A Painful Experience: Reading through a Writer’s Eyes

“It is a travesty that such a horribly written book is now a nation-wide best seller and being turned into a movie!!!” I am sure that many of us have thought this at one point or another. I have a few specific recent books that I have in mind, but my purpose of this post is not to debate, so I will not name them. Rather, my purpose is to discuss how reading others’ writing can be sometimes downright excruciating when you are a writer.

Before I became a writer and learned the craft, I was an oblivious reader and I loved it. I didn’t pay attention to the character development or the plot structure. I simply read a book and if all of these unknown pieces fit together in some sort of a collective understanding that interested me, I was good to go. And it became a “Wow, that was a great book! You have to read it!” kind of book.

Now that I am doing my own writing and overly conscious of plot structure and character development and the 500 other things you need to think about as a writer, I find myself looking for these characteristics in others’ writing. On one hand, it is a great exercise to be able to first know the good characteristics of writing and then to pull out examples in other writing. Those examples help to strengthen your own writing. On the other hand, it simply just takes the fun out of reading for me anymore. It’s hard for me to enjoy reading when I am constantly drawing a plot outline in my head and figuring out if overall, the book was written well. Like I’m a literary critic now or something. 🙂

Oh well. The only thing that consoles me in this perturbing matter is that I do have my favorite writers whom are just geniuses in my eyes and do no literary wrong. So I usually can relax and just enjoy those reads without having my literary police hat on.

If anyone else struggles with this, or would like to share their opinions of good and bad reads out there right now, I would love to hear from you!


19 thoughts on “A Painful Experience: Reading through a Writer’s Eyes

  1. My sentiments. I used to rag about this all the time. I thought the Writer, the craft and the essence was dying. But then I learned, bad writing (that is subsequently turned into a movie) isn’t personal to Writing. It happens in every industry and discipline. I know actors and actresses who HATE the fact that pop singers can get a role before they can, and they’re professionally training. I also realized that my complaining wasn’t do anything at all. So I, like you, pinpointed the good stuff, and continue to seek new good stuff 🙂 and support that. Wheat and tare usually grow up together. Great post!

  2. Thanks for the great reply! You are definitely right, this sort of thing happens in every industry. We just need to seek out and support the good quality writing that we do find!

  3. I agree, partially. I have a thing for endings now. The book can be a masterpiece and beautifully written, but if the ending is abrupt, unpredictable, or just plain stupid, I hate the whole book. I’ve read some books lately that have made me angry!

    • Oh how true. A book can be amazing and if it has a poor ending, the book is instantly ruined for me. I know as a reader, I am disappointed and feel as if my time as just been wasted.

  4. Very timely post and Victoria brings up a great point about the industry itself…The last two days have been spent in a gridlock between my uncensored voice and the challenge of structure. And you are so right, these are things I didn’t concern myself with before, I just read and let the stories provoke thought. Thanks Kimberly, I appreciate you in my virtual world….

    • Thanks so much for the reply! Thanks for listening to me gripe….us writers just need to accept that there is poor writing out there. And it just goes to show you that sometimes the content of writing can override the craft….especially with the public. And yes, it is hard to structure your thoughts sometimes when they just keep flowing…..just go with it, get it all out and then worry about making it fit. 🙂

  5. It’s harder for me to “lose myself” in a book since I started writing. My eye now catches things like mixed POV, passive sentences, excessive descriptions…. What’s often frustrating is wondering why I can see those problems in other works but not always in my own manuscripts!

    • Thanks for the great comment! Yes, it is funny how we have a finer-tuned eye when we look at the writing of others. Maybe it is because we don’t have to get past the emotional element to criticism as we do with our own writing. 🙂

  6. This is a very interesting post. Spend sometime on Amazon looking at reviews of your favorite authors. Read the good and the bad and be prepared for some shocking surprises! As to being overly analytical! Stop it! You aren’t haveing any fun! LOL

  7. I know exactly what you mean. Knowing our craft can be a hindrance to enjoying books and movies, especially the poorly written ones. I don’t know how many times I’ve set a book aside because I was constantly drawn out of it because of poor craftmanship. However, The flip side of all this knowledge is the ablility to take some book or movie we love and tear it apart to discover how we, too, can write something our readers can’t put down.

  8. I hate myself for it, but I tend to be a fairly hard judge. Especially for my own writing. I think anyone learning the craft of the novel can easily see the difference between good and poor writing. Finding authors you can trust is a great way to lay the gavel down and enjoy literature. Also, I find there are times I don’t like a book but like the audiobook and vice versa. Strange.

  9. This was one of my biggest fears, when I decided to start writing. The reason being that I started performing in a band in my early twenties, and ever since I can’t enjoy music, specifically live music, in the same way as I did before. I just wasn’t able to lose myself any more, always being pulled out of the moment by the more technical aspects of the performance. With writing, I’ve found my enjoyment hasn’t as yet been affected, in fact I’ve felt encouraged reading and enjoying a number of books that play havoc with the conventions of writing so many like to push. It’s allowed me to feel more comfortable and less constrained in my writing.

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