Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reading like a reader

One of the reasons why I became a writer is that I love to read. However, because I wanted to know a lot about the process of writing, I also learnt to dissect writing. I love craft books. I love learning how and why writing works (or how or why someone thinks writing works). It became a rare book that I could read without dissecting. And I valued those authors highly. Reading on the whole became less enjoyable and this was not good. Why did I have to make a choice between the two?
But when I was at lunch with my then editors last year, it was pointed out to me that editors are trained to read as readers first. To paraphrase Isabel Swift -- they are looking at the doughnut and not the hole. It is only after they have their reactions as readers that they try and dissect and discover why their reaction is not the correct one. Could I do that I wondered? Had been far too focused on what was wrong? Or what techniques were used?
So I have been busy retraining myself. I read first and capture the enjoyment of reading. THEN, I dissect. Reading is an exercise in feeling and tension. Later, if I need to, then I go back and see why I had those feelings. But sometimes, great writing isn't technically perfect. What it is about is those feelings that are engendered and the page turning ness of the read.
So now rather deciding if I am reading as a writer, or simply reading to learn more about the craft, I read first as a reader and allow the story to sweep me away. If it works, why should a writer fix it? If it falls flat, then that is another case entirely.
The other thing I have been doing recently as I am in the prelims and early stages of my next wip is to go back and read Donald Maass and other books on craft that made sense. are they still making sense? Have I become complacent about my skills? It is helping to make connections.
A major bonus is that I can enjoy reading once again.


Donna Alward said...

It is an occupational hazard isn't it. It is the rare book that sweeps me away and makes me forget to analyze...and when that happens i LOVE it.

Michelle Styles said...

It is an occupational hazard, but I have made a real effort to read like a reader again.
I also do this with my critques. First read through -- no notes, but impressions AND I go through and make notes...