Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing Spoils Reading

My name is Linda Osmundson. While Kerrie takes a break from posting the Wednesday blog, I'm filling in.  

I wear many hats, among them – writer, reader, editor. As a writer and reader, the editor in me often distracts my mind as I read for pleasure.

Take for instance, as a volunteer docent at the Loveland Museum/Gallery, I’m required to read background material which isn’t always research. In the current exhibit, “Portraits of the Prairie,” watercolors depict the Nebraska landscapes which inspired the well-known writer Willa Cather. 

I hesitate to admit if I ever read her books, I’ve forgotten. So, I checked out her first, Alexander’s Bridge. Right away the editor side of me took over. Written in 1912, several things “jumped out”, as we say in our critique group. As a positive, she painted pictures with words. Each description left an indelible image.

However, her use of inactive verbs, “ly” and “ing” words, and her somewhat Victorian language distracted me - words like “jolly” and “gaily.” I reminded myself she wrote in 1912 not 2012. Writing has changed as has language. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the story by the time I finished the rather short book. Now I look forward to the other Cather books on my shelf.

Sometimes story overrides my editor instincts. Most of the time, I read to escape from research. I rely on “no think” or “chick lit” books which propel me out of the moment. Although I find a few “jump outs,” story pace helps me ignore them.

For some reason, editor tendencies disappear with children’s books. Are children’s authors more adept in their use of active language? Perhaps that is true. In children’s books every word must count. Word limits prevent excesses. And people think writing for children is easy!

All that said, do you find as a writer, writing spoils reading for pleasure? Does the editor in you take over? 


Dean K Miller said...

Sometimes it is difficult to not "notice" things that may not fit, but then I also appreciate those moments when the writing grabs my imagination and takes me with it.

But the only thing that spoils really bad writing.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Yeah, I hate seeing grammatical mistakes in books. Mostly though, it isn't writing that spoils reading, it's reading that spoils writing. I can't seem to do both at once.

Linda Osmundson said...

I agree with both of you.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I've trained myself to still read for pleasure, even though the editor creeps in once in a while. The thing I can't do is book reviews. Analyzing and taking notes totally spoils the fun of the book for me.

Anonymous said...

Pat, I joined a book club so want to take some notes. I understand what you mean. I try to wait until I finish the book, then, make comments I can share.

Linda said...

Sorry, Pat, I hit the wrong button. I posted the last comment.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you made this posting. Yes, though I don't consider myself a writer at this point I have been annoyed by the editor within me of late. Most recently while reading Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. A fantastic book but his use of the word "gout" is totally inappropriate and out of place and he uses it a lot! Likewise the books first 8 chapters while vivid and rich in detail could literally be ripped off the book and the story wouldn't suffer a bit. It took me 4 months to push through the obvious chaff (about 100 pgs) and get to the storyline where the book picked up and never let off in the best of ways. The next 265ish pgs went down in an evening, "gout" references aside. I hate to be so critical when reading for pleasure but lately I can't seem to help myself.

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