I picked up a book last week. My absolute favourite author in the world and yet there are several books by him I haven’t read yet. One of them was a movie adaptation from the well known Hammer Horror franchise.
I read the prologue and felt a little strange. I thought; ‘this isn’t his usual style is it? Maybe I haven’t read enough of his knew stuff to know how he writes these days. I should keep going.’ So I read chapter one. Then I thought; ‘this is still a bit weird. That word choice was a bit clumsy, this sentence is poorly constructed. Hell, that was utterly the wrong adjective to use considering the tone he’s trying to convey.’ And I put the book down.
I’ve never put one of this guy’s books down before. Ever. I adore and respect his work too much and I only managed to leave the book on the table for about two hours before I wanted to give it another try.
Half way through and I still felt uncomfortable. That’s when I realised, for the first time, that I’m ruined as a reader. Now and forever more, I won’t be able to read a book without unconsciously editing or critiquing it. That understanding upset me so much that I had to take another break from the book.
After a day or two, after promising myself that I would make a concious effort not not to critique it in my mind, I finished reading it. But only just.
I’ve been working very hard at critiques lately. Not only is it part of The Write Feeling, but it is a valuable process to go through as a writer, because it helps you learn. It prods you to look at your own work with a far more critical eye and that is key. Before things like the Phoenix Writers, the Leicester Writing School and the Sunday Snippets Blog Hop there was a huge part of my skill set missing. Not just in giving a critique, but receiving one. Understanding that the comments are not an all out attack on me, or my precious babies, but a genuine attempt to make said babies as strong as they possibly can be.
I suppose, in knowing this, it’s only natural that my critiquing eye has become sharper, but to find myself mentally checking off issues in the words of an established writer, one that I have loved and respected for years is incredible!
Is it natural progression? Is this just what happens when one goes deeper into a hobby or an interest? Certainly when I studied geology at university, I never imagined that my holiday life would be wrecked forever more. I can’t walk passed any exposed strata without having a feel, a scratch (not of me, of the rock! …dirty!) and a guess at what it is. If I had my tools with me I would take dip and strike measurements! With that already in my past I should have suspected something similar might happen, but it still came as a surprise to me.
As you work on your own books, do you find that you think about writing differently? Do you read someone else’s work and start picking at it? Do you look at authors you’ve known and loved and find yourself surprised at what you read?
Don’t get me wrong, I still love this guy and will continue to buy his books, but this makes me dread my bi annual reading of The Lord Of The Rings. o.O