Monday, 28 March 2011

How many books do you read or write at once?

As an academic I got used to dipping and delving into books. Even those I read from cover to cover, I would rarely read "in series" - I nearly always had 5 or 6 on the go at the same time. The same is true of fiction - I'm often reading a YA novel, something vaguely literary, something unashamedly popular and something else (often a 'William' or a 'Moomin' book that I first read 40 years ago but it never fails to delight me, however many times I return).

This seems to work quite well. Clearly my brain knows how to divide itself up into handling lots of different books at the same time (I wish it would apply the same techniques and learn to multi-task. I still haven't learned to converse with any degree of coherence while eating a meal, and I certainly can't walk and talk at the same time - never could, never will...)

And now it seems I'm writing lots of books at the same time, too. A couple of years ago I had 3 or 4 on the go - all at different stages. Now, if I stop to count, it's more like 6 or 7. I find this slightly worrying: (a) because it suggests I'm starting a lot more than I finish and (b) because, well, I hate to admit it but I occasionally get confused. And I object to stopping in the middle of a sentence to go and check something, so I often find I'm suffering from character creep - where Mr A from Book 1 suddenly turns up and starts engaging in dialogues (or perhaps more raunchy activities) with Mrs B from Book 2.

You get the idea. It's a bit like those big parties where suddenly the friends from one bit of your life meet up with the friends (or relations) from another bit and you think - help! They all know different versions of me. What if they stop to compare and discover discrepancies? (Not that they ever seem to. I assume it's because they find more interesting things to talk about than me - let's hope so, anyway.)

So I'm interested to know whether other readers and writers find themselves tangled up in lots of different books, or whether you are sufficiently restrained and organised to manage to stick to one (or perhaps no more than three) at a time? If so, please tell me how you do it.

I can never remember the plots of books once I've finished reading them, either - probably because my poor overloaded brain is so relieved when it can knock one finished novel out of its working memory that it hurriedly destroys all records, without trace. All I remember is that I liked the book or I didn't - and they rarely fall between.


Anonymous said...

I tend to have lots of different ideas for novels but am only working on one - although I am always trying to do other bits of writing as well e.g. short stories, poems etc. As for books, well even as a child I regularly had 3/4/5/6 books by my bedside which I was reading depending on my mood - and always one in my pocket/bag for picking up on buses:) I manage to keep things separate - not sure how! - but it definitely takes me a lot longer to read even one book/write anything due to time constraints these days :(

Rosalie Warren said...

That's interesting, ttofee. Maybe it's because I very rarely write anything other than novels that I have to have several on the go. And it's certainly a good way of procrastinating - if you don't feel like working on one thing you can turn to another.