P is for Pleasure

…and reading for it.

It used to be that I could get completely lost in a book with no problems. Heaven help my family if it was a series– they might not have clean laundry for a while. There was very little that bothered me about anyone’s writing, at least not enough to distract me from the story.

That’s changed, and I’m sad about it.

These days, I feel like reading is a chore a lot of the time. There are too many books I need to read: things I’ve told friends I’ll read and critique for them, great books in the genres I write in that I’ve never got to, books in other genres that I think will broaden my horizons. And there are the ones I don’t need to read, but want to: the ones I’ve grabbed for free or cheap on the Kindle, ones I picked up because friends raved about them or because I loved the idea and the cover, books by blog buddies. I just feel guilty for not getting to those.

So a lot of my fiction reading feels like homework. I do end up enjoying many of the books on my “need to read” list, but at the back of my mind there’s always the knowledge that there’s something else I need to get to when this one is done.

The other problem is that when you spend a lot of time learning (and yes, often breaking) the “rules” of writing, you notice when other books have flaws.

To be clear: I think writing rules are made to be broken, if we do it intentionally and in full knowledge of why the “rule” exists. But when everything you read from writers, agents, editors, etc. says AVOID INFODUMPS, it’s hard to not be distracted when a bestseller has them in huge chunks at the beginning of chapters– especially when it illustrates why this is actually a pretty good rule.

I’d give examples, but they’d all make me sound like a hypocritical know-it-all nobody, and that’s not how I mean it at all. I make exactly the same mistakes, which is probably why my brain wants me to be alert to them. I am in no position to criticize, which is why I don’t write negative reviews. I respect everyone’s work, and I certainly don’t judge anyone for things I don’t like– personal taste is personal, yo. I like a good rule-breaker, and I never want to be legalistic about anything in writing.** I don’t want to be the snot-nosed know-it-all who criticizes the pros, because I hate that dude.

But I’m being honest about something that I understand is my issue and really has nothing to do with other writers. When these things pop into my head like they would when I’m editing my own work, it’s distracting. It keeps me from becoming immersed in the story.

I HATE THIS. It’s is one of few things I actually dislike about being a writer.

I want to go back to just reading for pleasure, without analyzing why someone’s writing blows me away or leaves me flat. Sure, that’s incredibly valuable for my own work, but for me it sucks the fun out of everything. I wish I could shut that part of my brain off and forget about technique sometimes.

Have any of you struggled with this? Can you fix me? Does reading feel like homework, or do you find yourself unable to turn off your inner editor, even when reading a best-seller?*** Or are you able to lose yourself in any book at any time?

Just tell me this is a phase, ok?

For more A-Z Challenge, mosey this-a-way, pardner.



*Not that this was the only reason I didn’t love it, but it was one distraction.

**Well… nothing style-related. I will judge the heck out of straight-up unreadable writing if it’s published. I can’t help that.

***SERIOUSLY, inner editor. Get your head out of your butt and shut up.


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with six cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. www.katesparkes.com www.tanithfrost.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

9 responses to “P is for Pleasure

  • Ricarda

    So, so true T_T

    But I find it easier each time to shut my inner editor up until I finished a book I really don’t want to spoil for myself by looking at everything that’s wrong with it. Maybe it’s some kind of anti-editor, that little shoulder angel that always tells you what makes the whole book *right*? I don’t know, but I’ll keep training the little guy, if only to never run out of good stuff to read. It’d be a shame if I had to find a new hobby that has got nothing to do with writing whatsoever. I’m really not fond of sports…
    And no matter what, as long as I keep looking, I’m guaranteed to find an awesome book sooner or later that’ll make me forget to eat, sleep and what day of the week it is. Those books are out there, even if it’s a lot of work to find them. If all else fails, bad romance novels! I *know* those are hilariously awful, but that’s what makes them good, so the inner editor can’t complain 😀

  • Dave

    I find it’s not so bad these days. There are certainly books that I read where I’m slapped in the face with all its problems. I put those down or throw them away. I’m a little pickier now, that’s true. But I tell you, it does help me truly appreciate those well-written, expertly crafted books.

  • justanotherfirstyear

    I find it so difficult to find time to read with all my uni work, and then when I do read, I usually just end up feeling like I should be writing instead. Usually I’m ok at turning off my inner editor if it’s a story I really enjoy, but if it’s going slow or I’m just not connecting with it, then I can often become hyper-critical. So you’re not alone!

  • rosedandrea

    It’s not just me?! Yay!
    *Ahem* Sorry. For a little while there I was wondering what was wrong with me. Usually I can turn it off if it’s a really good story. Usually. Then there are other books where things are dragging along and I have time to notice that it’s the wrong version of there/their/they’re. Ugh. Then the editor is off on a tangent and I have to go back there and throw it in the closet again.
    Seriously, though, is it normal to have a small part of yourself tied up in a closet at the back of your mind?

  • rosedandrea

    By the way, I’m reblogging this. I identify with it way too much not to share. 😀

  • rosedandrea

    Reblogged this on Rose's Road and commented:
    So, I’m not alone with the affliction of having an overzealous inner editor pointing out all the tiny (and not so tiny) flaws in the books I read. My case is not quite as bad as Kate’s, but it’s kinda close.

  • melissajanda

    Yes! My reading speed has slowed dramatically thanks to that incessant internal editor. She’s always analyzing what didn’t work, pointing out errors, taking notes, etc. Occasionally I read a book that’s so good she doesn’t have much negative criticism. And I love it when I come across an author who breaks the rules and it works!

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