Sunday, January 21, 2007

How to Read, the Accidental Post Part III

So I hope I don't have too many readers on feed, LOL, because this post is a bit haywire, today!

Yesterday, I read a book in one day. What a treat! I used to do that on a daily basis, but nowadays, it's so hard to find the time. I feel like I'm working two full-time jobs.

I've been thinking a lot lately about that wonderful book by Francine Prose, called Reading Like a Writer. In it, she covers a lot of the territory that we should be thinking about while reading. She delights in digging into the nitty gritty of sentences and paragraphs, of details and dialogue.

She recommends reading slow.

I have learned so much from that approach, and will continue to. It got me to thinking, though. Bernita mentioned awhile ago that she read fast the first time through to get the overall arc and pacing of the story. (Relying on my memory, here, so forgive any inaccurate paraphrasing.)

I think she's right. In order to understand the structure of a novel, you either need to outline it and break it down, or read it fast. Reading it fast is quicker, and we all know we have so little time. There's always a large stack of TBR's, not to mention the work our WIPs need.

But as I was working on my latest WIP, I realized that we need to also learn how to read like a reader. When we sit down and read through our own manuscript, whether it be a long run-through or just yesterday's work, we have to be able to hold in our head how much we have revealed to the reader. In fact, we need to read it as if we were an curious reader with no preconceptions.

That's challenging when the words start to glaze over. Sure, putting it away helps, but I never have time for that. Maybe a day. An evening. Somehow we've got to force those fresh eyes and that innocent mind.

And while we look for dialogue and technique and sentences and paragraphs while we read other writers, we have to shut off that sort of reading when looking at our own manuscripts. Maybe not all the time, but at least a few times so that we know what the reader is experiencing while reading our manuscript.

Once in awhile, it's nice to shut that part of ourselves off while reading a book, too. Just reading to read, just for our pleasure. Sitting back with a book. No thinking, just relaxing.

Forgive all mistakes above, please. Three drinks and a nice meal, and I'm off to bed. So nice to not work, even if it's only for four hours after an eleven hour workday. What has my life become, when I think getting 'done' at 7:45 is a big treat? Ah well, just had to finish my half-finished accidental post, LOL.

Happy reading, all!

8 bonus scribbles:

Erik Ivan James 1/21/2007 03:18:00 PM  

Since I've become a wannabe writer, I don't enjoy my fiction reading nearly as much as I used to. When I start to read another book, I start to feel guilty, thinking I should be working on my own. Then, I start to pay more attention to things like style, voice, technical, etc. Then I say "shit!", thumb back four or five pages and start again.

Interesting post you have before this one too. "The Alpha-male that he is, he couldn't help but grin."

spyscribbler 1/21/2007 03:54:00 PM  

LOLOL, Erik. I actually meant to press "save as draft," before the topic of tonight slipped out of my head.

Ah well, you guys will have much more interesting things to say than me! :)

Sheesh, you sound like me when I read! I feel like taking two weeks off and just reading, because I haven't filled my quota for the last half-year. But then I feel guilty for not writing. And then if I write, I say, 'what the heck kind of writer barely reads?'

It's a no win.

Kelly Parra 1/22/2007 12:32:00 AM  

I shut off my writer part of the brain when I'm reading for pleasure, because if I'm reading one of my fave authors I just want to enjoy. =D

The Insect 1/22/2007 04:31:00 AM  

"She recommends reading slow."

Pssh. If I'm reading Stephen King, there is nothing in the world which is going to keep me from ripping through it. I do slow down a bit for short stories, though, especially those by Ellison since 1) they're so short! and 2) he layers them.

Bernita 1/22/2007 08:57:00 AM  

Your memory's good.
I gotta know what happens, first.

I wonder though, when agent's are reading an MS, if they read like a writer or a reader...

spyscribbler 1/22/2007 11:21:00 AM  

Kelly, it's important to do that, for sure. Otherwise, one can forget why we love the written word!

Insect, you're right. I think I need to start doing a good rip-through first, and then a slow dissection and savoring of each bit. Much more fun that way.

spyscribbler 1/22/2007 11:23:00 AM  

Bernita, leave it to you to get right to the important question. What do I know, but I have heard said that they tend to read critically ... but also that if a writer manages to pull them into reading like a reader, then they hop to it in an effort to sign that person.

Now how does one pull that off?

Jolie Mathis 1/23/2007 11:17:00 AM  

Sounds like a neat book -- I'll look for that one! It's so hard to turn off the writer when I read now ... might as well put the habit to good use!