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The Worst Thing About Being a Novelist

As I opened my e-mail this morning and read through the new mystery list-serv postings, the theme was “July Reads.” At first I thought, I could post about this. Then I realized it wouldn’t be much of an offering. I didn’t actually finish a single book last month. I started several but lost interest and put them down. (More about that phenomenon tomorrow.) But I don’t lack for novels to read. I have a huge TBR pile.

For me, the worst thing about being a novelist is the lack of time to read novels! Before I started writing novels, I read at least one or two books a week. Now I feel lucky if I can read 10 novels a year. And it kills me. Especially when I meet other mystery/crime authors. I’d love to be able to say, “I read your new novel and I loved it.” But most of the time, I haven’t read any of their work.

I don’t know how to get around this. I’ve given up what little TV that I used to watch and that has helped some. But still, working as an editor, writing new novels, promoting my published novel, online networking, and spending time with family uses up almost every minute of every day. And the only one of those activities that I’d give up voluntarily is my editing job. (But then I’d end up homeless.) So not having enough fiction reading time is a painful sacrifice I have to make, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

As a novelist, I read fiction differently now too. The author’s choices (POV, pacing, foreshadowing, syntax) are always present. It’s much harder to simply be absorbed into a story and transported away for hours the way I used to. Sometimes I think that being an avid reader (back in the day) was more fun than being a novelist. But there’s no going back. I am a storyteller now; it defines me.