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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can Writers Read for Pleasure?

It seems to be a common complaint--once a person begins writing seriously, they lose the ability to read for pleasure. They can't turn off the "inner editor". They find themselves revising sentences, gritting their teeth at head-hopping, and striking out adverbs.

I have come to believe this is a natural process.

When I first started writing, I remember feeling like there was so much to learn. Too much to learn. Plotting. Story Arcs. POV. Active Writing. It was intimidating, overwhelming. I was scared I'd never be "good enough" to be published. Yet, I was also determined to prove to myself I could be successful.

What did I do? I checked out every how-to book I could find at the library. I joined a critique group and posted my first efforts (naturally, those awful chapters were ripped to shreds.) I then did my part by marking up my cp’s chapters--which were so much better than mine, I had to look hard to find things to comment on. I slowly learned “the rules” of romance: Show, Don’t Tell, To-Be is the Bane of the Writer, Head-hopping is for Amateurs, and Any Word Ending in -ly Must be Avoided at All Cost.

Being a dutiful wanna-be author who was hungry for my first sale, I followed those rules to the letter. I used Word’s “find” feature to locate every instance of to-be, -ly, and weasel words like “that” in my chapters and reworked sentences to eliminate them. (I won’t tell you what kind of mess I ended up with--but trust me, it was ugly)

At the same time, I found I couldn’t read other people’s work without noticing every instance of rule-breaking. A NYT Bestselling author head-hops? *gasp!* And this bestselling book is littered with adverbs? *groan...* How could this beeeee? Why can they get away with thattttt? It’s so not fairrrrrr...(Am I a whiner or what, lol?)

But slowly, as I learned, improved, and gained a little writerly wisdom, I came to realize good writing isn’t simply about writing-by-the-rules. Good writing comes intuitively (note the -ly? LOL). And most importantly, mechanics is not what makes a great book. Yes, mechanics is important, but it’s the story that will or will not convince an editor to write that offer--or more specifically, the author’s ability to craft characters the reader can connect with emotionally. Love, hate, whatever.

With that writerly wisdom came freedom. I can now enjoy books again, although there are still a few technical issues I can’t get past--like head-hopping. While my taste in reading material was limited early on, I’m learning to enjoy a variety of authors, genres, and writing styles.

Once again, I look forward to curling up with a book.

Any thoughts out there in blog-land? Insight? Comments? Lay them on me.

Vampy Erotic Romance
Sassy, Sexy Romance

posted by Tawny Taylor at 8:28 AM |


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