Monday, December 14, 2009

Do You Still Read?

I have been following the discussion on the RWACraft loop about reading. Apparently it was triggered by comments at the conference this past summer - Linda Howard rarely reads anymore, Nora Roberts believes reading is extremely important - or at least that's what has been quoted. Some people have given up reading for pleasure. Others read but not in the genre they write. And others believe they can't possibly write well unless they also read.

That discussion and shopping for stocking stuffers has triggered my own thoughts about reading. It is a family tradition that each person gets at least one book in their Christmas stocking. Over the years my "stocking book" has reflected my current taste in reading and has included multiple genres but always romance - always fiction. I haven't picked out my stocking book for this year and actually I'm considering a craft book that was referenced in the reading discussion - "Reading Like A Writer" by Francine Prose.

Studying the craft of writing has definitely affected my ability to read for pleasure. In the past I would force myself to finish a book I didn't like in the hopes that it would get better in the end. Quite often I would realize something was wrong with the writing but couldn't quite put my finger on the problem. Now I find myself looking for the hero and heroine's GMC or analyzing the "black moment" and story resolution. I'm no longer satisfied with a shallow story and I've given myself permission to put a book in the give away box without finishing it.

On the up side, when I do find a book that hooks me I revel in the pleasure of reading. Now that I'm agonizing over word choices and plot points I'm less tolerant of sloppy writing. And more appreciative of well written books.

What about you? Do you still read?


Callie James said...

I totally agree, Nannette. I have to admit I'm more critical now, which often takes the pleasure out of reading.

As far as time to read, I currently don't have any. I try to read at least one book a month, and often that doesn't happen. At this rate I'm falling so far behind that my to-read stack has become a to-read bookcase.

I miss it though. Do I think you need to read to be a good writer? I don't know. The answer to that question most likely depends on the individual. For me it's important. Reading another author's work pulls me out of my created worlds and stirs my imagination. In that way, it's definitely helpful, especially when I've hit a block.

Cari Hislop said...

I'm glad it's not just me! I just checked my literary diary. I've read five books this year (which I suspect is a record low for me) and all of them non fiction. The last novel I read was an Agatha Christie last October. I usually find when I try to read novels I re-write sentences that jar and generally edit as I go. It's rather frustrating that I can't forcibly shut down that part of my brain though it has made me more consious of failings in my own writing. What I find enjoyable are writers who wind me around their fingers and pull me in. To submerge into a novel now is more pleasurable, like wading into cool water on a hot summer's day and diving under.

Nannette said...

Callie - totally understand the time issues! And you hit the nail on the head when you said "I miss it". I started listening to an audio book today while working and immediately found myself muttering things like "show, don't tell!" Totally ruins the experience!

Cari - what a beautiful analogy of the cool water on a summer day!

M.V.Freeman said...

I still read for pleasure and like you I have no problems putting it down if it does not capture me. I have to admit I have become far more discerning in what I read (ok, I'm picky).

I have to read for fun, if I don't, how am I to write? I like the way it makes my imagination soar. If I read too many non-fiction books than I stagnate, and my writing become stilted.

If ever I lose that love of reading...then a part of me will be gone.

Louisa Cornell said...

I do read for pleasure, but not nearly as much as I'd like to. And as I have always loved Regency historicals I still read them in spite of the fact that I write them too.

Then again I read across all genres! I've been enjoying some great romantic suspense by one Ms. Reese lately!

And I am enjoying Sherrilyn Kenyon's new series as well.

I try very hard to turn the critic off when I read for pleasure. However, any time an author does something well I do make note of it.

Stephen King says you need to read two words for every one you write. That sounds about right to me. And God knows I can't argue with the man's success. Then again maybe he just has good karma. Read that he and his wife paid for a local National Guard unit to fly home to Maine from boot camp for Christmas because they will be deploying to Iraq in January. Nice guy!

Christine said...

I love the Stephen King story... cool! I do read for pleasure--at night. But it takes me forever to finish a book. I remember staying up all night and devouring words, books and trilogies. I remember reading classics and pulp fiction without worrying about the "writer points." I do escape that loop if I go seriously "off my genre" but it's hard not to critique.

Reading a book NOT in my chosen genre when I am writing is the best.

I love the idea of a book as a stocking stuffer. Totally incorporating!

Gwen Hernandez said...

I still read obsessively and have plowed through more books, both fiction and nonfiction than I can count this year. But I do read differently than I used to.

I have less tolerance for poor writing, and I take notice of what could be better or what was done well. If I'm truly engrossed though, I see pictures, not words, so I don't tend to get pulled out unless they mess up.

I think my many years of reading have influenced me as a writer, and continuing to read fuels my desire, serves as a reward for hard work, and inspires me. If I can learn from the great writers along the way, that's just a bonus.

Jeanie said...

I do read regularly, but not as much as I used to. I read romance, mostly historical but some contemporary as well. Don't read paranormal, which is ironic, because that's what I'm writing.

I HAVE to have something I'm reading all the time. I spend a lot of time carting my 13-year-old around, and so I carry a book in my purse everywhere I go. It takes me longer to read a book now than it used to because I'm so busy, but I probably average two to three books romances a month. Yes, I keep the romance stats up!

My husband reads and so does my youngest daughter. It's an addiction. I do think reading makes you a better writer and I think I am more critical and less patient as a reader since I started writing.

I don't necessarily look for the black moment or GMC as I read, although I do notice conflict. What I notice are things like head hopping or cliched writing or jarring moments that take me out of the story. Interesting post!

Allison Knight` said...

I read all the time. And too, the mistakes in what I'm reading are more glaring now than before. But, knowing what the publishers are printing seems important to me.

As a result, I'm finding the Beta hero is decreasing and the Alpha man is now dominate. Interesting development! Could be a sign of our times.

Allison Knight