The more I've learned about writing, the more my reading has changed. I used to pick up a novel, which was my favorite type of book to read, and devoured it from cover to cover in one to three days. I have read many fascinating fictions that have taken me to faraway places and on amazing adventures. I felt the agony of the characters, cried and laughed with them, and smiled as they received their happily ever after. Reading fiction helped any day become more exciting. When everything went wrong for my main character, I couldn’t wait even one day to see how it would all work out. Instead, I kept my nose in the book and read to the end, even if it meant I had to lose a couple of hours of sleep.
My reading habits had to change if I wanted to develop as a writer since I needed to read many books and articles about writing and editing. So now it can take me a week or longer to finish a novel. It amazes me sometimes that I will stop reading at the most exciting point and then wait hours or even an entire day or two before I continue to read the next chapter. Reading like this was unheard of before, but my desire to improve my writing skills is strong enough that I gladly give up some reading pleasure.
As far as nonfiction Christian books (This doesn't include the Bible, which gets top priority.), they also take longer to read since I must make time for writing, editing, marketing, networking with other authors, and helping other writers. Writing a book takes so much more work than simply typing a story. You need to research, brainstorm ideas, decide on the personality of characters, choose who your main character will be, decide on a setting and period, and create an outline (or if you’re a pantser like me, create a sort of outline). Then you need to be consistent and write every day. Once the book is written, passed through a critique group, sent to beta readers, sent to an editor, etc., and finally published, the task of a cover reveal begins, ongoing book promotion, marketing plan, accounting, book signings, and speaking engagements. A writer must have a website, maintain a blog to build an email list, and send out newsletters to readers on a regular basis. With all these tasks that an author must accomplish, reading a book from cover to cover takes a lot longer than it used to.
Another thing that has changed since I became an author is that I evaluate every book I read. I don’t plan to do this when I pick up a book. It’s not my intent to critique it, but that’s exactly what happens. If a sentence isn’t written well, it pops off the page. When there’s a typo, I see it. When an author uses the same word repeatedly, I notice. If an author’s writing ability or editing proficiency is insufficient, I feel no obligation to continue reading. Time is too precious to waste on poorly published books, especially since even fictions are learning tools for writers, and I want to learn from the best.
I learn how to improve my writing when I read books by authors who have written well. When a sentence or phrase is so eloquent, descriptive, or emotive that it causes me to catch my breath in awe, I will re-read it for the sheer pleasure of such beautiful writing. When an author triumphs in creating a beautiful picture in my mind that stirs deep emotion with her well-chosen words, I savor the moment and sigh for sheer pleasure. Only when a story is completely captivating, the writing superb, and each chapter ends with a sort of cliffhanger does the novel have the power to cause me to set every other obligation aside for a day so I can finish reading to the end. I will admit that such books are rare. I’ll have to let you know when I come across a piece of literature like the one I just described. But there is always the chance your taste in reading material is different than mine, and you won’t enjoy the book nearly as much as I enjoyed it.
Please don’t misunderstand. There are so many good books out there even if they aren't page-turners or perfectly captivating in every way. They are still worth reading. But every now and then, you come across writers who have a knack for plopping their readers into a comfortable chair and keeping them there until they reach the last page. I want to become that kind of writer. It’s a goal I’d love to attain. So I’ll keep reading about writing and practice putting words on paper and reading books by brilliant authors, which means I will no longer read the way I used to read.
Another thing that has changed about reading books since I’ve become an author is that I notice how a book is put together from cover to cover. I consciously or subconsciously decide if I like the cover. I look at what the author chose to include in the front and back matter. How are the chapters set up? What is her opening sentence? How did the author choose to end her novel? Does she advertise her other books inside this one? I barely picked up on these things before I published a book. But now I can’t help but see every detail.
Every book I read is research for when I publish my next book. I pick up new ideas from what I see. Many thoughts run through my mind. Should I consider doing this in my writing project? Why did the author choose to mention this? That’s an interesting thing to include. I think my readers would enjoy that. One creative thought after another runs through an author's brain. Every book a writer reads can spark ideas for a possible future book.
My reading style has indeed changed, but a new world has opened since I fully embraced my writing career. I have had the privilege of meeting many authors and have listened to them explain their writing process in great detail. Like a mechanic who looks inside a motor to see how it works, I have discover how well-known authors develop their stories to make them into reading material that captivates the reader's attention for hours and days. My reading style may have changed, but nothing can rob me of the joy of opening a book and exploring its content from cover to cover as it takes me on an adventure. The trip may last longer than it used to, but I still love reading.
January 10, 2023
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