For many writers, a terrible thing happens when you begin to learn more about your craft: you lose some of your ability to read for enjoyment. To me it happened fairly early on. The more I learned about various elements in writing, the more critical I became of writing in general – my own and others. It’s a tough road to journey, especially if you love reading – which the majority of writers do. I have a hard time reading for simple enjoyment anymore, but sometimes I’m able to turn off the internal editor and just enjoy a book.
Two recent examples of this are Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and the John Wayne Cleaver series by Dan Wells (I’ve read all three books now). It was a challenge at times for me to tune out the writing instructor/editor side of me and remember just to enjoy. So much of my time now is spent revising writing – my own and others’ – that it feels as if I have to constantly be on the lookout for things such as adverbs or tag lines or plot holes, or even comma errors. This is one of the reasons I don’t read the hugely popular books that start garnering so much media attention – I tend to wind up very disappointed. Take for example Twilight. I got only two chapters into this phenom before having to put it down. I disliked the characters, I disliked the voice, and as a passionate aficionado of Brahm Stoker’s original vampire book, I had a hard time with the daylight activities and the sparkling thing. Then along comes The Hunger Games and everyone is raving about it. So I bought the first book and started it. After all the hype and hoopla, I’d hoped for more. I think the premise is fascinating, and I can see the attraction many readers have, but it didn’t work for me. Most of the stalwart fans chime in here and remind me I’m not the target audience. True – I’m not. But I write for the target audience, so I’m looking to see what makes a book like this so popular. I did read the whole thing – I won’t be reading the other two books in the series. Honestly, I’m not that interested, and I don’t have the time anymore to give to things which don’t hold my interest.
Now I’m getting pressured to read a new one: 50 Shades of Grey.This one is most definitely not for children, but it is still demanding an unprecedented amount of attention, and despite the pressure from all directions, I’m not going to read it. It may be fabulous, but what I’ve learned is that these highly touted books come with their own flaws. If I wait until the ballyhoo dies down, I may decide to pick one of these up and read it – if I can turn off that internal editor.
Now – to be clear (because the local writer who hates my guts will jump all over this blog with both feet), I don’t consider myself an especially astute literary critique. My choices are based on my own likes and dislikes, and on what I’ve learned about writing over the past 16+ years. It is also based on having been mentored by award-winning writers who taught me to look critically at writing – mine and others’ – so that i could develop a better sense of language, of style, of a deeper level of understanding of story and structure. These are my personal tastes, and the fact that I dislike a particular book is nothing more than my personal dislike of that book. It isn’t a statement about what others should or shouldn’t read, or like for that matter. It’s perfectly acceptable for us to disagree on the subject of a book.
Okay – that disclaimer aside: my time is profoundly limited these days, so my reading is also. I just got my hands on the new Christopher Moore book Sacre Bleu and I am eager to begin this one. Moore is a personal favorite, and a writer I am able to shut down my editorial commenting for – well, for the most part anyway. I’m looking forward to another adventure with one of my absolute most favorite authors, with the added bonus that there isn’t a bunch of hype around this book (though he deserves it) and I won’t feel pressured to speed read it to say I finished it before anyone else.
Whatever you’re reading, I hope you enjoy it.