Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'll Take Your Sour Grapes With A Grain of Salt

Truth: I don't read as many books as I used to, and one might think that as a stay-at-home human I'd have scads of time to devote to my once favored entertainment. However, a month has passed since I last read a book.

Lately, most of my reading is accomplished in waiting rooms. Yesterday, for instance, I took my daughter to the endodontist for a root canal. Upon leaving the house I quickly grabbed a book for company as well as a distraction. That's when I realized how pitiful my plight. And then I began wondering when and why I strayed from my favorite pastime. As a writer I feel that reading is a part of the beast. It helps keep skills sharp, all those words coming at me, the story unfolding without distraction...

As I hunkered down in the waiting room and began reading I began noticing the author's writing style. "How did he get away with that?" I asked myself. Run-on sentences an entire paragraph long. What was he thinking? How did that get by his editor? Several one-sentence paragraphs. Long run-on sentences.

That's when I realized that I was reading as a writer and not a reader. In the last eight years of writing I think that I've slowly developed that writer-self-editor eye as I read published works. This can be a terrible detriment. Reading with a judgmental eye is distracting.

And then it occurred to me that I know of several writers and authors who read this way too. For instance, I once attended a local RWA chapter meeting during the reign of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Member said, "Oh dear, that was the worst book I ever read. Seriously, the writing was TERRIBLE." Years later I read an interview of a renowned author who said of another renowned author that she wasn't a very good writer. Both authors appeared in this years Forbes 400 as two out of three richest authors.

I have a code: Never diss fellow writers, EVER. It's bad form. Yet, an increasing number of published authors and neophytes feel it is their right to criticize in a public forum an opinion of other writers' skills. Could it be that these writers feel it's safe to assume the role of world-wide editor? And I've seen this in myself as happened yesterday while reading this book, which spent a week or so on some best sellers' list, but also received a few scathing reviews. However, as a writer I don't feel it's my god-given right to disparage another writer's work, especially when one, I'm not a reviewer by trade, and two, it's unbecoming.

Perhaps some authors are jealous of another author's fame. And for the neophytes, well, I guess they're jealous, too. I tend not to criticize success. I mean, seriously, Stephanie Myer IS one out of three authors previously mentioned who made the Forbes 400 for 2010. That's inspiration, if you ask me or even if you don't.

All said, there are two things that I'm always going to maintain from this day forward: Remove my self-editing-critique-hat when reading for entertainment and NEVER diss fellow writers, EVER, even if I make a gazillion dollars as a result (and even if they choose to diss me - cest la vie).

It's nice to be important, but really sucks to be self-righteous too. Self-editing while reading is hazardous to entertainment values, so adjust thyself accordingly, folks, and keep your unsolicited opinions silent, please.


Robin said...

I've been reading a ton! I could read all day, every day. I've not been much in a mood to write, so reading has been wonderful. When I read, I'm definitely a "reader" reader, meaning I read fast and for fun and rarely examine the writing itself. I just enjoy the story. I'm thinking if I analyzed some stories more, though, that would help my writing.

I hope you get to enjoy a little reading this holiday season! And thanks, as usual, for a great post, o' wise one!

Kath Calarco said...

Thanks, friend. Some days I feel wise, and others just "wise-guy." :-)