Monday, July 20, 2009
Does being a writer make you a lousy reader?
I brought home many, many books from Thrillerfest. So many books that Delta charged me an extra fifty bucks for the sardine flight back to LA.
As soon as I settled into my seat, I opened the first thriller from my TBR bag. I was looking forward to it. The book had an eye-catching cover that was plastered with snippets of positive reviews, accompanied by blurbs from BNAs (Big Name Authors). Best of all, the story opened with a plane crash. I'm a nervous-Nelly flier, so I was ready to be terrified.
But ten pages into the book, I was yawning. Worse, I was getting irritated with the author.
As the pages dragged on, I started pulling apart each paragraph in my head, muttering things like, "This dialogue is way too symmetrical. You should have changed up the rhythm here, lost that attribution tag there. How the heck did you get those BNA blurbs?"
After a few more pages, my mental rewrite got too exhausting. Thriller #1 was a bust. I tossed it back into the bag.
Thriller #2 was a winner, but I still couldn't get into it fully. Every time I hit a taut scene or a seamless transition, I detached and thought, "Okay, so how did this writer pull that off? What can I learn here?"
Unfortunately, being a writer has spoiled the reading experience for me. I can't lose myself in books the way I used to. I'm like a nosy, jealous chef, sampling dishes and trying to figure out what spices were used.
My reading rut started about the time that I started writing my current series. I had no time to read due to a combination of deadline pressures and my day job. Now that I'm shifting gears to write in a new genre (and am sans day job, say hallelujah), I'm reading again. It's like I'm mapping brand new waters, separating the sharks from the flounders. (I know: Block that metaphor!).
It's good to be reading again. But darnit, the thrill is gone.
How about you? Does being a writer kill some of the joy of the reading experience?