Sunday, August 16, 2015

Monday Flashback: Writing Spoils Reading

by Rich

We end our series of Monday flashbacks with a column from author Linda Osmundson, who wrote several posts for this site back at the beginning of 2012. In this installment Linda discusses the effects of writing on reading anything else. My guess is there's a bit of mental editing.

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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? 

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