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Reading as a Writer

With becoming a writer, I’ve had to learn all sorts of new coping skills: How to be humble after a good review. How to keep my ego above water after a bad review. How to bargain with myself to get a chapter written (a piece a chocolate every five paragraphs works well). How to talk a stranger into buying my book without being pushy or my usual insecure self.

The one coping skill I never expected to have to learn was how to read. Yep, read.

Oh, sure I’ve been reading since the beginning of time. I never travel without a book in hand, and spending a Saturday curled up with some fiction is awesome possum. Reading as a reader is not the problem. The problem is reading as a writer.

Unless the plot of a novel is enthralling or the prose flawless, I find myself picking up on sub-par writing whenever I run into it. For example, in one historical novel, the author kept describing everything as emerald-colored: her emerald dress, his emerald eyes, the emerald sea, those emerald leaves, the…you get my drift. The novel wasn’t about the Emerald City of Oz; there was no underlying theme that required everything to be emerald colored. It was just that the pace of the work was plodding enough that I, as an author, kept wondering why the editor hadn’t caught the overuse of “emerald” in pre-press.

In another novel—which I began with great anticipation, I might add—the narrative jumped about so much that I was left feeling whiplashed and man-handled. Additionally, the author over-employed adjectives and adverbs, tossing them everywhere like pieces of confetti on New Years Eve. Granted, a normal reader might have shrugged it off. I, however, was aghast.

Of course, the flip side is that when reading truly gifted writers, I can study how they handle technically difficult passages, how they use words in such a way to propel the story as opposed to making it drag.

In the end, I just want to read everything from classics to trash. Sometimes I learn what not to do, sometimes I’m transported. Either way, I’m a happy bookworm.

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