When I was a kid, I used to read several books at a time. I blame this on my home school education, tv was a limited amusement, and that we used to belong to the Pizza Hut reading program: read x number of books and you get a free single-serving pizza.
I would read books that were beneath my reading level so I could chow through them in a single day, satisfactorily log it, and then read another one. Normally, I was reading other books that were not considered pizza fodder, though I took great satisfaction in logging those too.
Then I grew up. Got a major case of The Depression, and stopped reading!
I know, what a bummer.
I’ve actually been reading again for a while but not like I used to. Not like I did as a kid.
I’ve been starting small, again reading books below my age. For example, my coworker gave me the Percy Jackson books for Christmas. You’ll have these read over the weekend, right? She asked me.
Uhhhhhhh, I said, very intelligently.
To be honest, I was feeling the pressure. My mom had also given me two books that she wanted me to read, one of which was sitting on my shelf for over a month, the other languishing in my kindle for even longer. I also had my own list of to-reads which I had yet to get to–Amazon asks me how many stars I want to rate a book I’ve purchased but yet to read, and the guilt sets in.
I did not have the Percy books read over the weekend, but I did go through them at a good pace despite working full time, writing, being dog tired, and reading other projects.
Yes, I am back to reading multiple books at a time!
The primary book that I read while reading Percy Jackson was Joyland by Steven King. I chose to read Joyland to expand my genre horizons beyond science fiction and fantasy.
I consumed Joyland in a day and a half. Stephen King is a pretty good writer, obviously. His On Writing was one of the first books I read about the craft, though my thoughts are mixed on it now as an adult. I really enjoyed Firestarter, but couldn’t get into some of his more “heavier” stuff. Basically, I don’t read a lot of Stephen King for several reasons, and I started IT though stopped when I discovered what happens at the end of the novel.
I’ve never read any of Rick Riordan’s work before and, even though they are different genres written for different audiences, I couldn’t help but compare the two to each other craftwise.
One of the things I immediately noticed about Joyland was that it was not structured into chapters. The other thing I noticed is that, even though I could remember what happened as I was reading, the drama was written so smoothly it was sliding melted butter over bread. It’s the juxtaposition of feeling where you remember what happened–but you also don’t. The same sort of feel when you try to remember exactly what filled your hours on a weekend, but you can’t. The day was there, and it wasn’t. There’s just the feeling you had–that it was great or good or satisfying or bad.
I’ve always had this feeling when I’m immersed in a well written book. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m trying to write: how am I going to fill these pages when hardly anything is happening, when the plot is a slow boil? And here is Stephen King doing just that, nearly effortlessly.
I’m not sure if I’m explaining it right. Maybe if I finally bring in my point about Percy Jackson:
With Percy Jackson, I have the opposite feeling. I remember what fills the page because it feels very much like a video game. Each obstacle is like a punctuation mark. Again, this is probably because this is aimed at a (much) younger audience than myself.
But it also got me thinking about different writing styles, and the audience. Of course, you’re going to be changing your form and style as necessary, but I couldn’t help but feeling that my most mature writing is more like Riordan’s than King’s.
And there really is nothing wrong with that! But, especially since I am not writing for a younger generation, I want my writing to read more like King’s. Not in his voice, just the way people read the words without noticing the plot structure or other writing devices because they are so well hidden in the actual story.
It’s something that I’ll be aiming for in the coming months.