Reading with writer’s eyes…

Being a writer is not easy at all, being a reader who writes neither it is. Reading and Writing are my biggest passions. But as I try to merge them into one world, I realize the challenge increases.

In order to write, you have to read. This is the most common advice you’ll receive from writers, books and courses about writing. And there is no bigger truth. Once you decide that writing is you want to do for the rest of your life, reading will come attached as a twin sister. I don’t believe in writers who don’t read. I just can’t. It won’t matter how many a good ideas you have, if you don’t know how the world of books work, and the only way to know is by getting up close to what’s out there.

But one must read all types of books out there:

Reading classics – They are classics for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that they usually show great command of the language. They display high-quality narrative that has been awarded and well appraised by so many. What works in these books? What made them classics? You need to find out by for yourself.

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Reading Best Sellers – And it includes the highly criticized dystopian YA. But why are they so popular? Why are their writers the ones that can actually make a living of this? I usually hear many people chastising these books. Finding them with “my favorite books” tag in intellectual circles of writers would be almost impossible …. But guess what? They do sell! They have “the formula.” And yes, writing-wise they may not be the best example, but they can certainly grab readers.

Now, you may say: “Well, it depends on the reader.” And usually not all teenagers are the most loyal parameter of quality reading, but they are a wide popular profitable target market. Despite these books might be cheesy and corny, we realize many adults do also enjoy them. The key, I believe, is to find a balance between what is good writing and what sells. Let’s face it, we all know that deep in our hearts, we would really love to make money of our writing. So reading this literature we must (my Yoda dysfunctional personality)

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Reading all genres – I’ve heard tons of advice saying that you must read in your genre. True! But it doesn’t end there. I’ve learned to read in all sorts of genres. And I believe that it’s not fair to say you aren’t used to an X genre because you don’t read in it. All genres are writing; all of them teach us something. Romance teaches us how to create romantic tension between characters. Thrillers teach us how to insert adventure and movement in your plot. Mysteries teach us how to grab readers until the end of the book. Sci-fi teaches us through setting description how to create fantasy worlds. Memoirs teach us how not to lose the essence and spirit of your book… and so on…. All these elements usually coexist in a book.

People read not only because the plot was so exciting that they couldn’t let the book go, but also because they cared about the protagonists; they found allies or inspiration in them. I’ve read a couple of action-packed thrillers that got me bored easily. I reached a point where I was just so bored about the extensive description of a fight scene; a slow motion punch described in pages. It reminded me of those movies where half of the movie is shootings and guns and no interesting plot. It also happens with books.

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If you’re like me, with preference for Thrillers for example, then you have at least to care about one of your characters. We want to know that the CIA spy of a book has a family with a sick child, that if he doesn’t do the job, his son will die. We want that CIA spy that when he’s about to die, we will keep reading and pray that he doesn’t. If he’s just a random handsome spy with great muscles, involved in a cat and mouse chase during the plot, it gets boring…Thriller writers need to read romance and memoirs too!

As a writer, I try to read with a different eye. I try to see all elements in a book, how dialogue flows, how settings and actions are described, how writers show and don’t tell. I assess why the plot gets exciting, how chapters end, and what makes me go to the next chapter. I evaluate those setting descriptions that are just too long for me to care. I write down when I find words and expressions that work so well that I could use them in a further work (one of the advantages of kindle reading, that you can highlight words without actually damaging a book.)

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This is a new way of reading, different from what I was used to, but satisfying nonetheless. It’s not only about finding refuge in a book while resting on a reading corner, but also investing time in my long-time dreamed goals.

If you’re a writer, do you find yourself with this different perspective of reading?

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12 thoughts on “Reading with writer’s eyes…

  1. Some books grab me and I’m absorbed in the story. There isn’t any way that I’m thinking about structure, plotline, narrative, and whatever else a writer would probably be scrutinizing. I’m too busy reading the story. In my eyes, these books rate way above the others. Putting those aside, yes, I do examine the elements of a story, usually being way too critical for the level of skill I have in the craft. I can’t say I pick up books outside the genres I like, although I have read outside my preferred spectrum. I don’t think I could even attempt to write in those genres though, let alone finish a project in one of them.

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    1. Yeah, there are those books… they’re so good that you just get into the story and forget everything. And I find myself saying, I should have wrote down more things about this book, but the story was so interesting that I couldn’t even stop to grab the pen…
      And I understand about what you say about not being able to write in all genres… I couldn’t write Romance or Memoir for example… The first one because I suck at relationships 🙂 and the second one because my life is too normal to be written down and it hasn’t reached it’s more interesting peak yet….
      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

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        1. You might surprise yourself (or someone will with what you leave behind). I just read about a gal who turned her blog into a book about herself, particularly her struggles with anxiety. I can’t tell you if it’s a stellar book or just a stack of daily woes. But, she turned her writings into a complete book.

