Reading for Fun

Dear Miss Snark,

I suspect you drink gin both for business and pleasure, but I was curious if someone in your eh hem, position reads much for pleasure. I have found that since I've been writing seriously and honing my craft, that I just don't enjoy books as much anymore. I nit pick grammar, plotlines and even little petty things, thinking "If I'd written this book, I would have...".

Does this happen to you also?

I drink gin for medicinal purposes only. Any statements to the contrary are pure statistics...I mean lies, damn lies.

I read for fun all the time. There's a whole list of books I've read in 2006 on the blogroll on the right under Library Thing. Sure I nitpick and sneer at some things, but most of what I read to the finish I really liked. But..I'm not a writer. The only thing craft I'm honing is the Craftmatic Adjustable Montauk Hammock.


Don said...

I read for fun when I'm not reading. The secret, I suppose, is to read good writing. At the moment, I'm working through the Observer's top 100 novels of all time. Reading The Count of Monte Cristo at the moment. If you can't enjoy that, you can't enjoy any writing.

Don said...

[Oops, that should be "when I'm not writing" on that last post].

Unknown said...

Congratulations Miss Snark on your first - Nitwit of the Month Award!

You claim you are not a writer - and yet your blog is about to hit one million views. Now if that isn't niwittery of the first order, I don't know which end of my horse to kiss in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Reading outside -- way outside -- your genre may help. For example, If you write contemporary children's fiction, read The Omnivore's Dilemma to relax.

Anonymous said...

Reading for fun said: "I have found that since I've been writing seriously and honing my craft, that I just don't enjoy books as much anymore."

My decrease in interest in reading actually happened after I took college classes and learned "what not to do" when writing. From that point on I was critical of writers who still use adverbs instead of powerful verbs, and tons of "could see, could hear, could feel" and other weak writing habits. It still amazes me that so many books get published with such weak writing. But, I haven't learned everything yet myself, and there are people pointing to my mistakes and shaking their heads, too. The average book-buyers are not educated writers. We all gotta' start somewhere.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I understand what you mean about not enjoying reading anymore -- I nitpick every little thing too. But I find it makes me a better writer. When I find something to nitpick, it makes me that much more aware of what to avoid in my own work. Never, never, never stop reading!

Anonymous said...

Occupational hazard, I suspect. I also find myself noticing problems in books I picked up to read just for fun.

But when I find a rare book that does everything right? Then I enjoy it far more than I used to.

Anonymous said...

I'm an editor (academic and educational publishing, not fiction, I'm afraid!) and it's an occupational hazard. When you first learn to be critical, it becomes impossible to read anything without seeing the flaws. But, after a while, you learn to turn it off (self-defense!) and just enjoy what you're reading again. Of course, anything truly egregious grates as badly as it ever did, but you learn not to be too bothered by the little stuff and just glide over it.

Hope that gives you a little hope for the future! Never give up reading if you want to write.

Ray said...

Agreed with anon editor. It's a phase that goes away, not the awareness of mistakes, but the reaction to them.

I do tend toward nonfiction when writing fiction. Or wait, that's called research.

Anonymous said...

I write novels for a living, and I read a 2-5 novels a month whether I am writing or not.

One of the perks of the job is the free books and the ARCs and the discounts on books! I used to slog through no matter how much a book made me crazy, because I'd invested 8 - 25 bucks in it, and felt the book owed me every possible pleasure I could wring from it.

If a FREE book is poorly written or simply not to my taste, I can set it down and pick up another. If you are the responsible sort who can return things on time, you can do the same thing via a library card.

But if you LOVE something, go buy a copy to keep or for a friend, so that writer will get to write some more. :)

magz said...

Hmmmm, I guess I'd haveta saying I think reading is a lot like sex:

If it's done for money, be competent.
If it's done for love, do it wholeheatedly.
And always be aware

'If it aint fun.. yer probably not doing it right!'

kim reid said...

"I write novels for a living, and I read a 2-5 novels a month whether I am writing or not."

Same for me, except I write for half a living since I have a day job. And I just received my first free books - the perks are good! Before I began writing seriously, I'd suffer through a mediocre book because I'd paid for it. I guess that isn't reading for pleasure.

I can't do that now because if it's poorly written, I'm too busy picking it apart to enjoy it. But a good book? Still as fun as ever, and I get a writing lesson as a bonus.

Brenda Oig said...

I've heard this often from other writing friends of mine and it surprises me. I enjoy reading as much, if not more than I ever did now that I'm writing, too. I also read while I'm writing my book. I find I need a break from it sometimes and reading gives me that. I am more aware of flaws in the writing, but I've learned to turn of that critical voice because it hampers my enjoyment of the book. Obviously if it's just bad writing all together I would still put it down.

Anonymous said...

I'm a textbook editor. When I first started the job, I noticed a serious decrease in my for-pleasure reading. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was look at printed pages, no matter how unrelated to the textbooks they were.

But now I'm both writing and reading more than ever. It just took a while. I still have a hard time editing friends' manuscripts when I'm working a lot of overtime, though.

Anonymous said...

God.. I don't know why I feel so strongly about this but I couldn't disagree more. Perhaps it's because I only read classics, or maybe because I am one of the least pretentious people you've ever met, but : how can you go about criticizing the writing of luminaries?
What kind of snobbish self-involved prick thinks "if I had written this..." when he reads Tolstoy or Balzac or even Dumas, or labels correct grammatical structures "weak" because some idiot teacher in a writing class told them so?
I know a lot of musicians and none of them would ever dream of picking on Lizst or Bizet (see, we're not even talking Mozart here), and yet so many writers seem to think that if they can string a few sentences together and even get them published, it gives them the right to criticize major works of literature.

Oh well, never mind.
By the way Don, have fun reading le Comte de Monte Cristo. It's not what they call great literature in France, for a number of reasons that are either too snobbish or too culturally-biased for me to repeat here, but it's a great story nonetheless!
Personally I love Dumas. He never reread his books, almost never edited them and didn't care about using a verb instead of an adverb. He's still one of the funniest people I've ever read, you can almost feel the boorish jokes and drunken orgies pulsating through every word! Enjoy..

Poohba said...

When exactly did adverbs and adjectives become such evil words? Is this something we can blame on Hemingway? Certainly the greats of the 19th Century didn't look down on the passive voice the way we do today.

I guess it must be the whole faster pace of life thing.

Anonymous said...

yeah, I now nitpick even with some of my favorite writers. And the odd book just makes me shake my head and wonder--not how a well-known author could be responsible for writing something that godawful (deadlines and pressure and all), but how the damn thing ever got past an editor and saw print.

I'll read the first three chapters and love every word, and then the whole rest of the novel will suck eggs through a straw. I'll be staring at page 150 and nothing's even happened yet. These aren't old books. These are books published in the last ten years.

But though writing has largely killed my love of reading, I can still get some benefit from other authors' work. I find a scene so unbelievably terrible it should be sent straight through the shredder. Then I rewrite it. A good exercise, and if I can't bring myself to touch my WIP that day, I can still say I wrote something.

Anonymous said...

"...When exactly did adverbs and adjectives become such evil words?"

A friend who read Stephen King's "On Writing" has taken the adverb rule to heart. He recently read one of my manuscripts and circled the few adverbs that I used. I had to tell him to leave my adverbs alone. It seems to me that all of a sudden everyone is telling you to NEVER use an adverb. An entire part of speech has now become obsolete? Puh-leeese.

Use them sparingly, otherwise they weaken the writing, but they are not taboo.