It's Heather Wardell week here on Booksessed. Yesterday I posted an excerpt of her latest novel Blank Slate Kate which you can read here. Tomorrow I will be posting my review of BSK and Friday there will be a short interview with Heather herself. Lots to look forward to and I hope you all enjoy it.
How Reading Changes When You're A Writer by Heather Wardell
I have always been an avid, even rabid, reader. When I was a kid, one day I was just sitting around the house moping and my mother said, "Go read." I said, "I don't feel like it," and she took me straight to the doctor! (I turned out to have severe tonsillitis. Once the tonsils were removed I was back to reading.)
Since I became a writer in 2005, though, things have been different. I do still love reading: I'm not sure anything could take that away from me. But I now go days without reading anything but blog posts and Twitter feeds. I don't like it, and I've been thinking a lot about why it's happening.
1. I spend all day, every day, reading: my own books.
I write a scene for a book in first draft and go back and re-read it to fix any major errors before moving forward. I edit a scene in my second draft book (I always work on two books at once because it keeps me from getting bored) and of course that involves significant reading.
It's deeply attentive reading, in both cases. While I obviously pay attention when I read other books, when I'm rereading my own I am focused on every single word and whether it's precisely the right choice. It's hard work, mentally, and I suppose that makes it not a surprise that some nights I just don't want to pick up another book.
2. I read on a different level now.
One of my favorite authors is Marian Keyes. I adore all of her earlier books, but I haven't been quite as huge a fan of the ones I've read since I started writing. I don't think she's changed: I think I have.
I notice little details of grammar and word choice now, where before I never seemed to. I've always been the type to pick up errors, but I'm talking more about subtle things like tone and style. While I still want to get lost in a story, and often can, I find that far more often I get tripped up with thoughts of "I would have gone with this sentence structure instead" or "that author used the same word three times on this page".
I used to just read. Now I read and analyze. Analyzing is a fabulous way to improve your own writing but it does nothing to help you feel fully immersed in a story's world, and that's one of the things I love most about reading.
3. I am far less tolerant of things I know should have been fixed.
Grammatical errors. Their versus they're versus there, that sort of thing.
Sentences like, "'I hate you,' she said angrily, stomping her foot."
Character motivations that can be summed up as "the plot requires her to act like this even though it makes no sense at all based on what I know of her character".
I think these sorts of flaws have always bothered me, but they're far more aggravating now than I remember before I began writing. I am the kind of person who hates quitting a book once I've started it but sometimes I just can't take any more. As I reread this list I think, "These are petty problems, dear," but they're really not. They pop me out of the world of the book, and once I'm out it's not always easy to get back in.
You might think these issues are only in self-published books but that's not the case. Some of my lowest ratings this year on Goodreads have gone to traditionally published books that appear to have had their first drafts published without even a glance from an editor.
I work very hard to avoid these issues in my own books. True, not every reader is bothered by them, but many are and I don't want to do anything that will lessen people's enjoyment of my books. Or, for that matter, my own. I wouldn't be satisfied if I knew I hadn't bothered to make sure my characters and their situations are well-written and make sense.
4. I have issues with reviewing and rating what I read.
I mentioned above that I've given low ratings to some traditionally published books. I've also given low ratings to some self-published work, of course, when they're deserved.
And I hate doing it.
I firmly believe people have the right to rate books, to review them, to share their opinions so that other readers can make their own decisions about whether they might enjoy a book. I am horrified when authors fight back against this and tell readers off for the 'audacity' of saying what they think. As an author myself, though, I do understand the impulse because I know how badly negative reviews can sting.
But one of my favorite parts of Goodreads is seeing what other people think of a book I just read. I loved it and my friends hated it? Interesting. But of course, if nobody rates a book I can't make that sort of comparison.
Last year, I did rate and review everything I read, and there were times that I didn't want to finish a book (and therefore slowed my reading) because I knew I myself wouldn't want to receive the kind of review I'd have to write.
This year, I intend not to review or rate unless I am really powerfully moved in one direction or the other. I'll just read what I read and keep it as a log instead of a more detailed reviewing journal. I'm not completely satisfied with this, since I do like seeing ratings, but at this point I think it's worth a shot.
Now, I don't want to give you the impression I don't read. I did still read 114 books last year, thanks in huge part to the "111 in 2011 challenge" hosted by Jennie at http://lifeisshort-readfast.
and I'm aiming for 120 this year. I've only read 2 so far in 2012, however. I
need to step it up! Maybe not reviewing them will help!
How do you keep yourself reading? I'd love to hear your best secrets, and your favorite books too! (If you're looking for something to read, my "Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo" is always a free download and my "Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many" is a Kindle exclusive and free January 23-27!)
Thanks so much to Jenn for hosting me today! :)