Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reading like a Writer

There is actually a book with the same title. This really isn't about that book. It's about me, and how I read.

When I read, I look at a story not only as a reader, but as a writer. It's not something I necessarily choose. It's something I just do.

Sometimes, it's great. When I read something that blows my mind, I sit considering all the work that went into it. I think about the craft. I am excited about the little things: that word was perfect in that situation, or the foreshadowing was well executed. The very best moments I have are when something confused me as a writer at the beginning of something come together in ways I didn't expect with such perfect execution it makes me cry (true story). I think the author would appreciate the time I take to look at the specific work he or she has put into the story.

But the downside to reading like a writer is I don't let things slide easily. I see things that are wrong, that can be fixed, only there isn't anything I can do about it. I sit back and think: Man, this story has such potential, but there are some things that just aren't working. Generally, I go look at reviews and see others with similar thoughts. Sometimes readers can't place why they don't like a story. I know what specifically I don't like or what's not working for me, and I think I rely a lot on my writing background to know that.

What's hardest for me is I want to fix those things. I want to make the writing better. I want to say to the writer, "This is great, now if you just push this a little more, or cut back on this, it will be fantastic." That's probably a large reason why I want to go into publishing. It may just be caused by my years in workshops or my time spent as a copy editor, by I have a drive to make things better. And I love helping people succeed.

Do you guys have any thoughts on this? What drives you to do what you do? Do you read critically, or do you try to experience everything the author writes without thinking about things like word choice? I'd love to know!

(P.S. - I'm not trying to be conceited in this post. I know there are different people with different tastes. Many of the books I think may have flaws, loads of others loved and vice versa.)


Erin said...

I bought the book "Reading Like a Writer." Started reading it. Couldn't finish it. I don't think I want to know what that says about me as a reader. Or a writer.

I try to get caught up in the story and not think about the writing aspect of the book. But that doesn't always work, especially when there are things I don't like. I think writing will always influence my reading, and reading will always influence my writing! It's inevitable!

Happy reading and writing...

Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

Birgit said...

Well, I try to lock my inner critic away (you know the one that's trying to dismantle a book down to its atoms), but sometimes the writer in me screams "Whyyyyy???" ... though I think, as a writer, we learn a lot through mistakes or flaws or whatever you stumble across when reading somebody else's book, and that's important too.

Sarah Robertson said...

I'm not very good at turning off my inner writer when reading. I pick up on subtle hints pretty easily ("Now why is THAT there? Hmmm?!") and the instant a book has crossed too many lines of badness, I get pretty critical.

However, there is one thing that makes me lose my inner critical writer persona, and that's world building. Seriously. The instant the world building rocks, it doesn't matter if the book is good or bad (though really bad books never seen to have good world building anyway), I'm happy until the end. THEN I start thinking about how the characters were a little flat or whatever else. Do you have a similar reading niche?

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