Thursday, February 1, 2018

YA Guy... Stops Reading!

YA Guy loves to read. What writer doesn't?

Over the past seven years, as I've launched my career as a YA writer, I've averaged between 50 and 60 novels per year. Many of them were YA, but many were not. I dipped into classics, science fiction, historical novels, whatever struck my fancy (or was related to my own writing project) at the time. So if you add it all up, that's about 400 novels all told, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 160,000 pages.

I've learned a lot from these novels about craft, storytelling, character development, genre expectations, you name it. I've also read some truly great literature (both YA and non-YA), as well as some real clunkers. I've reviewed many of these books--primarily the ones I loved, because I'm not in the habit of writing negative reviews. And I've tweeted about and otherwise promoted many of the books I read, all in the interest of supporting others who are pursuing this very difficult job called writing.

So overall, it's been a great run. I'm glad, for both personal and professional reasons, that I made a commitment to upping my reading content these past seven years.

But for 2018, I'm taking a break.

Here's the short version of why: I'm beat.

Here's the longer version:

I'm not a fast reader. I average about 30 pages an hour, maybe 40 with YA. So the roughly 160,000 pages I read over that seven-year span represent somewhere around 4000 hours spent reading, or almost 600 hours per year. Which translates, in turn, to almost two hours of reading per day for the past seven years. And that's not counting the time spent reviewing and otherwise promoting the books I've read.

The above numbers might not seem like a lot to some people. But the other things I do during the day include, to list only the most important and time-consuming:

--work a full time job
--spend time with my wife and children
--spend time with my aging parents
--spend time with friends
--attend or otherwise participate in political, cultural, and artistic events
--do chores and other housework
--promote my books, on social media and via live appearances

Again, that's no different from what most writers do. But if I'm spending almost two hours every day on reading, it tends to curtail my ability to do some of the other things. Including, most importantly for me as a writer (if not as a human being), write my own books. This is especially true since I'm an even slower writer than reader, taking an average of six months to complete a draft. And that's not counting revisions and all the other things that are involved to transform a manuscript into a published book.

This year is going to be particularly busy in regard to writing, for at least two reasons: I have multiple projects in the hopper (one of which my agent is currently shopping around, the others of which are in various stages of completion), and I'm contemplating self-publishing another project, thus requiring time not only to perform the necessary actions but to learn a whole new form of publication.

Hence my plan to take a break for a year. I'll read a few things that I absolutely have to--like the novels and other materials I'm teaching, or the occasional 2018 publication I'm so excited about I simply can't pass it up--but for the most part, I'm going to go reading-free for a year and see what happens. Certainly, some 2018 books I'd like to read will pass me by, and I'm not sure I'll have a chance to catch up on them. Possibly, I'll find myself so bored I'll regret my decision. But ideally, I'll be freed to focus for a year on all of those other things in my list, including, most importantly, writing.

Every writer has to figure out how to make all this stuff work. There are only so many hours in a day, a year, a life. Some writers (maybe the ones who read and write faster than I do) find ways to do it all. I'm not one of those writers, and I'm trying to be honest with myself about my limitations.

So if you're putting out a book this year and hoping I'll read it, I'm sorry to disappoint you. If I seem ungenerous and you decide not to read my books in retaliation, that's okay. If all goes according to plan, I'll be too busy writing to notice.