How Writing Killed My Reading

(This is similar to video killing the radio star but different—have I dated myself yet?)

I am and always have been a reader. I was a lot more insatiable as a teenager, when I could lie on the couch and read the afternoon away. Now, surrounded by kids, critters, and a farmette that needs upkeep (oh, is it time to pick up eggs? is that some salsa that needs to be canned?), I don’t have nearly as much uninterrupted time to read. In fact, I do most of my reading listening while driving. I spend a fair amount of time on the road and find audio books are my best chance to squeeze in the latest on my TBR pile.

I used to sink deep into the story, falling into the world the author created, amazed at all the twists and turns. Then I started writing. Now, I find my reading is an exercise in craft refinement. How did she pull off that plot twist? What words did he use to create that feeling?

Here’s the biggie. It derails my surprise at most books I read. I used to think those small details were just that…small details. At the end of the book, when those things came back to be a major plot device, I was always surprised. Not anymore. Now as soon as I hear about the innocuous piece of paper on the street, I know it will come back. The casual piece of information tossed out by a major character will be a turning point later on.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy books anymore—I do. It’s just at a different level, a more critical thoughtful level. I don’t sink nearly as far because every book I read is a chance to improve my craft.

Let’s hear how your writing has changed your reading.

11 thoughts on “How Writing Killed My Reading

  1. Stephanie Bennis says:

    This is a really good point! I’ve gotten more into writing lately than reading and I’ve found the books I do read I am far more critical of poor writing or places where I think I could have added something. Maybe this is how movie directors feel whenever they watch another movie? Or chefs go to another restaurant?

  2. Joselyn Vaughn says:

    Reading just isn’t the same. I think that is one of the reasons Hunger Games was so fascinating to me. I wasn’t sure which characters to trust and how the author would develop that. I find I also have a lot less patience for things poorly written, even if the plot or story is enticing.

  3. marianne says:

    I’m on this band wagon with the rest of you. I know I’m really in the midst of writing greatness, however, when I find myself a hundred pages or so down the road, and haven’t given a thought to the craft of the writing. I don’t experience it often, but when I do. Yum yum.

  4. W.S. Gager says:

    I’m with you Tess. I just don’t enjoy reading like I used to when I had weeks of afternoons. Calgon, take me back… It does make it sweeter when you read a book that makes you forget to be disecting becuase you are hooked on the story. I too can the majority of my reading done in the car with someone else doing the reading. I spend way too much time in the car!
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  5. Kate says:

    Writing has really made me aware, and critical, of dialogue. Whenever I write dialogue scenes I read them out loud to myself to see whether or not they sound natural (and character-appropriate); I never did that before when I read, but now I tend to read other people’s dialogue out loud as well, and often find myself thinking “People don’t really say things like that!” I also tend to analyze long dialogue scenes to see how the author manages a good balance of talking and description, and how s/he gets the characters to reveal and withhold certain pieces of information in a way that seems (or doesn’t) natural in the grand scheme of the conversation.

    1. Tess Grant says:

      Kate–my friend Marianne turned me on to the read-aloud trick and it made a world of difference! My conversations were very stilted before I started having my own little dramas in the dining room. I try to do these when no one else is home, although the dog does think I’m a bit strange.

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