How do you follow that?

mm

 

I have just finished reading this book, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. It’s a book which took him nearly thirty years to write and finish it and then have it published. There are many books written about war and many of them about the Vietnam war but there are few that can depict such a real insight into the conditions which were endured by a young generation of boys. Sent to a strange country to fight an enemy, young boys, much like themselves. Who they were taught to hate but never met. Spending days and nights in wet, humid jungle. Often without water and proper food and every minute scared of every shadow. It is funny but often gruesome and it is a true story based on Marlantes own experience of the war. Where seventeen-year-olds commanded ten to fifteen men and a twenty-three-year-old officer was responsible for every waking and sleeping hour of the lives of over two hundred. It’s a tale of bravery, sacrifice and of how quickly they grew up when facing death, leeches, near starvation and even tigers every day.

It’s actually the second time I’ve read this book in two years. The first time I devoured every page and felt loss when I finished it. Having finished reading it again, albeit a little slower this time, I once again feel that loss. I’ve tried starting two books since but can’t really get going on either. I seem to find that when I have read a book I particularly like, so what’s the answer?

How do you get started on another book after a really good read? I know I’ll just persevere until a book clicks but I just wondered what the secret is.

 

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

Finished

‘Read a lot, write a lot, always’

 Stephen King

Today I hit the 50,000 words plus barrier at NaNoWriMo. In fact, I finished today on 52,105 words with nine days to spare. Big sighs of relief all round. This year, however, I intend to continue with my novel as I feel it needs completing. The characters  are still growing and telling me the story so I’ve settled on trying to pound out an achievable 2,000 words a day, as there is so much still to be said.

In previous years I’ve stopped once I’d finished writing in November, thinking that was my achievement done for the year. What I actually discovered was that walking away from the story allowed it to die, as I went on to other projects. Flitting about like a butterfly. I then found it impossible to get back into the story and into the heads of the protagonists and my muse left me, staring at a jumble of words. So this time I plan to keep going and to keep the characters alive. At 52,000 words I don’t feel  I am even half way towards my novel’s first draft and I have set my goal at completing that.

I don’t know what will happen but I am resolved to write something every day, and continue to build it into a completed first draft. It’s a good feeling to complete the November challenge but this year I shall keep it going.

Good luck to all others out there, still writing and heading to 50,000. I’m  with you and will continue updating my word count until the end. Keep it up you’re doing great.

Books on Writing

downloadOver the years, too many to count, that I’ve been writing I must have read dozens of books purporting to teach me how to write; to explain how my writing might improve.  I suppose I’ve probably picked up hints and tips here and there but I’m pretty well self taught. Which may be very evident to anyone reading my stories and ramblings. I’ve never studied a creative writing course but have often wondered if I would benefit from the wisdom of another unpublished writer. One who has possibly read the same books as me but relates it to students as though it’s the gospel of writing. Perhaps I’m being unkind to creative writing tutors, I probably am.

I spent over ten years as a management trainer, extolling the virtues of how they could apply various theories and models to their management style. Assuring them that it would improve their teams performance. Well I got away with it for ten years so I must have done something right. But the models and theories I taught them were invented by someone else, sometimes from works hundreds of years old and adapted to fit a modern environment. So do all management trainers make great managers themselves? I doubt it.

This leads me to wonder then, are all creative writing tutors great writers? If they are great at writing, why are they teaching others? Why are they not writing and making a living doing what they excel at?

Perhaps you can understand my cynicism or maybe not. Maybe some great teacher of letters on the page inspired you and shared, with you, their own unique knowledge. It’s never quite happened for me.

I’m just re-reading the only book on writing that I have ever got any real inspiration from. ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King is a witty part autobiography and part writing advice. This I can take from a man who has written and published over fifty books which have been further developed into films, and TV series. A prolific writer who is a master of words and probably the foremost writer of my generation, in my opinion. King, himself says that most books about how to write are full of bullshit and I agree with him. He calls ‘On Writing’  a short book so as to limit the bullshit. At three hundred and fifty pages, for him, it is. In his book he praises The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. Wright. It’s only eighty pages long so has little room for bullshit. Rule 17 in the book says ‘Omit needless words’. Simple instructions which are easy to follow but more difficult achieve.

If you haven’t read either of these books then they are a must.

Book Rules

I don’t know about you but I have certain rules that I try to follow when starting to read a new book.

