Reading Like a Writer

This week, we’re blogging about Reading Like a Writer.

This is something I started doing about five years ago, when I committed to a daily writing practice. I’d been writing for five years already, but I decided to jump in with both feet and immerse myself. I decided, basically, to give myself the job of author before I’d even sold a book.

At that point, reading for pleasure changed. It became (and still is) impossibly difficult for me to separate the craft from the experience. When I read, here’s typically what’s going through my mind:

First line… pretty decent.
First page… nice, active prose. Fresh, compelling scenario.
First chapter…. Hmm. Liked it, but I would have done it differently.

And so on.

The same thing is true for paintings. When I look at them, I’m constantly calibrating my own skills and paintings with what I see in front of me.

Does this mean I’m not blown away by the work of others? Of course not.

There are plenty of times the experience is like this:

Wow, that was a great first chapter.
Wow, the prose is gorgeous.
Wow, wow, wow this is good.

And then commences my study of said work.

No matter what, though, I never begin a book without that editorial/writer’s voice in the back of my mind. When that voice shuts off, I know I’ve got a special read on my hands. 

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green was a book that pulled me in and disabled my author brain very quickly. And, for some reason, I’ve found that my chances of reading for pure enjoyment are much better with non-fiction. How can I be critical of plot and character when they are real and unchangeable?

It used to annoy me that I’d lost some of my ability to enjoy books. I became a writer because I love to read. But, I think, the end result is that now I appreciate the good books more than I ever could have. It's a bit like I have a telescope now. The night sky is beautiful without one, but when you get a good, close look at a star--that is special. 


Love it. I have a friend who is a digital set designer for Hollywood blockbusters who says the same thing about movies. I can still enjoy fiction, but in my day job (AP Literature teacher) I spend hours a day pinpointing examples of synecdoche mirroring dehumanization, shifts from 3rd limited to 3rd straight omniscient to show a broadening world view, etc. etc. I like that it's great training, but sometimes when I sit to write I hear too much of the analysis in my head. How do you (or anyone else reading) pull yourself out of that analytical voice in your own writing?

I had a very similar experience with my book reviews. I'd been reviewing books for over two years and started to resent it. Reading a book for the sake of reviewing it, analyzing what works and what doesn't as I read, sucked out any pleasure I otherwise would've had. It was only when I put reviewing aside did my love for devouring books come flooding back.

Great post! Thanks for sharing. :)

Amelia | Dares Greatly

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