I’ve been a reader and a writer nearly all my life, and sometimes it’s hard to separate the two. When I was very young I learned to read a book not only to be entertained, but to try figuring out why a story or character touched me. Reading was both entertaining and instructive, because from a very young age I knew I wanted to write a story that I felt like reading.
The older I became, the more aware I was of how authors did things to make me enjoy the story. How clear their words must be, how important were their word choices, how vivid their descriptions. Eventually I understood there are two elements in producing a successful story: the mechanics, i.e. how clearly the writer can communicate, and the storytelling, i.e. how the overarching story either draws me in to the story world—or doesn’t.
There was a time in my adult life, however, when I wasn’t actively writing. Life was busy and demanding and I hardly had time to read. But when I did read, as strictly a reader, I was far less picky than I was as a writer-reader. Writer-readers, at least this writer-reader, is constantly looking to revise. It’s so easy to change the mechanics of a story. Writers do it all the time to their own work, so it’s almost impossible to forget the habit even while we’re being entertained with someone else’s work.
This habit can get annoying, though. I have to remind myself the stories I read for pleasure aren’t mine, and can’t possibly conform to all of my tastes, expectations and filters. Many times, though, when I’m completely immersed in a story world, I DO forget the writer in me and am in awe of another writer’s talent. That’s when I become a total reader!
I’m also less apt to want to revise a book that’s outside my genre, so that’s one of the reasons I have such eclectic tastes in reading.
I once asked my sister if she ever wanted to change a book, and the answer was absolutely not. She’s a pure reader and wants to be entertained. She might recognize if a book isn’t all that well written, but if the story or the characters are compelling enough she’ll easily look past or not even notice any flaws. She also finishes everything she starts.
I’ve come to believe that for those within any given industry, it’s harder to treat the object of their expertise very lightly. We’re like a chef in someone else’s kitchen: we can’t just enjoy the taste, we have to dissect what’s in it.
What about you? If you’re a writer, can you separate yourself to become only a reader? Do you find yourself wishing you could tweak someone else’s work? Do you wish you could be a pure reader again? If you’re a reader, do you find yourself wanting to change any of the stories you read, or does that not even cross your mind (like my sister)?
PS Look for special e-book pricing on my brand new release, All In Good Time, at your favorite online vendor! Today (Wednesday) the e-book version is only 2.99, then it jumps up but only to 4.99 through Saturday (4/6). On Sunday it goes to the regular price for a new release of around $9.00. So the only thing you need to do to take advantage of the special price for this e-book version only is to act quickly! (Regular price applies to print copies.) Happy Reading!