Friday, 2 November 2012

You've started...but will you finish?

I don't know if this ever happens to you, but yesterday I found myself deep in the reading doldrums.

I have a few books on the go, but I just didn't fancy any of them. I know some people who always finish a book, come what may, and others who have no qualms about abandoning a book they're not enjoying. I wasn't ready to desert my current reads altogether, but something a little different was called for. I scanned my Classics Challenge shelf for inspiration and selected the three most appealing prospects: Hardy's The Return of the Native, di Lampedusa's The Leopard and Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. I planned to read a couple of pages of each and see which appealed most.

I began with the Greene:
'Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.'
I had been warned; Brighton Rock is violent and it's nasty. But from the first page it has plot, interesting characters and very good writing. I'm hooked.

I read somewhere that Graham Greene only wrote five hundred words a day. I don't know if this is true, but certainly his output was prodigious: twenty-five novels, short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography, two biographies and four children's books.

Five hundred words a day seems eminently do-able. The key, I suppose, is to write five hundred words every day. Edit to say: I've just googled Greene and found this page where he's quoted as writing five hundred words a day for five days a week. It's getting better by the minute.

This talk of daily word counts makes me think of NaNoWriMo, the annual challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in November. I know a few people who've achieved this in previous years, and a few more who are attempting it this time round. 1667 words a day seems much more daunting than Greene's modest target. Of course, quantity not quality is the key, but making a commitment to writing every day seems a good way to begin.

So, good luck to all those who've signed up for the NaNoWriMo challenge. I won't be joining you. I'm back to work on Operation Reading Room (so far so good) and the dark world of gangland Brighton.


  1. Any writing is part of that 500 words, so you must count your blog writing in there too.

    Keep it up Karen, you're doing a great job.

  2. Bless you Vee, that's such a kind thing to say.

  3. Love the idea of a reading room Karen. Are you aiming for the Borough look?
    I'm just making my way out of the reading / writing / photography doldrums but even at my best there's no way I'd attempt Nano. As soon as I have to do something it loses its allure!

    1. The Borough look is just what I'm aiming for Denise. Have you seen the 'Victorian scientist' room at the British Museum? That'd be another good model, but without the taxidermy!

      I know exactly what you mean about things you have to do losing their allure. I feel just the same about reading and writing.

    2. Believe it or not I've only visited London once as an adult to go the Bike Show at Earls Court so haven't seen any of the museums or galleries in person. My Arts education is woefully lacking.There was always far too much fun to be had with motorbikes and horses instead! I'm dipping my toes in now though with the OCA.
      I'm looking forward to seeing your finished Reading Room.

  4. I love the idea of a dedicated Reading Room, but any attempt on my part is always scotched by the fact that I need a very cumbersome reading stand to hold the book at face height for me and the only room that could be dedicated isn't big enough to take one. On the subject of 'Brighton Rock', it was my first Greene and although it is violent in parts it is also a very well plotted novel and definitely one of his best. I hope you continue to enjoy it.

    1. I am impressed with Greene, and can't believe I haven't read his work sooner. Can you recommend any others Alex?

  5. The other one I did on my undergrad course was 'A Burnt-Out Case' and although it's not one of the better known ones I did think it was excellent. If you want something lighter, then try either 'Travels with My Aunt' or 'Our Man in Havana'.


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