Monday, August 26, 2013

Reading vs Television

Good Morning. The last few months I've not been writing, I thought that would give me more time for reading. When I was living at the beach, long before Monster, even though I worked three or more jobs at the same time, I always had a book in my hand. I could probably get through  4 or 5 a week.

You would think because I stopped writing, I would have more time to read. You would think with real life finally under control I would have time to relax on the couch with a good book. And I'd recently bought a book by a favorite author that I've been dying to sink my teeth into.

Usually when I find myself with free time, there's always something else to do, you know what I mean... clean the clutter off the sideboard. Put the things that have been sitting on the stairs away. Straighten out Monster's bedroom -- again.

But one day I found that all that was done. I had even started the dishwasher. I actually had TRUE free time.

And I turned on the tv. And I sat and watched Castle reruns for two hours.

Why didn't I read the book? I asked myself that a million times since. Because you know I haven't found a spare moment since.

It was just too hard.

What? Since when is reading hard? I've been reading books since I was 4. It wasn't as if the book I wanted to read was a comparative dissertation on Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. It was a quick women's fiction, only 235 pages. And I liked her first book, so I was sure I'd like this one.

Then why did I sit on the couch and waste two hours watching Nathan Fillion? (Well, yeah, because hey, it's Nathan Fillion). But more importantly, it was mindless. I didn't have to pay attention. I'd seen it before.

In reading that book, I would have had to engage my brain. Fire the synapses to make connections with my inner self -- memory, vocabulary, imagination. First, I would have to THINK. Second, I would probably have inner edited. Putting that aside for the moment, third, I would have felt incredibly guilty that I wasn't writing. Inner deadlines, you know.

I miss reading. I really do. I miss letting myself go into another world, miss meeting new people (characters) who are different from me. I miss spending time in other places. Places I might never go. That I don't have to research.

Which I guess is the reason why I watch television. It's easy. You just have to sit and watch. You don't have to think. In the seconds you SEE something, your brain registers it. There's really no thinking involved.

When you read, you have to figure out what the author meant when she describes the wind whispering in between the window casing. Or the color between turquoise and teal. When you watch tv, it's right there in front of you. Your imagination is not engaged. There's nothing hard about watching television. Just plop your butt in the chair and turn it on.

Tell me -- Do you read more or less than you used to?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Writing Regurgitation

Good Morning. I believe I'm back to the blogosphere; Monster's in school, I have a schedule once again. I hope everyone had a great summer. As you can see, I decided to retrofit my blog. I kept my lighthouse on the side, but I needed a change. So here it is.

Anyway, two things happened in my little world recently -- I came up on my second anniversary of having my first book published -- and I critiqued a fantastic book. Singularly, those two things have nothing in common, but put together I found something that really made me go hmmmm.

While critting the manuscript, I noticed the author used the same few phrases over and over again. We all do. It's a crutch when our brain is firing and we're writing 90 mph.

Which in turn made me think about the phrases I use in my own books. One of my favorites that I constantly use is "made her way to" as in the character walked somewhere. "Mary made her way to the front of the class." Yes, it's okay. I'm sure other authors do it all the time. But once my critter told me about it I stopped doing it. Went into all my manuscripts (published or not) took them out, and put in better action verbs.

One of the other things I found in critiquing that particular manuscript was the overuse of certain words. And I'm not talking "just" or "really" or "was", I'm talking words like "perambulated" and "absconded" and "slighted". And no, this isn't an historical work where those words would sound okay. This was a contemporary so they stood out to me.

In my view, using words like this once is okay. It's great as far as I'm concerned. They're words you don't usually see every day or use in your own vocabulary. But reading them 4, 6, 8 times within the same tome, they get a little redundant, and we don't want to lose the reader. Right?

Now there's always a debate raging somewhere on using 25 cent words when we write. Some authors do it to show off. Others do it because they have high IQ's and that's the way they normally speak. I sometimes use 25 cent words because I've recently found them and I like them and I want other people to know about them. For instance "insouciance". It means "carefree indifference". Now I didn't know that. But I liked that word. And I know I'm going to use it in my next book.

When I was reading Regency romances all those many years ago (bodice rippers as it were), there was one author who constantly used the word "peregrination" (wander about on foot). Her characters would peregrinate all over the place. At least once in every other chapter. And in ALL her books. It drove me nuts.

And yes, I have used that particular word. But only in one book. Okay maybe two. BUT, only two. And I never used it twice in the SAME book.

I don't know why I feel this way about certain words. I know I never learned a particular "rule" about not using BIG words more than once in a manuscript. I think it's because as a reader, I've learned things that drive me crazy and so I don't want to drive my own readers crazy.

Tell me -- Do you use the same words or phrases in your writing? Is it a first-draft crutch and then you go back and fix them? Or do you not see them until someone points them out to you? How about BIG words? Do you use them again and again? Or do you use them sparingly?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013