I have heard many times people discuss how a good writer needs to be a good reader first. I have always been an avid reader dating back to my childhood but only recently did I realize how strongly the two were connected, at least for me.
When I was writing Toonopolis: Gemini, I was reading a lot. I didn’t miss a beat in any of my favorite young adult/middle grade fantasy books like Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson. I finished a run through Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy of trilogies. I read just as much as I normally read. After I completed the first draft of the book and began participating in read-swapping with other aspiring writers on community sites like authonomy.com and createspace.com, I read a lot of other early-draft works that needed revision like my own.
Something changed in me during this process: I wasn’t able to read for fun for quite a long time. While I was crit-swapping with other writers and working fervently on editing the Gemini manuscript into something that was salable, my mind shifted into editor/publisher mode. I wasn’t able to read even my favorite books without analyzing the plot, sentence structure, character development, etc. Considering I read predominantly fantasy–a genre where you need to let yourself become immersed into the world if you truly want to enjoy it–this was very distracting and hard to do.
After publishing Gemini in May, I went immediately into marketing/selling mode. I worked hard at building a social media platform: a strong blog that now sees 80-100 unique hits per day, 3400+ Twitter followers, almost 400 Facebook fans, a Klout score of 63-64. All great things that help me market my book but also required a lot of time and effort that took away from my ability to sit down and read for fun. Over the summer, I started two works in progress: Toonopolis: Chi Lin (Book 2 of the Toonopolis Files) and Toonopolis Short: Anchihiiroo (the novella origin of Animetown’s antihero turned Rogue as seen in Gemini). I stalled at around 6000 words on Chi Lin and sat around 4000 words on Anchihiiroo until recently.
An amazing thing happened about two weeks ago. I picked up a fellow indie author’s young adult fantasy book (Seranfyll by Christina Daley), which I had started in June but couldn’t really read because I was still in editor/publisher mode and could not let myself get immersed in it. I devoured the last 60% of the book in a day and a half. Then I read Excelsior by George Sirois in about 3-4 days. Then I read Flidderbugs by Jonathan Gould in a single morning. I just cracked open Darwin’s Children by Natasha Larry and anticipate blowing through another well-done indie book quickly.
If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll see how quickly I’ve been cycling through books by my fellow indie authors. I am reading for fun again!
Most importantly, in the past two weeks or so, I’ve gotten the wordcount of Anchihiiroo up to about 13000 (I expect it to fall around 20000 at completion) and am rocking through it when I have time to write. One would think that my time spent reading and immersing myself in other people’s wonderful worlds would be a detriment to my writing, but they only enhance my desire to get back and work on my own world/stories.
I am amazed at how tightly connected my ability to write is with my enjoyment of reading. I am also amazed that my fellow indie authors have been slowing my completion of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (which I am halfway through and enjoying immensely). Does anyone else notice how strongly connected their reading and writing are? Also, does anyone think it might be that I am reading and enjoying works by other indie authors that is pushing me to complete my own works?