As a child I used to peruse the shelves of my local library’s children’s section and I was initially attracted to bright and seemingly interesting book jackets. I’d pull them from the shelf one by one and read the cover notes hoping to get some inspiration from the story idea. After being disappointed with some of my choices I began to recognise authors and tried to find other works by any writer who’s work I had enjoyed. I found though, that these too could disappoint and although I may find an author and enjoy one of his books, it didn’t always follow that I would get the same enjoyment from all their other novels.

As an adult I still apply some of these rules and mostly they work. I’m not really that attracted by book sleeves now although I still can’t resist the sleeve notes. I tend to go for authors I know and have read extensively, knowing they don’t usually disappoint. I also follow recommendations and try new works that way. This is sometimes a mixture of from friends and family, usually the ones I know like similar genre authors to me. Otherwise it’s a question of read it and see.

One major thing I now always do is to read 100 pages. I have, over the years, found books that I just couldn’t get going with and discarded them after a few pages but find they become readable later when I’m in a different mood.  Always provided I am happy with the writing style and format. If I get to page 100 and I’m still not getting it then I give up and try something else.

So do you have any reading rules?

Posting from Kindle

I recently downloaded the free WordPress app onto my Kindle Fire HD and this blog post is written exclusively on that.

Once more I’m amazed at the versatility of this small tablet. It’s much, much more than an e-reader, although it’s very efficient at that. But I also I use it for email and internet and a host of many other things including

1 – a variety of games, mainly card games but other stuff too. I’ve even got Angry Birds on it along with a few I haven’t mastered yet.

2 – I have Evernote on and that is so useful for jotting down ideas and lists. It does much more than that but that’s what I use it for currently. It also synchronizes seamlessly with my phone and laptop, allowing me to pick them up on other mediums

3 – I use the Google calendar too on it which, again, sinc ´s with my phone and laptop.

4 – I use Skype on it too as it has a built in backwards looking camera. It doesn’t have a forward facing camera like the iPad but at half the price I can live with that.

5 – I have all my contacts in it which makes it a very useful back up for my mobile phone data.

6 – I’ve also transferred some of my music albums on to it and the Dolby speakers are pretty good too. They probably wouldn’t fill a dance floor but for listening while you work they are very capable.

7 – It also allows you to watch U-tube videos and iPlayer. The 7inch screen is very watchable and in HD the picture is clear and bright

Add to that loads of available apps and the fact that the keys are big enough for my fingers to use, I find it extremely useful and convenient. Oh and I must´t forget the brilliant predictive text which really does know what you want to say.

Well done Amazon, this is a terrific piece of kit

Book or E-Reader?

So what do you think? It seems that all of a sudden, to me anyway, the prefered reading source is fast becoming the e-reader. I’ve seen lots of other people using them but never used one myself. It’s a pity that the manufacturers don’t give a fourteen day test period so I can try one. My friends and colleagues who have bought them all say, without any dissenters, that they are excellent; but are they justifying another purchase which will end up on a shelf or at the back of a cupboard or are they a real breakthrough? I’d like to examine the evidence and try to be as impartial as I can be, so I thought I might look at the pro’s and con’s of them both. I do have some Kindle and Kobo books on my laptop but I have yet to read more than a couple of pages.

E-Reader – (From what I am told/read)

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Can hold thousands of books
  • Adjustable font size
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to read screen
  • Some have built-in dictionary
  • Some books are free or on offer
  • It’s another electronic gizmo
  • Needs charging from a power source
  • You can’t pass the book around once you’ve read it
  • It’s not a book
  • You don’t get that impression of how far through the story you are
  • After working with computers all day/evening – would I want to curl up in bed with another type?

Books – (From my experience)

  • Available almost anywhere
  • Low cost (Generally – especially if you buy second-hand, as I do)
  • It’s a book – feel, smell and the page turning experience
  • Never goes flat – doesn’t need charging
  • Simply bookmarking it allows you to see how far into the story you are
  • You can see what others are currently reading, when on the train
  • Continual source of reference
  • Looks good on a bookshelf
  • Exciting to browse amongst
  • Can be bulky and heavy to carry, especially when travelling/holiday etc – hardbacks particularly
  • Fonts can be small and difficult to read in low light
  • Pages can fall out in some circumstances
  • Can be defaced

So looking at the evidence, I can see a place for the e-reader, particularly for people who travel a lot or are going on holiday. But unless someone gives me one I can’t see the additional costs of an e-reader tempting me away from the real thing; for the time being anyway.

What about you?