Thursday, May 6, 2010

Writing is ruining my Reading

Too much knowledge can be a bad thing.

When I started college, I was in Television/Radio, which means that I know all those things that go on behind the camera and off-set. It ruined the way I watched TV.

When I got my culinary degree, I had to be Food Safety Certified. The way they train you is by grossing you out with all kinds of heinous videos showing chefs spitting in food, or cooking without handwashing after using the bathroom, or -- the worst -- waiters pi&&ing in the soup. It ruined the way I ate in restaurants.

As a food scientist, I know in great detail what that list of ingredients on the side of a package means. It ruined the way I shopped and prepared dinner for my family.

And now that I have written and revised and revised and betad and revised and revised, I know all those little quirks and grammar don'ts and pitfalls of writing. And it is ruining the way I read.

I recently finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I thought the story was intriguing, but as I read, I was bothered by the passive voice, the backstory dumps, the telling not showing. Some of this, I will chalk up to it being a translation and I think there is only some much leeway the translator has. But at one point, I caught myself thinking "Enough with the sandwiches!" because there were probably about 30 references to the MC eating sandwiches (one of my betas said something similar about my MC drinking too much tea).

For the past six months, I have had a real problem reading books without being extremely critical of the writing. In the past three months, I have given up on about six books, which is way out of the ordinary for me. I don't know if it just the books I have chosen recently or if it is because I am hyper-sensitive.

Any thoughts on this? Are you a more critical reader if you are revising or writing?

And on a side (and very late) note, KarenG, I have a $5 Starbucks gift card for you! If you send your address to the email  in my profile, I'll mail it to you. Thanks to you and to the others who indulged me and commented on my writing analogies.


  1. I am much more critical when I read, or maybe I just know what it is that isn't working. Perhaps in the past I would just not like one book as much as another without identifying the flaws. But there is an upside since I really appreciate a finely crafted work now.

  2. I feel you. I've had a similar problem in the past. I think the best thing to do is to try to turn that part of the brain off while reading and just let the words flow in. Focus on what the author does well.

  3. Very good point here. When the tricks are known, the magic is gone! I also find myself quite critical of books I read now, but I'm also more appreciative of the work that goes into creating them.

  4. A very special blog. Congratulations!
    Daniel D. Peaceman, writer and editor of CHMagazine

  5. All very true. I'm sure I'll get over this when I'm not quite so deep in revising. Thanks for the comments!

  6. Can definitely relate. Sometimes I have to tell my brain to just shut up and read. :)

  7. This is a great post and I am really starting to relate. At first I couldn't understand how writers were doing this but now that I'm in the revising stage while reading a book I'm noticing more things I'm not a fan of, in return it helps me with my writing but also gives me the downfall of not enjoying the book as much as I normally would.