And it’s made the reading fun.


Reading books I love, whose stories suck me in (I’ve reread the Black Jewel trio five times, the most recent time being this month, because I read ahead of story time, too) is not conducive to writing my own work. Brittany and Thistle have suffered because of it. Must get disciplined. In fairness, the day job has been busy and stressful and feh. But, it always will be stressful. I need to stop sleeping in that extra hour and get up and *work*. Still, the rough draft is at 30k words, most of that from February and March. So, not too shabby.

And, it’s useful to learn that my natural default is to read more than write. Knowing that, I can inflict discipline. “Three hundred words, and then you can . . . “


8 thoughts on “Reading, and story time, and writing

  1. Sarah

    I don’t think you’re unusual or different from other writers; I think that there are people who know how to write, implicitly, and can focus more on telling the story and less on the mechanics. There are other people who learn to write, explicitly, and the way they learn is really to learn the mechanics first.

    Maybe this was more at the end, or perhaps my recollection is already faulty, but I thought that in basically every chapter, she pointed out that the writers she most enjoys reading, the ones who are considered ‘great’ writers, broke at least one and probably most of the ‘rules’ that people learn when learning the mechanics of writing. So not that you should be reading / writing a different way than you do, but that this is how she reads and writes because of it.

    I wonder, actually, if I would like her fiction. I’m afraid to try it.

    1. Jolene Post author

      Her chapters are arranged that way, giving examples of rule breaking and why it worked. The book itself isn’t written in a “do it this way!” manner, simply I love me my hard and fast rules, and they tend to break me, so I’m reading cautiously to make sure I don’t misconstrue what she’s trying to say. My brain does some awfully stupid things when it decides, without informing me and without my consent, that since someone else does this thing or that thing this particular way, I obviously should be as well.

      I haven’t even looked into her fiction. She’s making me want to read pretty much most of the stories she gives us samples of, because I’m a busybody and I want to see what happens. So far, I’ve got some von Kleist waiting for me at the library, and I may get back to giving Austen a try. Because, I don’t have a tower of books to get through already . . .

  2. Soli

    Ha ha ha, Hekaduh! She deserves it too. Also, as you keep going in BJT you will find an oddly familiar name. Well, unless you already got that far….
    And not to increase your tbr but Anne’s newest is a new world I rather enjoy/

    1. Jolene Post author

      The only books of Anne’s i haven’t read are the newest Ephemera book and the new-new book whose serial name I don’t recall. The Others? I’ve read all the BJ books, years ago. A few times. πŸ˜‰

      Oddly, her writing has taken the same trend L.J Smith’s has, with me. I like the newer ones less and less than I like the previous ones. It’s entirely possible that since BJT is one of my “perfect reads” series, that’s not a fair way to judge the rest. Hrm.

      1. Soli

        I can see the comparison with LJS. Also, when you get a trilogy and full story, it can sometimes be cumbersome to add on to that one. And I take it you read the stories of Cassidy in Dena Nehele then? πŸ˜‰

        The Others is the kind of story where I can easily see more stories working into it. She said that the second book will involve the Courtyard from the first and another. I’m not a fanfic person but maybe to work on my fiction I will write my own set in different worlds I like reading.

  3. Jolene Post author

    Yes! I love Cassidy! I haven’t read her books as often as I’ve read BJT, but, yes. Is The Others a not-here book, setting wise? I’m a bit displeased with how many books are set-here, and I only glance at the info about it, and, well. it’s irrelevant at this point because I’ve got a long TBR list to get through, but . . . I’m still sort of sad, while adoring the world (and sometimes forgetting that the reservation outside Walla Walla doesn’t actually exist) of Mercy Thompson and, more especially, Ann and Charles, that Patricia Briggs moved away from secondary world fantasy. I don’t begrudge her her success, of course.

    1. Soli

      It’s the closest to this world type setting she has done but it’s also different enough that it is NOT of this world.


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