Prior to this whole publication thing and before my life changed due a visit from the editing fairies, I read books differently. Once upon a time, you could say I read for entertainment – for pleasure, even. But a lot of that changed after that first traumatizing round of editing that my book went through.
Now, I read critically. I dissect narratives and word choices and examine prose like a fiend. I’m a spy now, infiltrating this secret world of successful authors and gathering intel. Characters are no longer just antagonists or protagonist – their developments are analyzed, notes are taken and I judge relentlessly. More often than not I’m in awe of a style, of the way an author can weave characters and stories seamlessly and I cringe mentally because I doubt I’ll ever be that good. Even when the writing itself doesn’t exactly impress me, I find myself admiring aspects of authors’ individuality or unique proses. I’m still captivated.
It almost feels like I had been browsing through my reads before. The style barely noticed as I devoured book after book, hungry for the endings and enthralled by stories and not words.
Writing added a world of introspection to my reading that I never knew I was missing out on. It’s altered my perspective and made me more aware and receptive to books that I otherwise hadn’t paid much attention to before. Favourite reads have become lessons. Books I couldn’t get into before are now things I re-visit with the eyes of a student. The world of reading and literature is now a never-ending English101 class.
Honing my own skills means learning from the greats. It means thinking critically and reading even more so. It’s actively absorbing paragraph, page and chapter structure while simultaneously still allowing the stories to move me emotionally. Staying attuned to the feelings and responses a book can evoke from me not only keeps me passionate about reading, but also reminds me what ‘good’ writing is. Not just the writing that’s grammatically correct or well structured, but the kind that leaves a reader feeling moved; the kind that makes readers into bibliophiles.
If there’s any one piece of advice I’d pass onto fellow writers, it’s to never stop reading. It’s to read with the same passion that first influenced you to take up a pen yourself, but to keep yourself attuned to the subtle lessons offered in the words of other author’s. There’s a world of wisdom and experience there and it’s right in arms reach – sitting right there, on your own bookshelves.