I signed up for the local library’s Extreme Book Nerd Challenge to read at least 50 books, which fall into various categories chosen by the librarians, by the end of the year. But as a writer, I can’t seem to separate reading for pure enjoyment from reading like a writer. When you are reading like a writer, you are studying all aspects of the book to help hone your own craft. For instance, you notice things such as the author’s style and voice, story structure, word choices, dialogue choices, etc. and you use that information to bolster your own writing skills.
Does that mean I can’t enjoy reading for fun? No…it just means I’m always learning while having fun reading. So far, I’ve read five books for the challenge: two romances, one memoir, one paranormal fantasy, and one literary fiction. Here is my experience reading like a writer so far:
- I Can’t Stay Focused! Editing and proofreading matter. I became very aware of my own mistakes in my first novel and released it in a second edition with mistakes corrected. As a writer, I don’t want my mistakes to distract my readers. As a reader, I don’t want mistakes to distract me from the story. But in three of the books I’ve read for the challenge so far, I’m sorry to say this was the case.
- Where Am I? I have heard in many writing workshops that it’s important to map out a timeline of events for your story to orient the reader. At the very least, make sure the timeline is believable. Unfortunately, one of the books I read jumped around in time so much, I wasn’t sure what was happening when. I also felt the timeline started way before it needed to, giving extraneous information that ultimately was not relevant to the story.
- Be A Genuine Original. One of the books I read for the challenge reminded me of another book by a different author. It’s hard to have an original idea these days, but that doesn’t mean your idea isn’t valid. Just be sure to tell your story in a unique way. I caught some phrases were almost identical between the two books. It’s best to avoid this for, besides the obvious copyright reasons, you don’t necessarily want your book compared to another. Let it stand on it’s own. You have a distinct perspective that needs to be told.
- Not So Fast! A good read is often a fast read, but a fast read isn’t always a good read. Make sure you read and write for quality, not quantity. This might seem counter-intuitive for a book challenge where you basically need to read one book a week. But, for me, I’d rather be both entertained and taught by quality reads.
If you want more interesting information on how reading like a writer can help you in any endeavor, check out the article “Neuroscience explains the astonishing benefits of reading books like a writer—even if you don’t plan on becoming one.”