Monday, September 3, 2012

Reading with new eyes

This week one of my co-workers asked me "does being a writer make it harder to enjoy reading a book?"

I had to think about this one for a minute because in some regards, the answer is yes, and in others it's no. I've always been a picky reader and if it can be believed, I've become more picky. It's harder for me to read a badly written book. There are authors whose books I used to devour (I'm not mentioning names) that I just can't pick up anymore. In the past I'd only give up on a book if it was historically inaccurate or really boring. Now, it could be because of a potential plot twist that never happened, unimaginative phrasing, or poor characterization. For the authors whose books I can't read anymore, their ability hasn't decreased, rather my ability to see how it could've been written better has increased. Before, if a book was boring, that was the end of it. Now, I can identify exactly where, and more importantly, why it lost my attention.

Back in "the old days", before I became a writer, when a book tugged my heartstrings and kept my attention, it went straight onto my "love it" list. Now, not only does it have to have that same resonance,  it also needs beautiful prose, clever world building, and delicate foreshadowing to make the list. In the past couple years only a handful of books have made it on the "love it" list and I'm okay with that because the titles that made the cut are stellar works. A couple of them (Wise Man's Fear and The Way of Kings) even gave me a panic attack because they were so beautifully written and I was convinced that there was no way I'd be able to match their skill.

In many ways, this is just like my Wolverton-given ability to pick apart movies. When a book isn't  catching my attention, I can identify why it's failing and learn from it. Conversely, when a book is giving me a professional panic attack, it's because I'm enjoying the author's skill on multiple levels. It's pretty cool. To quote the Apostle Paul, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)" The more I read and the more I write, the more I learn. My vision and understanding of the craft is increasing on multiple levels and it's wonderful.

1 comment:

  1. it might be instructive for the rest of us if you listed these now hated books and parse the reasons more specifically. ooooo, you should keep that in mind if you're ever at a loss for a blog post! you're welcome.