A Storyhive of Books

How many books do you read at a time?

Not, Vishnu-style, actually at the same time, of course. But simultaneously, dipping in and out, picking one up, reading a few chapters, and then leaving it to grab another story, and book, another dream...

For some this style of reading is probably a Bad Idea, and only ends in having a whole pile of books you've read parts of, and no further. It's something I've got into the habit of as I travel around. When I lived in Japan and routinely cycled through the countryside / jumped on the train to Tokyo, I found the books I was reading divided naturally into two categories; hardbacks I read at home and paperbacks I read on the move. A wonderfully arbitrary division than kept the stories I read nice and mixed up.

Kindles have made that particular problem a thing of the past, but the habit has stuck. I'm reading three books at the moment - Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent, Diana Wynne Jones' Eight Days of Luke (Yes, I know. Still. I'll finish soon, promise) and McCall Smith's Bertie Plays the Blues. Technically, I suppose, I'm still reading Murakami's IQ84, though I'm not convinced I'm going to make it through. I haven't touched it in months, so it probably doesn't count.

Many, many books indeed

This division of attention works with writing as well. Writing more than one story at a time can be a fantastic way to keep your skills sharp. Crossing genres and styles helps to remind a writer of the different tone and voice and word choice needed for particular pieces. If you're writing a YA comedy alongside a literary bildunsroman then (hopefully...) you'll see that different skills are called for, and that knowing this can make both stories so much better.

Working on the next book after EREN (not a sequel, just the next book I'm writing) has been fun, though I have found my pace slowing recently. Although it's not the second book I've ever written, it's the second with any real sense that it could be out there and read by others. Many things are different. It's third person and more action-y, though hopefully with the same voice as before.

I've heard that second books are hard. First ones you spend years on, perfecting, loving, keeping secret. Second ones have DEADLINES and EXPECTATIONS, and people who want to read it. At least, that's the theory.

So I'm also writing a first-person story, much more in line with EREN, to make sure I don't get tired out by working my way through less familiar territory. It's a story I've had bits and pieces of for a while, and now I'm stitching them all together. That's mostly how I work - bits, odds and ends, scenes, dialogue, and then a big stitching party, to make them into a narrative.

It's not so much multi-tasking as bits-and-pieces-tasking. Writing a few stories at a time. Reading a few books here and there. Though it might slow the pace over all, it keeps me level, more open minded, I think, and more aware of what it is I'm dealing with.

This post is named after my new collective noun for books - storyhive. If we can have a murder or crows, we can have a storyhive of books, surely?

 I think so.


  1. Hello!! :) I was wanting to let you know that you have some awards at the blog if you want to come and collect them!!

    Hmm, I can't say I have done that too often. Typically I stick to one novel at a time. But, there are times when I do have a lot going; a novel here and there, textbooks, self-help books, reading pages of random books off a Barnes & Noble shelf.

    I can see how that could help writing too. It feels like it wouldn't just help in creating many stories, but in helping your "main baby". Focusing so much on one thing, i think, can be a bit damaging at times. And if you are writing your second book during the time you're writing the first, I can see how it would help the progress of both.

    I agree with what you said, it doesn't have to be multi-tasking, but just a way to help yourself and your works.

  2. I usually only read one fiction book at once, though on top of that I am always reading the bible and often one of CS Lewis's non-fiction books. The only exception is at the moment, as I'm trying ot read Ulysses. It's so hard, I have to read a couple of sections then have a break by reading something else! Only the infamous last section to go though now...

  3. Thanks, Paige! I'll be sure to head over and check it out. Always fun to see community working here on teh blogospherez.
    Chloe, good call on the 'always reading' list. My wife and I always have the Bible on the go, but I'm impressed at your success so far with Ulysses...!

  4. I shouldn't say it, but I'M impressed with my success with Ulysses!

  5. I'm reading 15 different books at the moment... Not actively, I'm just in the middle of that many different books that I do intend on finishing. And with my new reading regime it looks like I'll be knocking that number down significantly soon. I'd rather focus on just one book at a time.

  6. Ha, 15 is probably a bit too much! You stop really reading them as they're meant (as a continuous narrative) and start snacking and grazing. That said, different books for different moods...

    Chloe, you should be proud. I enjoyed your post about finishing - it is a truly crazy book, and something of a badge of honour / right of passage as a writer that you read it all...