Tuesday, 23 April 2013

For love of reading

Hearing the old adage 'Writers are readers first' has got me thinking a lot lately. Yeah, I was a reader first. But now... I'm a writer first. Yeah, it makes sense that a writer must love reading and I certainly do, but something has changed - something that might make me unpopular to admit.

Overall, I enjoy reading much less now...

What? Yeah before you digitally slap me and walk away forever hear me out. It's not that I love books any less; it's just that my expectations have risen. The more I learn about craft, the more ruthless I become in perfecting my own writing, the more the writing pulls me out of a novel.  

Gone are the days where my satisfaction was derived solely from the plot and characters. I used to choose carefully and as a result would love about 60% of everything I read, like about 30%, and dislike about 10%.  Now you could almost flip that figure. Now, I see all the little things I would edit out, all the things I do not find acceptable and all those things jerk me from the story. I can't turn my editorial brain off. Now writing technique and a writers voice is what gets me; even more than the plot and characters.
I firmly believe that reading is critical to improving craft, and I learn something every time I do. I learn the most when I read something that sucks me in until I have read the very last page. Now I download samples before I purchase a book to make sure I connect with the writing.

Aside from it becoming harder to find books to fall in love with, another downside to forming a more critical eye is I no longer feel right reviewing books on Goodreads and Amazon. I know that I am looking at things more harshly than the average reader. I don't want to be criticising other writer's hard work or belittling their success, and I refuse to review anything other than my actual opinion. I still rate, but I tend to only review if there is something I love so much I just have to share, or if it's a Aussie writer, a new writer, an independent or small press, because they rely so heavily on word of mouth. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and I feel compelled to share a book I love, especially if I feel it's a bit of an underdog.
So what to do if I just love something and LEARN heaps from it? Well, I think I'll RECOMMEND it here on my blog. A recommendation is a more comfortable thing to do than review. And I can share what I have learnt!

So may I start with my most recent favourite read After Hours by Cara McKenna. Beware, this is a saucy read. Much more explicit and dare I say filthier than anything I would write, but it is a great raw contemporary romance. I am in love with contemporary and this was done well.
After Hours defied cliché's. The hero is alpha but not the wealthiest most senior person in the story. In fact his working position ranks below the heroine. It taught me so much about how to create a redeemable arrogant alpha and not subjugate a heroine for loving him. I also learned a little more about balancing exposition, back-story and internal dialogue. I have been so ruthless with these in my own work that my writing has become perhaps too lean. McKenna did a great job of weaving these in without inviting to skim or bogging things down.  I adored her voice, and she kept her writing fresh.

How has writing changed your reading experience?


  1. Yes, yes, yes. It's really hard to get pulled into books whose characters lack depth or relatability (I know, not a word, I'm using it anyway). Holes in logic and plot turn me off. The same old story packaged in a shiny new wrapping turn me off. Bad build up. Bad story arc. Ah! the list goes on! And I look back to my teenage years of EATING novels for breakfast, lunch and dinner and feel a little empty inside. Humph.

  2. Thanks Rayna, yeah I know what you mean, I used to trade sleep for books that I wouldn't get through the first chapters of now. Kinda makes me sad...

  3. I agree with everything you say on your post except, of course, the review on the novel because I haven't read it yet *insert stupid humor*. I find myself editing everything I read. If I find one of my petpeeves like the wrong use of You and I, that's the end of the book.

    Great post. Thanks for the twitter follow.

    1. Thanks :) It seems like its not just me, thank god because for a while it felt like I was defective ;p Thanks for visiting :)

  4. I agree. I'm constantly analyzing the writing from an editor's view. It's hard for me to get completely lost in a story anymore. Sometimes I'll come across a really good story with quality writing and I make myself pay attention to the style so that I will make my writing of good quality too.