Thursday, May 26, 2011

Does knowing too much suck the fun out?

Good morning Blogies

    Can you still do it? Can you read for the fun of it? With all the rules and tips and pet peeves floating around in your head, can you still just pick up a book and get lost in the pages?

    It’s one of the hazards of writing, I’m afraid. I should have known that. Before I started writing I was involved in theater as an actor, director, stage manager, stage hand, set builder, you name it and I did it. Well, except anything to do with music, no talent there. Anyway, the more I learned, the more critical I became as an audience member. I was ruined as a patron of the theater. Even when everything was great, I still analyzed why rather than let the cast take me to a place and show me a story. The wonder, the experience, the thrill; all gone. Crap!!

    Then, along came writing. I went to conferences and workshops. I joined a critique group. I read books and articles and blogs and forum posts and I analyzed books I should’ve been reading for enjoyment. Double crap!! I tell you right now, I vow never to pick up a book on deviant sexual behavior. You know, just in case I ever...I want it to be fun. Well, enough said.

    So, back to reading. I found myself critiquing the works of, published authors. I’d try to figure out why the author did this or inserted that? What was the authors intent? Is there some hidden meaning?  I puzzled out motivation; oh, so-and-so works at the shelter because he wasn’t allow a puppy as a child. Looked for tell-tales; and he’s going to kill the neighbor for kicking his dog. Anticipated plot twists; then he and the widow will fall in love. Agonized over internal and external goals; he wants to open his own non-profit shelter for abused dogs but really he just wants to be loved. Ditto for internal and external conflict; Oh, no, the police found his footprint in the neighbor’s garden. But worse, he doesn’t feel he deserves the widow’s love because he killed her husband.

    #@(& it! Reading wasn’t any fun. So I quit. Reading, not writing. Can’t quit writing. What reason would I give for banging my head against the wall? I probably didn’t read fiction for more than a year. I’d like to say I was in a dark and brooding place, but I wasn’t. I just had no interest in reading a novel. I read my crit partners’ stuff because that’s what crit partners do and you are supposed to analyze that stuff. I read Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader,  Ripley’s Believe it or Not and that sort of thing for distraction. But I read no books.

    Things were going along fine until my wife wanted to get a Kindle. Somehow, I ended up with one too. So I read. And I put it down. And I picked it up. Put it down. Picked it up. So on and so forth until I got lost in a story.

    Ha, this is fun. I read another, and focused on the characters, listened to the characters and it was fun again. I’d discovered the secret.

    Just read the damn book. The characters may have motivation, goals, blah, blah, blah, but the author didn’t put them there, didn’t decide anything. In fact, there is no author. The story just appeared out of the ether. The characters are the story. It’s the characters telling the story and they don’t know squat about writing. Remember that when you read. Remember that when you write. And, have fun when you do both. And that other thing too, deviant or not.

    Simple, huh? So, can you still read for fun?


  1. On those days when I spent many hours editing stories, I found that it took awhile like 30 minutes to an hour to stop noticing the mistakes when I was reading for pleasure. The first time that happened, I freaked out that I wasn't ever going to be able to immerse myself in a story again. But it went away after awhile. I just have to tell the inner editor and analyzer to STFU.

    On the other hand, when I go back and reread an old favorite, I might notice how the author set something up. Oh looky there, that bit is going to come into play in the next chapter. So knowing the rules and looking at how an author used them in a favorite story can be useful.

  2. I had that problem a little bit when I started studying Literature in college. Many books I loved before I read differently, but it comes surprisingly easy to separate my analytical side from my "just for fun" reader side. The only thing is many fairy tales (and movies) I can never read again. There are probably some books too that I can never look at the same way, but writing didn't spoil any of that for me. I think it mostly makes me more aware.

  3. I think you are both right that I had to turn off the analytical side. I do that by concentrating on the characters, working on the emotional side rather than the math side of my brain.

  4. I haven't figured out how to turn off the analyzer yet. I admit reading is not the pleasure it once was, which is why I think my reading rate has really slowed down. I used to plow through books and now it can take me two weeks to finish reading a novel. Not good.

  5. Marne and I were at a workshop this past weekend (you know, the one Kirt Hickman presented -- where you all should have been) :)

    He talked about just writing.

    He counsels writers to write first thing every morning, because that is when your muse is awake and active (after providing you with dreams all night) and your editor is still asleep.

    I believe reading for enjoyment is kinda the same thing. Turn off the editor and just read. So I guess I agree with Mike.

    The difference between "just writing" and reading for enjoyment, is that I use reading to turn off my life editor.

    I use it to unwind in the evenings. There are lots of nights that I can't sleep because of all the stuff going on in my head. Reading for enjoyment gets rid of the stuff.

    Unless of course it is a poorly written book, then my editor, and the stuff, come awake and start screaming.

    But then whether or not a book is poorly written is pretty subject isn't it?

    And that is a whole different blog subject. LOL


  6. I have a really hard time reading for pleasure these days too. My inner editor isn't working all that hard, but i'm easily distracted. I keep thinking i should be writing instead. But i do tend to be critical as i read. I'm much more demanding of my fiction than i used to be. I want powerful prose ala Laura Lipman and a rip roaring fast read ala Suzanne Collins. I hate being hard to please.

  7. I can usually turn it off and read for pleasure. The exception for me so far has been "Twilight". SO many basic writing errors ...

  8. I can read for pleasure just fine. I do sometimes make a mental note of things, but it tends to get chalked up to personal style rather than errors. I have to work hard to turn on my editor when need it. But that format is often different than a book or ebook, which further signals my inner editor.

  9. That's why I rarely, if EVER, use my spouse as a beta reader; ditto for most of my close friends.

    Because they're the people most likely to be there when I watch TV, or hit the movies. The influence of their immediate company aids immensely in turning off the analyzer.

  10. Mario, Mario, Mario . . .

    Okay. What was I going to say?

    It's easier for me to read for pleasure if I don't know the author personally. And even then, some craft thing will pop up and expose itself when I least expect it.

    Sheesh. Quitting now.

  11. @ Mario- We talking blood here or ...?

    @ Peg- Expose itself?

    @ Betsy- Work hard to turn on your editor?

    @Karen- Hard to please?

    You people are a veritable font of innuendo.