Reading for Pleasure after Writing

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There’s one problem with reading for pleasure after writing a novel – it’s tough to do. That’s because you can’t help critiquing the writing to a certain extent.

It’s a mark of how good the writer is, if the ‘critiquing’ part of your brain gets shut off, and you can enjoy the momentum of the novel to its fullest.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
 Groucho Marx

And it makes sense. After all, now that you’ve honed your craft, it’s so much easier to pick out passive language, poor plotting, weak characters, limp verbs and so on, and so on.

On the flip side, when reading a book by a master writer, you get to enjoy all the lavish words and descriptions, the fresh similes and metaphors and you get to feel envious – wishing you were the one who had written all those beautiful lines.

Choosing a Novel

I’ve watched myself choosing a book at the local bookstore or library, and find my habits quite interesting … and something for every writer to keep in mind. I check the title (yes, I judge a book by its cover!) read the blurb, then read the first paragraph. Quite often I toss it, if the first paragraph, sometimes even the first line doesn’t grab my attention. It’s rare for me to pursue reading something that I don’t feel pulled into, immediately.

Here’s my trick to now enjoying a novel – I give that critical part of my brain a sleeping pill and for the time that it’s out cold, I enjoy the book. When done,  I re-read the story and give my inner critic leeway to judge … and learn, copy down phrases to inspire me and enjoy the pleasure of a well-written line.

For those novels that are duds – I cheer. If those stories could get published, then there’s hope for my books – because, after all, I am so much better a writer than they.

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