Monday, April 18, 2011

Reading and a Writer's Speed Bumps

I was recently talking with friends about books, and they expressed their love and excitement for the book turned movie, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Now I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite book, and I don’t plan on seeing the movie. But this discussion opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve become a critical reader since I’ve been writing. The writer in me acts like a speed bump when I read—the pure enjoyment of books is replaced with a writer’s critique.

While crafting my own works, finding flaws, pulling my hair and crying that I can’t get it right, I wind up groaning when I read a published author doing what I’m trying to avoid. It goes to show that story trumps great writing, but it also goes to show that we ALL have our own tastes. If your story appeals to the majority, then you will be a great success as an author.

One of my favorite books is The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, which was also made into a movie but I don’t know the release date. You can read a review I wrote of The Book Thief on Helium. I love Mr. Zusak’s writing—his words—along with the fact that this book shows the hardships Germans went through during the Third Reich. It’s narrated by Death and one thing it says is, “I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases…or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.” When a writer can express something so beautiful and horrific at the same time they get high kudos from me.

Writers are told to show not tell—bring the reader into the story instead of telling them about it. This is one of my biggest weaknesses. Don’t introduce things into a story that doesn’t move the story along. Create flawed characters, not unrealistic ones readers can’t connect to. These are just a few things I’ve learned in my quest to become a better writer. So when I read books, my writer’s critique comes out, leaving me disappointed in books that might veer away from the writing rules—rules that are there to help a story thrive.

I miss the days where I could just sit and read a story without my inner red pen coming out, but  I have to admit it helps me in my own writing endeavors.

P.S. I believe reading The Book Thief, and living in Germany the past five months, gave me a huge appreciation and understanding of history, today’s Germany and my country.

What’s one of your favorite books?


  1. I had NO idea they were making The Book Thief into a movie. (You know my thoughts on how beautifully sad I felt it was!) I'll bet your Germany experienced enhanced your appreciation, for sure.

    And I know exactly what you mean about lamenting the good ol' days of reading books with pre-writer's-eyes. *Sigh* I can't decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but one thing is for sure, I can't *not* be picky anymore. I used to feel obligated to finish what I started reading, but lately I am able to close a book part way through if it's not grabbing me. I don't want to waste my time if I know there's more out there I could be enjoying. If anything, it heightens my desire to stand out from the crowded slush pile in my own efforts.

    Favorite book? Hmm... Well Book Thief is up there... and I also really liked The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron. I'm currently reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and it seems like one that will become a favorite.


    P.S. Loved your book review, and I'm glad you mentioned your surprise at the targeted age. I agree—you'd miss out on so much if you read it when you're too young. And not many people go back and reread things they've read in their youth.

  2. LOL! Okay, Barb, you are my long lost sister. I was the same way when it came to reading. I would suffer through the entire book because I felt I owed it to the author to finish. Now, even though I BUY ALL my books, I'll put it aside and give to someone else.

    When it comes to reading, you and I have similar tastes, not all the time, but most. I don't take some friend's suggestions on books because I don't have the same reading tastes as they do.

    I bought a Kate Morton book, The House at Riverton, and it's in a bag to give away. I didn't finish it. Then again, I could NOT get into Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Maybe it's me, but I had no idea what a carer was nor do I recall it being explained. The writer's writing did not draw me in at all.

    Thanks so much for your comments on my review of The Book Thief. And you're right, few people reread books from their younger years.

  3. Uhmmm *cough* did I read that right—you BUY ALL of your books? Wow!

    Re: Kate Morton...I hope Forgotten Garden doesn't disappoint. It's not my normal type of book, but I keep seeing it in writer's circles as an example of a great plot, and since I'm struggling with that aspect of my WIP, I thought I'd give it a try. I couldn't get into Never Let Me Go, either. Cheers, LL Sistah!

  4. You read that right. I know, my mom goes to the library to get her books.

    I think it’s great you got a book because you’re struggling with that aspect of your WIP. It’s nice to know I’m not alone when it comes to reading books when struggling with works. And I’m also glad to know I wasn’t the only one who didn’t care for Never Let Me Go. :D

    Right back atcha sistah!

  5. "It goes to show that story trumps great writing,.."

    my edit to that sentence would be that 'great story telling trumps great writing.'




  6. cray, thanks for the correction. You're right, great story telling trumps great writing. ;) Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Don't mind the battery - he's on an editing kick today. :/
    Not only has writing ruined a lot of books for ourselves - I can't tell you the last show I watched that I couldn't guess the plot or ending very early on. *sigh*
    Nice post :)

  8. AB, I can vouch for you that you know your movies. Definitely. Thanks for stopping by.