i used to read books to escape, to be entertained, to be enlightened. i used to read books with abandon.
and i still do... all except for that "with abandon" part.
ever since i got serious about writing a few years ago and dove into all the online forums and well-meaning blogs loaded with advice for writers, i've developed something of a reader's block. i can barely read a book now without putting on my critical writer's hat.
- this story starts with the MC waking up from a dream? and now she's looking in a mirror to describe what she looks like?? how did this get past the editor?!
- an entire chapter of info-dumping with no dialog? in a YA book?? how did this even get an agent?!
- why does the character "whimper" instead of just "say?" who approved all these fancy dialog tags?? and this sold for six figures?!
- stereotyped high school characters! telling instead of showing! GAH, i can't even remember what this book is about, i'm so busy critiquing it!!
i went through all of those exact thoughts with a book i just finished, in fact. i kept putting it down after a chapter or so, too irritated with the writing to notice the story.
then something happened.
Arizona suffered a tragedy last weekend - a tragedy that, as a journalist, i have to live and breathe every hour i'm at work (and they are long hours this week) - a tragedy that hit me emotionally, so i cannot turn it off when i get home. sad angry thoughts stayed with me while doing chores, while surfing the web, while running errands. i needed to escape these thoughts.
so i picked up that book with all the so-called mistakes and allegedly bad writing... and i got lost.
i let myself get completely swept away in the pure fantasy of the story. i stopped seeing the words and starting seeing only the images in my head. i forgot to analyze the book and remembered how to enjoy it.
i finished the read in a few hours and am thinking of starting the next book in the series... because now i'm a fan - and because now i know how to take off my writer's hat and just escape into a story.
i'm grateful for the lesson.
sometimes we get so caught up in the "rules" that we forget the most important rule of all: just tell a damn good story.