Ack! - another book

Or maybe ack ack ack ack!

Another book percolated to the top of my hold list yesterday - it's so nice having a library only a 15 minute walk away. And since a common bit of advice to writers is to read a lot - I am. Mostly fiction, but also several on how to write. Yesterday I picked up another one by P. D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, and almost made it home. "My" pub had an open stage going on, so I stayed to listen, and chat, and drink many pints. Life goes on.

The Middle East's various conflicts are still covered in print and online but there's not quite the distraction of a few weeks ago, as many watched live coverage from Tahrir Square in Egypt. I know it used up a lot of my day - as well as my online bandwidth. Yesterday's Citizen had a good article by Ian MacLeod - Birth of a Revolution- that explained some of the demographics of the region, of what some call "age rage" . While 36% of Canadians are under 30, in Yemen it's 73%. Coupled with high unemployment rates - 27% in Tunisia and an overburdened medical and education system, with internet access to show what other more fortunate countries provide, and as a way to communicate across borders, it's not surprising that there is so much unrest.

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Less books

Might also call this - right books. Pun not intended. The Globe and Mail had an interesting essay  yesterday by Nancy Pearl, explaining her Rule of 50 for books. Like many of us, she was raised with the work ethic to finish what she started, including books. I admit I do feel an obligation tp keep slugging through, for a myriad of reasons, such as: others liked it, so it must just be me that needs to try harder, I owe it to the author that worked so hard, my friends will think I'm a quitter. When the author became a librarian, surrounded by more books than she could even attempt to get through, she realized she needed a new rule to manage her focus better to the "right" books. She reads critically, giving a book 50 pages to prove itself. If it hasn't grabbed her by then, if she doesn't care if the butler did it, if she doesn't even care if the butler dies - she stops. She adds that if you really only want to see the ending- then flip to the end. Either way, when you bring a book back, the library doesn't know how many pages you read. Your friends may think if Oprah loved it then you should too - that's their problem.

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Some books

Part of my New Year's readjustment on priorities is more reading, not just more writing. As Stephen King says:

If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or tools to write.

I think it's a quote from his book, On Writing. He makes a good point, you need to read a lot to know what good writing looks like. Focus on your genre by all means, to see what works for others, but spread your scope too. And read critically, as you learn what should be in a good book, if the one you've just started doesn't grab you, analyze why. Then move on - time is too short for mediocre books. So, I'll jot down in here some notes on books I've just read, am reading, or will read. Or have written.

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How to write stuff

A friend has been telling me I should write sci-fi stories.

I do admit I’ve been an avid reader of science fiction since my teens in a small town in Northern Ontario, haunting the new books shelf of our tiny library on Duncan Avenue, waiting for each new acquisition. They were on a 7 day limit – not a problem for a speed reader. Back then my obsession focus started as a way to escape the boredom of life as a smart kid in a school of jocks, but now it’s just because I enjoy the genre. In addition, I do seem literate at times, hence my friend’s prompt of "you could write science fiction, you’d be good at it".

I admit I do appreciate a well written book, so if I did somehow manage to produce a good one I’m sure I’d recognize it after the fact. However, I wasn’t sure how I would get from good intentions to a finished manuscript.

In the meantime, I knew that she too churns through sci-fi books, and can string some good phrases together, so while musing on my own talents I tossed the suggestion back to her and went looking for a "how to write" book for her birthday.

Turns out there were dozens of choices in that section of Chapters, covering areas like how to write novels, poetry, essays, plays, term papers, and advertising copy. I browsed the selections, talked to the clerk, chatted with other would-be writers – all things you can’t do via online shopping by the way. Anyways, I didn’t find anything specifically on sci-fi but I’m sure it’s there on the shelf somewhere, I know there are lots of references online.

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