‘Reading and writing: what do writers do all day?’

Good question. From a series, asking ‘What do Artists do all day?

In my writing – well, what do I do all day? 

Is it ‘writing’?  Actually, unwinding the story thread onto the page/screen? In reality: it’s housework, on-line-admin (dreary but dreary!), keep the fridge stocked, keep the garden from becoming a wilderness, keep in touch on-line to maintain a ‘platform’ (!), research for writing, planning for writing, thinking for writing, actual writing …

Trying to reach the point where you can enter the zone and work … without interruptions from real life, on-line life, or the cats … While lots of writing happens in my head, where it queues for the opportunity to hit the keys …

Reading is absolutely essential for writing.

Writers don’t only write reviews of other writers’ books,  and whiter about sales, marketing, and the Amazon algorithms (we do all of that): they exchange gossipy stuff like ‘what are you reading?’ (we’re hoping the others will respond ‘Your book, of course!’)

Today I found this note (to one of my on-line groups), sitting on my desktop:

“You asked the group what we’re reading. I’m reading Jessica Bell’s memoir ‘I Didn’t Mean to be a Rebel’ and Jodi Picoult’s ‘Great Small Things’. In tandem. Alternately. Together. And when I have time! Both insightful and both recommended. I’ve just finished Francis Guenette’s ‘No Compass to Right’ and am writing up a review of this lovely compassionate character-driven fourth novel in her Crater Lake series. (Yes, it’s all the heavy brigade story-wise: thoughtful, thought-provoking, and somewhat sociological … but never ever boring …) Well, you did ask …!”

Reading, like writing, is time-consuming.

But is the way you learn to write. (I happen to think it is one of the very best ways, and am grateful after nearly 50 years (gosh, it really is!) that we read Dickens at school. I never thought I’d be a writer … but looking back, reading Dickens wasn’t a waste of time in a past era where people thought differently, but a wonderful example of how to create and keep up dramatic tension! (Yes, I’d read them straight through, to find out what happened, not chapter by chapter as homework…)

books read June-August 2017
Books I’ve read over the summer …

Have you, reading this, read any of these?

(You can find reviews of some the books I’ve recently read, here on the Hodgepublishing website … shall be adding more reviews, including of the Picoult and Jessica Bell’s, soon… You can also read about, or purchase my books Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year, on the website …)

Hearing or seeing

Do you hear or see words on a page? Does it make a difference to your reading? In my family, the creative arts are represented by music and visual arts: people don’t write, or at least, they don’t write for a living, or write fiction. Very interesting. I realise that I hear what I read, and when I write, I see it like a movie, and I hear the words as the file out onto the page. There’s the musical ear, then. Despite I don’t play an instrument or sing.

As a writer, it’s almost impossible not to read ‘critically’, studying the style without really wanting to. Cliches can’t not jump out, and slow passages beg to be edited. Authors divide into two groups: let’s call them ‘raconteurs’] and ‘experiencers’. Raconteurs take the reader to a cafe, and having ordered two coffees (let’s say), and palate of delicious cakes, proceed to tell the tale. Or maybe it’s the pub, a pint, and sandwich.

Experiencers take the reader by the hand, and draw them right inside the story. ‘Here we are, step into my book: we’ll share the lives of the characters, we’ll feel what they feel as they feel it, see what they see when they see it, run from it if it’s scary, be embraced by it if it’s friendly, scent it, taste it, live it …’ You are inside, not noticing the story arc, not stopping long enough for a character to ‘tell herself …’ anything, because she has thought it, in the instant it took:  ‘Courage! Take care! Trembling at the roaring of the dragon in the mouth of the cave, I seize my magic sword. Excalibur! I’m charging towards the beast, lungs painfully gulping breaths, legs shaking, as the sweat rolls down my back..’

I love those writers who draw you into the book. I learn from them. A good story, with a great plot, can always be a page-turner as it unfolds. But when are you inside one which gives you the all-round experience … you stop reading, to study how this works … It’s one of the things which writers do – work to improve our writing. Edit and re-write, edit and re-write…

For this of course it’s preferable to be a person who loves solitude, which I am not. To write, I must climb inside my own work in progress, meet my characters once again, and fully engage …

You can find a good article on the process of writing here: (I agree with a lot of it, but not all (for example, I definitely don’t go for the arse on your chair whatever bit (unhealthy, and battering the  brain when it’s empty and needs to relax a while doesn’t work for all of us!… but, it’s comprehensive, lively and entertaining …)

5 thoughts on “‘Reading and writing: what do writers do all day?’

  1. francisguenette August 17, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    I so enjoyed this post – and not only because you mention reading my book – LOL – but that helped! Yes – couldn’t agree more – we must read and read and read, all kinds of books. I learn as much from the ones that don’t come up to snuff (well, I won’t do that and that and that) as I do from the great ones. Writing for me has become about living and as you so aptly say, all those other things that go into a day – marketing, blog reading, cooking, gardening, walking, pondering. So, I’m not always bum in the chair on any kind of schedule but I am immersed in writing all the time – like an old coffee-pot percolating away.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pjlazos August 18, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    I don’t know because I’ve never had all day to just write! :o( Looking forward to the day when I can, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. MariHoward August 18, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    Yes, I agree: actually I would hate to have all day to do nothing else: imagine being sat in a room and told to write all day! Enough to clear the mind of ideas!


  4. Holistic Wayfarer September 4, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    I’ve been waiting to put out my version of this post. Wrote it last month. I’ve been in love, reading, writing, reading, writing. And yes, the best writers bring you under their skin.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. dunelight April 13, 2018 / 4:57 am

    So much truth in what you say here. I find, in my older age, that I no longer have patience for bad writing. My life force and time is dwindling down…how dare they waste my precious reading time?!

    Uhhhhhh I think it’s the pain that makes me so … picky.

    You are spot on though…I read a play and I see it in my head on it’s feet. I read a book, I see everybody, I hear their voices. When I write/wrote plays I had my characters and where I intended them to go but they would ‘take the bit in their teeth’ and go off the way THEY wanted to go. I’m not very disciplined I guess…see the above, me getting so overblown cranky about bad writers wasting my time.


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