Saturday, August 29, 2009

Learning To Read...Again.

I love to read. That phrase seems so pale compared to the feeling behind it. There are few things that I enjoy more than a good story. I love movies but the movie that plays in my head when I'm reading has wide screen, High Def, and surround sound. I not only see the characters, I get to hear what they are thinking. I am a voracious reader and when the story takes me, I can read at a much faster pace.

I read the first three books of Stephenie Meyers 'Twilight' series in one weekend. From late Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. The only reason I didn't start the fourth was because I had not purchased it yet.....and by that time I wasn't sure if my name was Bella, Edward or James Earl Jones. The story took me and it was hard to pull myself back out of it. I loved Edward Cullen with all the intensity of a high school crush for several weeks. I am still in recovery.

That is how I read as a reader, but as a writer I feel as if I am learning to read all over again. I force myself to slow down, I hold back and try not to be consumed by the story so I can study technique. This is incredibly hard at times but necessary. I read 'Twilight' again and I saw mistakes. The writing is not as polished as it could be and it is flooded with flowery purple prose. It is still a great story and Stephenie Meyers made us care about the characters....and she made us believe.

Some books are easier to read than others. It took me two nights to read Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. I struggled with the frenetic pace and the complex symbolism. It was a good book but a hard read. I went back and reread some of Laurel K Hamilton's books. Whether you read them fast or always want to sit back and light up a cigarette afterwards. Stephen King has a style all his own. He is clear, abrupt, and shockingly insightful. All of his characters are flawed, as we all are, and yet we love them more for it. You get the impression that King sees more deeply than the rest of us and isn't afraid to share that vision.

I still love to get lost in the story but reading with a writer's eyes is necessary for us to improve. I have pulled out historical romances that I used to love from ten years ago and I wince at how badly that are written. These books are actually more of a learning tool than the good ones. We know when something isn't working, when the writing is mediocre and the characters as one dimensional as a cardboard cutout. It can be difficult articulating exactly what is wrong at times when I don't enjoy a book but part of learning to write is being able to spot these flaws in the work of others and making sure we do not repeat those mistakes.


  1. I never really feel like reading a bad book is a waste of time. I'm with you. We can learn even from that. It is easy to see something that does not work and to commit to not making the same mistakes in our own work. Granted, I make a bunch of other mistakes, but still...

  2. Always find it so strange that people fall in love with Edward Cullen in the book. He's always snickering - not a very attractive trait. But I did like him in the film.

  3. Keren David

    I don't know how you couldn't like Edward Cullen. He's beautiful both inside and out. Has a perfect true love, has money to spoil you with, and he writes music...hell I could go on and on. Don't tell me you're a "Team Jacob" person...


    When I read the series I did see a lot of mistakes...a lot! That annoyed me somewhat and I think that's why many people don't think she's a great writer. But, the almighty dollar says differently.

    Reading other peoples writings can shed a light on how you write and what you take from their style can enhance your own writing. I can see how getting wrapped up in a story can change that focus. But, that's a good sign for the writer that wrote the story...right? Isn't that what we really want? To see past the words into a world of something new?


    I'm with you...I make too many mistakes. Hahaha....

  4. The thing about the "Twilight" saga is that noticing the writing issues becomes a moot point. The point is, she has the power to tell a story, draw you in and make you know the characters inside and out as if you could walk down the street and meet them. Not every writer has that talent; although we all want that...we all want to draw our readers in and write that book that a person just can't seem to set down.

    I notice things that I'd be told to take out if I put them in my book in published novels and I wonder "If it's in a published novel, then why is it a no-no?" And I figure it's to get the writer out of using certain "crutches" and then if the editor of the publishing company decides they need to be there, they'll ask you to do that.

    I guess by making certain things no-no we authors can improve on our craft. Pretty cool.

  5. The problem with success like Stephenie Meyer is that it comes quickly and without warning. When you toil and toil for years and years and gradually make it to the top, you have time to hone your craft. When you are suddenly thrust into the limelight without a gradual climb, you aren't really prepared...and generally you have to learn as you go. I've also noticed people with that level of fame don't have the longevity that a less popular author has. Even if you're John Grisham and you can still keep going for years and years, you just don't have the mega-success you had when you were new and everyone was talking about you. People say things like, "I loved her at first, but all her books are the same now." I think I'd rather be moderately successful and have a long, fruitful career than to be an overnight hit.

  6. No, no not team Jacob at all..loved Edward in the film, but the language of the book put me off him. He can someone be attractive and snicker? Maybe it means something different to Americans than us Brits? A snickering man is completely effeminately unattractive, no matter how musical beautiful or umm rich.
    What I did absolutely love was the book told from Edward's POV which she posted on her website. I think what really works in the Twilight series is the compelling breathless feeling of desperate young love - it'll kill me if I do, it'll kill me if I don't - that she sustains through the first three books...don't get me started on Breaking Dawn.

  7. Keran,

    The snickering didn't bother me. It's hard to come up with more words that mean chuckle or laugh, et cetera.

    I hope she finishes "Midnight Sun", I'd get it. LOL


It helps to know I'm not just talking to myself.