Paradigm Shift: Reader-Writer-Reviewer-Reader

Hello Wicked Readers. Our Wicked Wednesday Theme for September is paradigm shift. (Because Sept means seventh, but September is the ninth month–get it?)

Today I want to ask about something I’ve always wondered about.

We often hear about “reading like a writer.” Some writers say that they always read like writers, for example, thinking, “How did he do that?” or “I see how she did that.” And not being able to turn it off.

So I want to know, Wickeds, has being a professional writer changed how you read?

For me, I don’t think so. I was an English major and know how to read analytically, to look for and find the deep structure of a book, so that’s not a new skill for me. But I can still, after all these years, happily read along, letting a story wash over me. Every once in a while I’ll hear a little voice that says, “I see what she did there,” or “I wonder how he’s going to pull this off?” But it’s rare. Honestly, if I couldn’t enjoy reading, I would give up writing. I’m a reader first, last, and always.

Wickeds, what about you? Do you read differently now that you’re publishing a book or more a year?

Sherry: I do read differently. I’ve actually tried to fix a sentence when reading books on my iPad. But I also admire a beautifully written sentence and think, oh, I wish I would have written that. And even though it’s changed how I read, it doesn’t lessen my pleasure. I’d be lost without books.

Edith/Maddie: Great question, Barb. I think I have less patience for poorly written books now. There are too many good ones out there to waste my time, and I think I recognize great writing more easily now (I was not an English major…). I also pay more attention to opening lines, studying the best ones, and to the timelines of complex stories. But that doesn’t ruin reading for me. Like Barb and Sherry, I’d be lost without loving to read.

Liz: Fun question! I was an English major too, so I feel like I’ve always been overly analytical – and critical. But it’s never stopped me from loving to read. I definitely have picked up more skills over this past decade through learning more and perfecting my technique, so reading and analyzing has probably become more enjoyable for me if that’s possible!

Julie: I love when a story takes me on a journey and doesn’t give me time to think “how did they do that?” I feel the same way about theater. I know too much to merely observe, but I do love a production when I don’t notice the nuts and bolts. When a book particularly strikes me, I’ll reread it as a writer. The best example of that lately are the Thursday Murder Club books. I read them first for enjoyment. I’ve read them a couple of more times to look at how he tells the story. Can’t wait for the next book in the series next week.

Readers, what about you? I know many of you read a great deal and read about writing. Has it changed how you read? Writers, how about you? And reviewers, can you turn off the reviewer and just enjoy a book or is it always there? And if it is, does it enhance or detract from your enjoyment?

17 Thoughts

  1. Very interesting question. I find that I read and analyze a lot of books. You would be surprised by the number of your cozies I have done that to. I also read many others for sentence structure and just the rhythm and flow of the story. However, one thing I have noticed for sure. It is a habit of mine to find cozies to sink into when I am very stressed and in the last six months, I have probably read more than 2 dozen from a large number of authors. I don’t have to think about problems when I am buried in a cozy. I fall into the story and stay there during my reading time. They are generally shorter, can be put down and picked up in an instant where I left off, and they are a wonderful puzzle to concentrate on. I leave problems on the side. and my stress flows away for a while. More involved books with larger themes take more energy and are harder to drop into so don’t destress a reader as quickly. Thank goodness for cozies.

    1. What an interesting comment on the ability of cozies to transport and keep you in the story. When I write, I do try to keep in mind that people will probably be picking up and putting down the book frequently.

  2. The basics remain the same. I want to be entertained, informed, and inspired. I’m with Edith: too many good books to waste time on the others.

    There’s a balance between an interesting story and the way it’s written. For example, I’m reading a thriller by a respected and prolific writer. I want to know how it ends but the overly complex multi-POV coupled with nearly a dozen revolving-door characters makes me hesitant to pick up another by this author.

  3. Yet another English major here.

    I would say I notice exceptional writing more now that I’m a writer. And bad writing just about leaps off the page. I used to plow through anything until the end but as Edith says, time is too short for bad books.

    1. Interesting. I, too, used to finish every book I started as a point of honor and have given it up. I don’t know whether it has to do with being a writer or just old age and feeling I can’t waste my time.

  4. As a reader and reviewer, for me it’s first and foremost about enjoying the read. I leave the reviewing aspect to after I am through. However, if there is a significant part that I think may play in my review, I often write down a page number to reference back to like for a quote or date of importance.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. That seems like the perfect approach. You don’t take yourself out of the story (very far) but you are able to go back and easily find what you need to write your review.

  5. Since I speak several languages, I MUST pay attention to nuances and especially grammar in all the languages I read. I delight in finding typos or other errors…somehow my brain cannot go on when I sense a discrepancy, and I am glad when I figure out how the sentence should be corrected. (The sleuth in me?) All this just adds to my reading enjoyment, and it never distracts me from the story. In all the tests I have taken to ‘evaluate’ what makes you who are, I always got labeled as ‘highly analytical’, so that is ingrained in me, but I am a joyful being, and I am blessed with an extraordinary life. I thank all of you writers for taking me places I could never have gone to on my own. Please keep writing them…I will read them…and will truly enjoy them! Luis at Ole dot Travel

    1. That is so interesting! I think figuring out how to reword things would totally take me out of the story–but maybe I do that all the time, subconsciously? Hmmm. I am highly analytical, too and also blessed with an extraordinary life, so there’s that.

  6. When I was working, I designed and sold ads for a newspaper. Our newspaper came out on Wednesday and Saturday. On printing day I would help proof read. I find myself catching misspelled words and other mistakes when I read. It doesn’t, however, take away from my enjoyment of reading the story. Growing up, my father was a stickler for proper English and spelling. I guess it just comes naturally to me now. I get really frustrated now when the computer or my phone correct what I write and it ends up wrong.

  7. I agree with everybody here. I don’t bother to waste my time on badly written books. I used to plow through no matter what, but like Edith and others, life is too short to bother. I have certainly become a more discriminating reader, especially since I joined a cozy mystery book club. Suddenly, I realized how much better some books are than others. One of Jessie’s books jumped out at me as to how well written it is, and I’ve been spoiled ever since!

    I used to be a proofreader for an on-line newsletter and for my husband’s writing., so I notice typos, poor grammar, and inconsistencies. They don’t take away from my enjoyment of reading. In fact, in what I guess is a sick sort of way, they make me feel good that I noticed them.

    And, like Doris, books, but cozies in particular, take me out of whatever else is going on in my life and let me “take a vacation” from the hassles. Fortunately, for the most part, I have a wonderful life and just read for the fun of it.

  8. Sorry I’m just now chiming in. It’s been that kind of day at work, and I didn’t realize I hadn’t been here yet.

    After reviewing as long as I have, I can’t turn it off. Even if I’m rewatching a movie, I’m looking at stuff. Or I’ll sit down to watch something thinking “I’m not going to review this” and the review is writing itself in my head.

    Notice I talked about movies. I review all the books I read, so that’s never a decision of whether I will review something or not.

    I still love it. My mind may be noticing things, but I’m still looking to get lost in a story with fantastic characters.

  9. I can turn off a book as a reviewer and enjoy the story. Sometimes that is the best way to read a book.

  10. I think I’d be more analytical even if I wasn’t a writer. After all, I analyze and criticize lots of stuff that isn’t in my skillset such as set design and film camera work, simply because I’ve watched so many movies.

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