I had a golden opportunity this summer and I decided to take it. My company changed hands and I had a chance to walk away and take the summer off. Yeah, I could have stayed and made just as much money, worked with the same people (whom I actually like), done the same job, had roughly the same life. Instead, I cashed my options, paid some bills and took the summer off. My goal was to write the sequel to my first POD novel, unReQuiTeD. Somewhere along the line, my plan went awry, but in a good way.
In the last two months I've read a lot of books. I got to do a little traveling, though not as much as I had planned. I spent long weekends in the great cities of Nashville and Denver, I attended Killer Nashville and the Columbus Writer's Conference. I met some of the great people in the mystery business, Hallie Ephron, Lee Lofland, Don Bruns, Chris Roerden, PJ Parrish, Tom Sawyer, and yes, Michael Connelly, along with others whose names will become recognizable in the future. I learned more about the business and craft of writing in the span of two weeks than I had in my entire existence. I feel like I can look at a piece of writing now and pick out the flaws grammatically and structurally, something I never felt comfortable with before. I learned to accept criticism, where before I was resistant due to my artistic integrity.
With all that being said, I came this week to an epiphany. Reading has always been one of the great joys in my life. My newfound grasp of the basics of fiction writing has led me to a strange conundrum. My awareness of my own writing, and my past shortcomings, has acutely sharpened the way I view the things that I read. I picked up an early book from an acclaimed author that I've always enjoyed. My disatisfaction started with the dust jacket and continued throughout the book. I'm sure that if I read through the series I would be able to watch this writer's skills develop just as his characters develop. I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this phenomena. I acknowledge that I'm in the same boat that this author was in at the beginning of his journey, and I can only hope that I get as far down the river as he has. I wonder if I'll ever be able to read a book the same way again.
In the meantime, I've got twenty-five pages written in the past two days and a full day of writing to go today. I'm feeling a little like Kerouac without the benzadrine and the Oedipus complex. It's a good feeling.