Monday, 16 September 2013

Short stories and reading while writing your novel.

You become a different writer when you approach a short story. When things are not always having to represent other things, you find real human beings begin to cautiously appear on your pages.
Zadie Smith

Novel editing has been put on the back burner slightly this week, as I prepare various short story submissions. I used to worry that the two animals (novels and short stories) shouldn't be tackled simultaneously, but I now believe the occasional short story deviation helps - rather than hinders - my novel writing.

For me, it's like undertaking a quick revision course in craft. Too often, when working on the novel, I find myself getting so immersed; too immersed *starts to lose the meaning of all language...*, and all boundaries/techniques/structure/pace simply blurs into a pile of literary dung. 

In desperation, I abandon everything I've learned and ask myself:

  • Does it sound OK when I read it out loud? 
  • Would I boak at this if I read it in a published novel? 
  • What do the writers group folk have to say about it?

I missed a few writers group sessions in a row, and it had an alarmingly negative effect on my writing confidence. Neither myself or my poor group banked on my codependency issues, I'm sure.

One of the lovely ladies in my group, Clare Hipkiss,  has just published one of seven stories that will comprise her novel: Tales from the Ice Cream Van. This particular story is called Hello Kitty, about an adorable man and wife trying to get their teenage daughter off drugs. So heartbreaking, but very optimistic at the end. Clare could teach us all a lesson in characterisation (I've yet to dislike one of her characters... even the meanies!). Put the kettle on, slow down for a minute, and have a read here.

I deliberately haven't read any novels in over a week, in an experiment to reduce any outside influence in my writing. I'll no doubt give in by the end of the week, but it's been an interesting experiment, despite the reading withdrawals. 

Do you steer clear of reading while writing? Or do you crank up your reading efforts? I've heard so many different opinions on this. What's yours?

Take care
Catherine x


Michelle Wallace said...

I think, to a certain extent, I crank up my reading efforts.
Sometimes reading a single sentence can trigger a slew of ideas... not a bad thing, is it? After all, the ideas still have to be translated into concrete sentences and must be slotted into the story, in the correct places...
Writer In Transit

chipkiss said...

Thank you for a wonderful confidence boost! I really appreciate your comments on 'Hello Kitty'. Glad you like my characters.. I've been living with them for a long time! You're right, even the baddies have back story, influences and reasons. But I think it's only right to say that your own writing is extremely good, and I look forward to hearing more about what your characters are up to!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I still read while I'm writing. Not as much, but just simply because I don't have the time.

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