Friday, November 18, 2011

A Writer Reads

As I recover from my back surgery (Doing well--thanks for asking), I've had to take frequent breaks from sitting at the computer. These times, spent lying with ice on my back, have resulted in my re-visiting some of the books I've enjoyed reading in the past.

When we moved three years ago, I got rid of a lot of books, keeping only the ones I thought I'd enjoy reading again. Now I've had the opportunity to do just that, and it's been something of a mixed blessing for me.

I still recall the editor who told me to read Peace Like A River. That was what good Christian fiction was like. I read it, and although I've forgotten a number of the plot points, I still recall my reaction when I finished it: I'll never be able to write this well.

I haven't reached the level of Leif Enger, and realize I never will. I also haven't learned to write like John Grisham, Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, Lawrence Block, Michael Connolly, James Scott Bell or Michael Palmer. But I enjoy reading their work, and have to admit that from each one of them I learn a little something about catching the reader's attention, drawing them into the plot, making them turn the pages. Alton Gansky told me years ago that, once you start writing, you'll never read the same way again. I've found that true, but it hasn't taken away from my enjoyment.

Writers, do you think you read differently than you did before you dived into the profession? And readers, what traits of your favorite writers do you admire?


Ramona Richards said...

First, I LOVE Peace Like a River. My agent suggested I read it, and I'll always be grateful I took her advice.

I've been writing forever, but when I first started pursuing it as a career, I wanted to write "like" my favorites. Took me awhile to learn to write "like me." But I still read with a mind that enjoys and examines at the same time. For instance, "love that passage; what makes it work? And how can I apply that to my writing?"

I think this influences me as an editor, too. I don't want to acquire someone who "writes like Robert Crais." I want that unique voice "who's better than Robert Crais." :)

Carol J. Garvin said...

So glad to hear you're recuperating well from your surgery, Richard. I won't say "enjoy the enforced down time," because I imagine you'd rather be pain free and able to pursue your usual activities, but take it easy and enjoy the reading opportunity until you're fully recovered.

I do read differently now. Like Ramona, I find myself watching for how an author achieves certain effects... the opening hook, a sympathetic character, scene transitions, etc. I haven't read PEACE LIKE A RIVER. Obviously my reading diet is lacking a key ingredient so I'm going to search out a copy a.s.a.p. :)

Katie Axelson said...

I'll be honest, I tend to be more critical when I read as a writer. "Why would she do that? That was super predictable! This character has no redeeming qualities." At some point I have to turn the writer off and just enjoy the book. Although, there are times when I stop and go, "Wow! I could never have done that!"

<>< Katie

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks to each of you for your comments. It's nice to know that I'm not the only writer who hears that little voice in his head while reading.