Saturday, 8 May 2010

Reading: Focused or Flighty?

As the submission process for my novel grows more protracted and, er... eventful (though still very uncertain), I'm finding it hard to concentrate on my writing. I have two new ideas that I believe are very strong, and I've started working on them both, but they are very different to each other and I'm torn. Fortunately the other primordial preoccupation of all writers (other than sketching cast-iron dragons, that is) is still open to me.

For the first time in my life I'm reading exclusively from a single genre: Kid-lit. More specifically, MG/11+/YA fiction, mostly published in the last few years. And it's quite a ride! There have been real highs, such as Pat Walsh's bewitching Crowfield Curse, and the brilliantly moving Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (all hail!), though there were lows too. One book even got chucked across the room (and not in a good way) though naturally I won't mention its title here. There's been page-flipping adventure in The Joshua Files (M.G.Harris), wonderful writing in Fleshmarket (Nicola Morgan), and gripping contemporary drama in When I was Joe (Keren David). And I haven't finished yet – next up is Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick. All in all, I think I'm managing a book a week so far this year, which is pretty fast going for me.

But I wonder if all this focus comes at a price. I know that some writers never read their own genre (or say they don't), preferring to 'bring material in from the outside'. Now that I'm not reading history or popular science or picking up books at random (from Chatwin to Chick-lit), am I confining myself to a literary ghetto?

How do you read? Do you flit from genre to genre as the fancy takes you, or are you as joyfully blinkered as I've been lately?


  1. I can't wait to come and stay and read all those, glass of Petit Pont in hand, so don't pack them just yet! Is that dragon a door knocker? There's a whole story lurking about the house(mansion? castle?)behind a knocker like that. To answer your question, I read everything, right down to the cereal box...

  2. I flit around pretty widely, but nothing wrong with having an MG/YA phase!

  3. I tend to flit between, history, politics, occasional easy-going philosophy in the Gladwell mould, fiction (The Reluctant Fundamentalist a recent highlight), with the odd sci-fi and thriller stage. Do what you want to do that's I say.

  4. I am a bit of both, I flit until I find something which really pulls at me and then I get a crush on that genre for a while...if it interests you it's good...I am not someone who reads a book because publication x says I have to though! Life's too short.

    Still got my crossables crossed for your book! Picture pending;)

  5. Thanks, Mum. I won't pack anything until you've read it (which won't take long, I know).

    Thanks, Simon. A focused phase is just what I read right now.

    Hey, Gary. Thanks for commenting. It sounds like you have very broad tastes.

    Rachel, I'm like you in that when I get a taste for something, I stick to it for a time. Thanks for those crossed fingers.

  6. I read mostly mystery but I flit about and cheat now and again. Doesn't bother me to read the genre I write in at all.

    Like your new pic, btw. Almost a sepia affect going on there. Nice.

  7. Thanks, Terry. It's amazing how interesting photography can be without a flash.


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