I used to be an avid reader. I loved books. I loved reading. I experienced so much joy from going on the journey with the characters, laughing and crying with them, and wondering how it would all end. Since I’ve become a writer, my relationship with books has changed. I probably read more books now than I’ve done since childhood when I read every night before sleep, but I now read them in a very different way.
Yesterday afternoon, I met with two of my lovely local writing friends and fellow Write Romantics, Alys and Sharon. We meet up every few months for lunch (with cake) and a good old catch-up. We discussed what we were reading at the moment and this very subject cropped up. They both feel the same and I’ll admit it was quite a relief to discover that I wasn’t the only one whose relationship with books has changed.
So what exactly has changed? For me, I think it’s that I now read as though I’m critiquing a book instead of for the sheer joy of reading. I notice and analyse dialogue, characterisation, character arcs, and plot development. I spot broken rules and they jolt me out of the story, e.g. when a writer repeatedly tells rather than shows or when they head hop. I find inconsistencies and plot holes. Yet I’d never have done this before I became a writer. Is this because I’ve read magazine articles, books, blogs etc. to study my craft and am now aware that these ‘rules’ exist and I therefore notice when they’ve been breached? Is it because I’ve been through the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme (NWS) and have learned from having my own mistakes around this flagged up in the critiques? I really wish I could go back to just reading for the sheer joy of it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still loads of books that I read which I absolutely love and which don’t have plot holes, inconsistencies, head hopping, telling and so on within their pages. But even then I’m still analysing them: Why are they page-turners? Why did I warm to the heroine? Why did that part of the story make me cry, and why did another part make me laugh? How did the twist take me by surprise? How was it all wrapped up in the end in a way that didn’t feel rushed? This analysis of the books I love is surely a good thing because understanding why I love a book should help me develop my own writing. But I find myself wondering if there are some books I’d have loved before becoming a writer that I now over analyse, which is what takes away the joy of reading for reading’s sake.
Does anyone else find this? How do you get the joy back? I’d love to know because I want to be in love with reading again instead of seeing reading as something I do as a writer. Help! I’m really hoping it’s just a phase and will pass soon. Pretty please.