Thursday, 19 September 2013

Reading like a writer?

My entry for the Mslexia competition has been sent off.  The acknowledgement SAE hasn't arrived yet, which gives my brain the perfect opportunity to go: 'But what if it got lost?  What if it never gets there?'  I trying tell my brain to be patient but experience has taught me that getting my brain to shut up is about as easy as squeezing blood out of a stone.

Entering this competition made me think about my work from a reader's point of view.  Not for the first time, obviously, but in imagining the Mslexia judges reading my work, it all feels a bit more real than it ever had before.

And it got me to thinking about how I read books, which is certainly different to how I did ten - or even just five - years ago.

Take those ones I read over the summer.  Some books were better than others, naturally, and a couple of them annoyed the heck out of me, but for reasons that I'm not sure would have bothered me if I didn't write as much as I do.

The best of the books I enjoyed were the ones where I got so lost in the story that I forgot I was reading.  I could just sit there, compulsively turning the pages, unable to concentrate on anything else.  There was at least one which I stormed through in less than forty-eight hours, simply because I couldn't not read it.

Others... well, one in particular comes to mind.  I shan't name names, simply because I wouldn't want - however incredibly slim that chance is - for the author to read it, but it did irritate me.  The plot was painfully slow moving, and the characterisation - a bit ropey from the start - became so increasingly ridiculous that it was a mammoth struggle to even finish the damn thing.

But judging by the amazon reviews for this book, I am by far in the minority in my views.  Am I just wrong (entirely possible) or am I so used to reading stories in an editing frame of mind that the smallest mistake leaps out of the page?

It's so difficult to just read as a reader now, I think, because I've learnt to 'read as a writer' and can no longer switch that skill off.  Inconsistencies in plot, an odd clumsy phrase, a repetition of a word three times in a paragraph - it all snatches me out of the narrative in a way it never did before.

Sometimes I miss being able to get easily lost in a story and miss the little bumps along the way.  But I suppose this skill is a valuable one, and will lead me to books which are truly excellent.  In my opinion, obviously.  One man's trash is another man's gold, or something along those lines.

I just hope that one day, my writing will be someone's gold.


  1. Hi Bethany. How have you been? I've entered Mslexia too! (gulp)

    Am going to send you an email if I can find your email address.


  2. Can't find it. Can you email me at downithm AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk