Monday, 8 November 2010

WRITING TIP #98

It’s important, as you develop your skill as a writer, to do so as a reader also. You are not reading someone purely for enjoyment or entertainment anymore; there should be a critical awareness that kicks in from the opening line. What is the writer trying to achieve? Have they succeeded? (You may have to wait until later to answer this.) Why have they used the words they have? Where is the work strongest? Weakest? Find its faults (with one or two exceptions, there will always be some). Start reading as a writer.

8 comments:

Paul said...

Which, sadly, removes some of the pleasure of abandon that being a non-critical, non-writing reader used to provide.

Anna-Marie said...

I can see that is hugely important when reading a text for analysis or editing. But I fear in normal life I sometimes like to read just for the fun of it. I think I may casually make a mental note what not to do, but I fear I am nowhere near as intense and focused on my reading as you suggest!

TOM J VOWLER said...

Absolutely, Paul - I almost wrote that too. The loss of wonderful, almost naivety, of simply enjoying a book without contemplating the writer's motives and artifice.

I'm not sure it's intense, A-M, or wholly conscious, but, for me, something changed, making it impossible to let the words wash over me without inquiry of sorts.

Kath said...

There are very few books I can read these days for pure enjoyment, without starting to dissect them and see how they work. When I come across that rare book which I can read for pleasure, then I get almost giddy. I do still make sure to go back and read it again, though, to see how the author managed to suck me into their world and carry me along so successfully.

Marisa Birns said...

My sister is in the film world, and many times when we go out to see a movie, she just can't sit and enjoy it. She's very busy analyzing the scene, dialogue, lighting, pace, etc. :)

Best to do both, then. Read for the absolute pleasure of sharing the fictive dream with author. And read for analysis.

Dan Holloway said...

Interesting. I can see this being a controversial post. My wife did music theory at university, and it still drives her nuts that her contemporaries from the course can't switch off their critical ear and just say whether they like or dislike a piece.

I have to say I'm with her when it comes to literature. I read as a reader. If I love a book, I'll go back and take it apart to figure out what I can learn, but I tend to find that when I read books as a writer I love fewer of them. I find it very easy to read for pleasure, partly because I tend to read on the bus or in the bath when I'm in a knackered haze I guess. Great books grab us by the throat - it's those we want to learn from. If we read as analysts we are very rarely grabbed by the throat so we learn a lot, but very little of value?

I didn't do English at uni so I can't say the usual "English Lit killed my love of books" but I can trump my wife having gone into my theology degree as a believer...

TOM J VOWLER said...

Interesting points as always, Dan. Thanks. I'm not saying the pleasure element is removed for me - indeed, it may be enhanced - just that I'm more aware of writers' attempts to manipulate me, to produce an effect, to set set something up (albeit expertly and subtly). I'm certainly not analysing texts as a literary theorist when I read, more like watching a great guitarist and appreciating both the music and the skillful finger-picking at once. Were I to have no knowledge of how the guitar is played, the latter would be undermined.

Dan Holloway said...

Aha, now that I DO understand - my wife always insists we stand right at the front at gigs so she can spend the whole set staring at the bass player's fingers :)