Thursday, January 17, 2013

Read'em and Weep

by Allison Pang

Like so many of my fellow word whores, I also find that I have less time to read - but then, I seem to have a lot less time for a lot of things. Gone are the days where I might play WoW until my eyes bled. Or stayed up all night to devour an 800 page book. Or spent all weekend cross-stitching.

Or hell, even sleeping in. Which hasn't happened for at least nine years now. >_<  Silly children.

It's not something I'd really thought about when I was trying to get published, but writing tends to suck up a good deal of my free time, so when I do read books I want them to be worth my time. So now I'm much more picky. Before all this, I nearly always finished every book I started - I guess I felt that I owed it to the author to see it through to the end. But these days, if it doesn't strike my fancy I put it down and move on to something else.

The problem is that after spending so much time going over my own work and trying to improve my craft, it's hard to shut down that "editor brain" even when I read for fun. It's a bit of a bummer really. Part of it is nitpicking on things, but part of is is because now I *know* how much work and love goes into crafting a story - it's hard not to simply stop and appreciate a lovely turn of phrase or scene that truly transports or wince when I come across something that doesn't work.

Reading has always been one of my greatest pleasures, so it's wonderful when I come across a book that I can forget the work that goes behind it. I think in some ways it becomes a measure of trust - I have a list of authors or book series that I trust - e.g. I know if I pick up a book by one of them, I will be satisfied.

(Which is why it becomes so hard when an author or series suddenly seems to take a sharp right-hand turn into nowhere - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. That trust can become bitter disappointment.)

These days I have books I read to feed my craft - highlighting bits and pieces or even certain words or scenes that strike my fancy that I want to remember - and books that are my comfort. When I look past the craft of the words and fall into the story like I used to? That's become rather precious to me because it doesn't happen as often as it used to. Things I could easily have overlooked before become glaring problems that pull me straight out of the story.

And of course, I realize that other people probably do the same thing with my books - which is both cool and somewhat mortifying all at once. And it's one of the reasons I can't really read my own books after they're out - the cool parts are cool, but wow, seeing the mistakes I made and can no longer change are often groan-inducing.

But that's only fair, isn't it? :)

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