A Need to Read: 2013 365 Challenge #269

A fraction of the unread books on my Kindle

A fraction of the unread books on my Kindle

Apologies if this post is a little late today: I finally hit ‘approve proof’ on the print version of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes this morning, after ploughing through the online proofer (I can’t afford to get another physical proof).

I had a small scare last night, as I downloaded the PDF on my iPad as soon as I got the email from CreateSpace to say it was ready, and half the letters were missing. For example “William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116″ read ”  illi   Sh  ke  re, So    et 116″. I didn’t have time to fire up the laptop last night, so the first thing I did this morning was check it all on the big PC. It was fine. Phew.

However, all the weeks and months I’ve spent on editing and formatting recently has resulted in my creativity taking a holiday. Oh, not the creativity that formats book covers or designs bookmarks: that’s fine. But the right-brain creativity that lets me think up an ending to Two Hundred Steps Home, both for this month and for the entire year, is missing in action.

Books that gripped me

Books that gripped me

All the proofreading and editing I’ve done (including a couple of novels for someone else) has also resulted in me being unable to read a book without critiquing it as I read. Even with old beloved books (or maybe especially those, because I know the story), I find myself checking for typos or grammar errors, or rewording sentences that feature the same word twice. It’s no fun.

Reading used to be my downtime, my lifeline, my escapism. It also used to be the source of my creativity – filling the well of ideas that gets exhausted with writing thousands of words every week.

I have probably two dozen books on my iPad that I want to read, or that I’ve started and can’t finish. I don’t want to take books apart. I wouldn’t even mind if I was analysing them as I did as an English Literature graduate: looking for character motivations or themes. At least then I would still be immersed in the story. But questioning the word choice or the grammar and punctuation is just plain anal. And rude.

After all, who am I to judge someone else’s book when I know mine aren’t going to win any literary awards? I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe I need to read a paperback rather than on the kindle. Or maybe I need to read a fast-paced thriller, that won’t give me time to analyse because I’ll be desperate for the story. It needs to grip from beginning to end, but without any blood or dead bodies (I don’t do gore, even in books).

Any ideas? How can I put my left-brain back in its box and get back to enjoying reading once more?


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Claire stared at the underside of the top bunk and searched her brain for ideas. This was harder than the worst pitch Carl had ever thrown her way. Harder than choosing an apartment or selecting which shoes to wear for Kim’s wedding. How to raise several hundred dollars in a few hours, so she could fly to Queenstown and catch the bus to Christchurch to get her flight home?

The list of people who might lend her the money was less than one. Those with the resources – Michael, Josh, her brother, her parents – were not the ones she wanted to approach in an emergency. The people who might take pity on her – her sister Ruth was the only one who came to mind – couldn’t afford it. Even if her best friend Kim was still speaking to her, their financial relationship existed on the fact that Claire was the one with a well-paid job and Kim, as the newbie actress, didn’t have two pennies to rub together.

How ironic that it’s me who is stranded in the back of beyond without the resources to get home, even though – assuming I do get back – I will have a salary coming in soon enough to clear the debt.

A tiny thought that Conor might advance her first month’s salary was quickly quashed. Not only had he already put his neck out for her by making the job a short-term contract, she didn’t want to start out beholden to her boss.

Come on Claire, think. There must be a way of raising some cash. An online loan, a new credit card.

The ideas came only to be dismissed. Even if she could get the internet to work, such things took time. And she wasn’t entirely convinced she’d pass a credit score anyway, with no home address or job and her credit card full to the max.

A dark lassitude crept over her and she had to push away the tears. Escaping to New Zealand had seemed the only option at the time: a chance to flee the mess her life had become and enjoy a fresh start. Instead had never felt so alone.

Through the black, a glimmer of light sparkled. Something someone had said to her in passing, a joke to be laughed off, crept into her mind. Something Bethan had said. What was it? Claire searched through her brain, wishing Bethan were there to come up with an amazing solution or fill the room with her endless optimism. Then it came to her. “Sell your fancy boots if you have to.”

I’m going home, hopefully, so what does it matter if I sell some stuff. I have boxes of clothes back home.

The thought made her uncomfortable, nonetheless. Could she sell of her second hand stuff to the other people in the hostel? Would they buy it? It seemed a bit icky. But what choice did she have?

Running through her possessions in her mind, Claire realised the thing of most value was her tablet. Selling it felt like cutting off her right arm, especially as it was full of data she wouldn’t be able to back up without access to a computer. Was it worth losing all her photos, her memories of the trip across New Zealand, to get home?

With a heavy sigh, Claire rolled off the bed and pulled her rucksack over. Searching through, she found the iPad and charger, some jewellery and her Helly Hansen boots. Ignoring the trembling in her hands, Claire gathered them together and left the room.


9 thoughts on “A Need to Read: 2013 365 Challenge #269

  1. That’s a problem I’ve developed too. The cure for me is taking a break from reading and writing. I’m painting more instead. I bought BBWS and stopped after the first chapter, because I was analysing. I’m hoping the break until half term will be enough for me to approach it again and enjoy the story, for the story’s sake!

    • Thanks, Pat. I won’t be offended if you don’t reread it. I think when you’ve critiqued a book once it’s even harder not to do so a second time! Enjoy your break and your painting! When will All in the Leaves be out?

      • Don’t fret, I will re-read it! I enjoyed the first time with critiquing, now I want to enjoy it without thinking of commas or pronoun.! Probably because too, I’m at the final, final edits of Leaves, and they consist of commas and semi colons in the main, I’m finding it hard to read anything without looking at punctuation. I’ve even looked closely at all of my comments!
        All in the Leaves should be out on 31st Oct. Because I’m using the ebook partnership, it has to be perfect at first submission. That is scary in itself!

  2. Ugh, I’m having that problem with the ending of my next novel too!

    As for reading, I find I just have to persist. The first chapter or two are agony, as I see every awkward sentence or missed comma, but after that, they all start to fade into the background again. For the most part anyway.

  3. …Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove

    I love that poem. Marked on my blog as one of my favorites.

    Oh. I hate it when creativity gets in the crossfire of editing, and ends up KIA.

    Anyone know CPR???

    So far, I’ve been able to turn on and off editing mode on other people’s stuff, unless I just see something that I think was awful or stupid. Maybe it is because I’ve been regularly reading manuscripts of other, where I allow myself to behave like a bull in a china shop, Not really, but I don’t hold back on pointing out anything, good or bad.

    You might try R.A. Salvatore’s Legend of Drizzt, starting with homelands. It is classified as young adult fantasy I think, but I was really impressed with Homelands. I’m not that well-red yet, so it might be a crappy suggestion, but I read the first 7 of his books. But I enjoyed the Homelands the most. Sometimes you need a book that breaks the monotony.

    • Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll definitely look for a copy in the library (I’ve decided it needs to be a book I can hold, as I edit more when I read on a screen than on paper)
      The first two lines of the Shakespeare Sonnet head up part one of Baby Blues: I have a quote for each of the three parts, to do with different elements of love, because the book was originally called Pictures of Love and each section covered a different element, such as friendship, relationships, parenting.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, will definitely have a look. Reading blogs forms most of my reading now, but I am trying to get away from screen time (see previous comment!) But I do love adding good blogs to my Reader.

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