As I’m sure you’re aware, today’s (or tomorrow’s) date is the 30th of November. And I’m sure you’ll suspect correctly that I haven’t written one damned word of my National Novel Writing Month project.

It’s the same old excuses – been busy at work, haven’t got time, illness, stupid wedding, blah blah blah. It was just really bad timing. But on the upside I’ve written 5000 words on a procedural manual for work, other things for work and a few blog posts so it hasn’t been all bad. I spend all day writing emails, invitations, briefs, manuals, blogging, Facebooking, Twittering – I still write. But has the brevity of such formats so fried my brain that I can’t write anything long anymore? Or am I just lazy?

It’s probably a bit of both. I was never good at writing long things anyway. Plus, the idea has been swirling around in my head for years and years, and I’m starting to forget a lot of the finer details. I might need to have it surgically removed. But when should you let an idea go? This one is obviously persistent – is it worth giving it an airing, building the new wisdom and insight of the intervening years into the framework, or is it a wisp of a dream that should be finally laid to rest?

I think the crux of the problem is that I don’t read as much as I used to. Nowhere near as much. Reading and writing are like an iceberg – your 10% of writing at the top needs to come from 90% of reading under the water. The more you read, the better a writer you are. As I got out of my teens I found that fiction didn’t engage me so much anymore. I found that I was reading books that were great at the beginning and utterly underwhelming at the end. I’m not sure what genre I wanted to read (I’m still not sure). My family reads lots of thriller/crime books, which I don’t enjoy. I’ve moved to non-fiction and haven’t really looked back.

But I still love the magic of stories and storytelling. I love the idea that someone builds worlds completely in their head, and makes these imaginary people and places come to life, or uses their imagination to extrapolate on and explore real people, places and times (which ties into my love of history and mythology). Reading was a big part of my household from an early age. I could read before I learned to speak. My ancestors had a long and proud oral storytelling tradition, most of which has been lost in subsequent invasions.

I want to love fiction again. I received an e-Reader for my birthday, which is great. I’ve been working my way through the public domain classics, most of which have been extremely underwhelming (except for Sherlock Holmes – I didn’t expect it to be so brilliant!). I wonder if it’s the fact that I’m looking at it through modern eyes. I would like to read more horror and sci-fi – I’ve never experienced these genres in the written word so I would like to see how they work. Futuristic worlds and the thrill of the scare are so audio-visual to me.

So, darling readers – I’m leaving this in your capable hands. And it doesn’t have to be books – online sources are great too. Project Gutenberg, blogs, websites, anything! Any recommendations highly appreciated.

And so, to give you a better idea of what I like to read, here’s a list of 10 books I quite like. I can’t even produce a list of my top 10 favourite books ever, because there’s only a handful of books that I truly cherish. Here they are, in no particular order:

1.      Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

2.      The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

3.      The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien

4.      A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

5.      Offbeat Bride by Ariel Meadow Stallings

6.      The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

7.      The Pythons by Monty Python

8.      Zombie CSU by Jonathan Maberry

9.      Stargazing by Peter Hill

10.    On Writing by Stephen King

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