Summer Hiatus: R&R (Reading and Refreshment)

Summer is here. Ah! There’s nothing quite like the feel of warm sun on your face at last.

I’m unplugging a bit for the coming months. The writing experiments are on hiatus until the autumn. But over the summer you might like to do some active reading. Maybe put your writing to one side for now, and use this as the chance to explore your genre. Look out bestsellers in your field, and maybe read some of the classics too. Read far and wide too: read works in other genres, maybe finding examples of things you can bring across to your own work. Read like a writer (Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose might be helpful for this), and understand what makes the writing tick. Soak up these books, and free yourself of thinking about your own work; you’ll return to it the stronger later on, and it’s likely that good ideas will emerge for you anyway.

Good writing can’t be rushed, but needs to percolate. Slow down. (If you are one of those restless types, just console yourself that summers are quiet in publishing anyway.) Okay, I’m lazy, but trying too hard can make writing feel as if it’s, um, trying too hard, and what’s probably more important is possessing ease: an ease of voice, a natural balance in the writing. Perhaps set a vague long-term goal, if you really have to, but meanwhile rest in the moment and let your sensibility grow through becoming a better reader, a reader more useful to your own writing.

Most of all, have fun. Don’t task yourself too hard: no To Do lists of books you must read, but simply a stack on the bedside table to dip into, or on standby on your ereader. (Yes, relaxing can be the hardest task of all for some people.)

And beyond that, take a break from some of the noise (as well as creating it?). A holiday from Facebook? A little less Twitter? Yes, you know it makes sense. (Do 24% of British women really check their pages at least ten times a day, as I read this morning? I think I used to be a British woman. Maybe two British women, even three.) We don’t need Likes this summer. Just licks of a nice ice lolly, time with friends and family, trips to magical places, and good food and good books.

My own summer reading recommendations include the novel The Round House, by Louise Erdrich. It’s one of those books that really makes me aware of how much I love great American writers writing great American stories. It has a brilliant first chapter that establishes everything we need to know about the characters, setting, and dramatic situation that will lead us into a compelling story. (When you’re ready to submit your own work to an agent or publisher, read that first chapter and ask yourself if you’re close to achieving what’s accomplished there; if you can say yes, you must be in with a chance.)

And if you’ve not yet read George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s about time. Perfect summer reading.

Enjoy the summer!

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