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      1. I am curious why you say you suck at relationships.

        I don’t see why anyone can’t write a memoir. You might see your life as boring trash (which would be sad and a shame). But, someone might one day want to know how you came to be what you become. And, if we don’t jot some of the steps down in a journal, how will we ever capture the accurate history of a person’s rise to glory (or descent into madness)? Either we end up fudging facts in the spirit of fantasy or we have concrete proof from the horse’s mouth (provided no one tampers with or misreads that).

        I’m no relationship expert myself, but I would not be opposed to writing something romantic now and then. It’s just hard when romance seems like such a cotton candy fantasy in a world consumed by finances, drugs, violence and sex. ‘Not exactly an environment fostering the gentle goodness of romance. When the mood/environment is right, inspiration happens.

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  2. Then color me a lousy writer, because you and I will clash on many points, namely your taste in what is “good.” For one, I am not a fan of Stephen King’s work, other than “The Shining,” perhaps. At least, I’ve seen many of the movies and read none of the books; and I wasn’t fond of the plots. There are inklings of good ideas washed out by plots that drag. Cujo is one of the worst wastes of film. It’s right up there with Citizen Kane.

    You might help me understand the first line you wrote here. “Being a writer is not easy at all, being a reader who writes neither it is.” What is the “neither” in the second phrase? Are you saying it’s easier to be a reader who doesn’t write? Or, are you starting to say what comes later: You can’t write if you can’t read first?

    You know what drives book sales? It’s not talent. It’s good scouting and advertising. It’s word of mouth and jabbing all the people you know to LIKE and TWEET something. You might notice how the most popular reads get slapped with “best seller” BS labels and have commercials now. It’s not a sign of improved writing on the rise. It’s the dying publishing industry trying to jump start the Frankenstein monster that is e-books.

    Why on this earth are there so many love triangle trilogies in dystopian futures? Why so many vampires and werewolves lumped together? Where is the diversity? People these days are swimming in zombies and nuclear fallout more than anything else. The attention to reality is fading. Which may be good for creativity. But, it’s not a sign of smarter writing. No. The grasp of quality writing is slipping with the education system.

    Before I post a novel here, let me cut this short. I am a terrible reader. But, I will not let that stop me from writing a good read. And, I will do my crazy English teachers proud one day. If the publishing world is too much trouble, I will go around them the way Stan Lee did.

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    1. I should note, though, some authors are good because they are blessed with life experience, travels and resources. If you are writing a mystery/detective novel series and have access to both police files and cops you can ask questions, you are truly some lucky SOB. A number of the biggest names in writing come from military and law backgrounds that give them fodder to develop realistic characters and cases. Yet, some of that seems so cut and dry to me, I have almost no interest.

      [And, why do the best authors have the most boring book covers? I know teachers say not to judge a book by its cover. But, I don’t need the author’s name in white print the size of the book to know they wrote it. I’d like a little more thought-provoking imagery on my covers.]

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    2. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments 🙂

      I know that all readers and writers have different opinions on what is good writing and what is not. While you are not a fan of Stephen King, many people are, and many would want to be in his shoes: making a living out of his writing.

      Regarding my first line, I’ll try to clearer next time, but what I mainly wanted to say is that people who read just because of pleasure could have it easier than writers, simply because most writers, including me, now read with a more critical eye. (I didn’t read like that before)

      And I firmly believe that the only way to improve your writing is by reading more. You may have great experience in a field or in life, but that doesn’t always translate in how you plaster words on paper. But yet, it´s only an opinion 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

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      1. Making a living out of his writing? So, you want to leech off of his success? Others joke about his success as if he just craps out books and some loyal publisher will turn anything he writes into a sensation…or, at least, get it on a shelf ASAP. Maybe one day I will sit down and read one of his actual books and think differently. That Dark Tower series DOES look interesting.

        I understand you are from Bolivia and that your English might not be “spot on.” So, I will try to be sympathetic. But, yea, that first line is kinda “crooked,” and I snapped because someone was talking about being a good reader/writer while writing a sentence I couldn’t comprehend. I blow my top when I find a “best seller” full of typos or run-on sentences, things of which my English teachers warned me.

        Oh, that is not what I read from the first line, at all. Of course, readers who read for pleasure have it easier than writers. Just like it’s easier to walk through an art show and share opinions than it is to paint a watercolor painting big enough to be seen from across the room and one that looks realistic.

        I annoy my sister with my critical reading eye…

        I think I write okay. I see some room for improvement. I feel my grammar and spell-checking is solid. Better than most books I’ve found. But, I could use some help with sentence diversity. That I know and am not sure what will improve that. Reading could be a factor, but, if you’re anything like me…and I doubt you are (because I am a terrible reader)…you’d say you would rather give time to creating than studying the creations of others. My mind can buzz with so many ideas some days, how can I spend time trying to focus on printed text someone else already made money on when I need to get my “business” going?

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