If you ask an author for some advice on writing, they are undoubtably going to tell you to read, read and read. Read widely and often. This is one of the first things they will tell you, and since basically all of them tell you to do it, it is advice worth following. How can you write a book if you have never read a book? Or how can you write a best seller if you’ve never read one?
Reading is part of our job as a writer. We need to know what’s out there and what’s selling. In Australia you can still send your manuscript to a lot of publishers directly, without an agent, and one question they want you to answer is what book or books you would say was a comparison title to yours, so you need to read the right books to know this.
But sometimes I find balancing the two difficult. I might be writing a lot and hardly reading, or I’ll get absorb in a book and sacrifice my writing time to read. I can’t sell a manuscript I haven’t written, though it’s important to read to help improve my writing. There just never seems to be enough time in the day – especially around this time of year. And then there’s social networking which is a whole different time guzzler all together.
I have this bad habit of jumping on the computer, and instead of delving into my latest project, I’ll jump on the net. I think to myself that I’ll only be real quick; two hours later I’m still on there and freaking out that I just spent my allocated writing time on the net. We all know how important it is to be out there in the cyber world, but there is something as equalling important – actually writing. Like I said before, I can’t sell a manuscript, or short story, if I haven’t actually written it. This is another piece of common advice writers will give you. It’s simple, and you might think it’s obvious, but with all the distractions in life (and if you are a natural procrastinator) it’s easy to spend your time not writing.
Deadlines help, I find. If submissions for that anthology or magazine etc is closing on such and such a date then I’ll make time to make sure it is ready to go. But when I am spending all my time writing, I find myself wishing I had more time to read, and when I’m reading I’m thinking to myself that I have my own book I should be working on. I don’t know if there’s a simple solution, I’m not that great at organizing my time, but I guess it’s all about prioritizing (and not jumping on the net straight away.)
I love to read, and the fact that I’m not reading as much as I like, rather than not writing as much as I like, inspired this post. My reading challenge on goodreads last year was 100 books. I changed it to 90 by the end of the year because I was spending more time writing, and I just made it, barely. And this year I have made it 70, though I’m hoping I’ll read more. Like I said, I guess it’s about prioritizing, and here’s hoping I’ll find a good balance soon.