Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reader vs. Writer

Until I started writing, I don't think I was a reader any different than any other. I liked what I liked and that changed with my age. After I left the Nancy Drew/Five Little Peppers stage in grade school, I ventured toward scifi. In high school, I stayed with that and added Thomas Costain's historicals, Mary Stewart's romantic suspense, and theatrical plays. I like reading plays, although the last one I recall turning the pages on was over twenty years go. In college, I read what was assigned and since it didn't figure into any of the above categories, I got through it. The exception would be the Pamela vs. Moll Flanders assignment I got to pick for myself. I voted for Moll, and I really, really wish I still had that piece of writing.

The early married years found me in thrall of Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss. I inhaled their historical romances and learned to read and cook at the same time, a skill I still have. I followed all this up with Amanda Quick and LaVyrle Spencer. Then I tried my own hand at writing, and my reading was never the same.

All of a sudden I was a critic. Never a fast reader (I blame the college science because I read for comprehension), I became bogged down in typos (granted, probably not the author's fault), inconsistencies (weren't her eyes blue at the beginning of the book?), and plot vagaries (oh, come on--nobody will believe that!) One book was so bad, I started marking the pages!

But writing made me a critical reader, a good news, bad news proposition for sure. It helped when I judged contests for
unpublished authors. It made me wince when I went back and read my own work, whether from last year or last month. Couldn't I have said that better? Or used fewer words? Being electronically published, I get the final chance to reread my book for the above typos. Hopefully, the inconsistencies and plot vagaries have been caught at the editorial level.

Has writing taken some of the joy out of reading? A bit perhaps, but oh, when a book is so well done that I'm not drawn out of the story for anything--even supper!--then my hat's off to the author. I send her an email to tell her so, and I'm looking for the next book before I've finished this one.


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