My husband rolls his eyes when I mention that Book Club evening is approaching as his opinion of our book club is that it’s a boozy night out with the girls. This opinion may have been influenced by the rare occasions that I have fallen giggling into the house at some late hour.
Many pieces of advice that you will see for writers often say that you need to read. My writing tutor is forever drumming into us the benefits of reading and more importantly reading as a writer. By that she means, doing a bit of analysis as you read. Looking for things like how it starts, pace, seeing where the author have added description and where they have left it out, where they have utilised dialogue and how it develops the characters. Also trying to understand what the key things are that make you want to keep reading. That elusive page turning quality that is so often referred to but nobody can quite put their finger on exactly was it is. And also what it is for different people. This is, without doubt, great advice.
As a writer there is sometimes an expectation that you are well read, this is so not the case with me. I read the books I had to at school and ever since I have read the books I liked. So as an adult I have indulged my love of chick lit, or women’s fiction if you prefer, and this is a path from which I have rarely strayed.
So being the girly swot that I am, last year I joined a Book Club or more accurately I tagged along with a group of friends who decided that reading a book each month might be a nice thing to do. The aim was to become more widely read, to experience different genres and to do some analysis. We agreed we would put in random suggestions for the next book and draw one out each month. So far we have read a great selection from thrillers, to ghost stories, to historicals and a classic.
The reading of the books is just one part of the enjoyment of a book club, the other part is when you all get together and have a chat about the book. We find that wine and nibbles help this process immensely. Frequently there is cake. Sometimes we discuss the book. No, I jest, we always discuss the book and seek out any book club questions to answer. But there is a direct correlation of how much we have enjoyed it to how long we spend discussing it. Or if there is a cavernous gap in opinion as there was when we read Gone Girl.
As different people like different sandwich fillings, so different people like different stories. It is always interesting when you have opposing views on books. It feels odd when you have thoroughly enjoyed a novel to find that someone you would expect to like it thinks it’s pants and vice versa. In fact it’s worse when a friend recommends a book or passes it on saying “You must read this!” and infected by their enthusiasm you start off OK and then you start to struggle and then you long to give up because it just doesn’t float your boat. You then obviously try to avoid that friend for a bit because you know there will be the inevitable conversation where they struggle to understand why you didn’t love it as much as they did.
Some of the stories I have really enjoyed and I feel our boozy book club has definitely broadened my range as a reader. I now find myself checking out other sections in Waterstones and taking a risk on things I would never have chosen before. The trouble is that if the story grabs me I get drawn in as a reader and when I finish it I think “Bum, I forgot to read it as a writer.” Oh well never mind, pass the wine and cake.
Bella has just finished her first novel, Acting on Impulse, which earned her a runner-up place for the New Talent Award at the 2013 Festival of Romance. Every fortnight, Bella will be sharing her experiences and advice as a new author. She also has her own blog which you can visit by clicking here.
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.
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