Hello there my lovelies! It’s Sunday again, and you know what that means… more words of wisdom(?) from yours truly. Ok, so today’s post may be controversial, but I’m doing it anyway, because I need to know if I’m alone. Today I’m giving you My Two Cents on How Becoming a Writer Ruined Reading (for me).
Before you abandon my post, don’t get me wrong, I still read. I still enjoy reading. But ever since I started writing, reading—simply for the pure pleasure of a story that appeals to me—has become increasingly difficult.
We’ve talked about this before, but for those of you who are new, let me give a condensed backstory. I’ve been seriously pursuing writing—not just as a hobby—since 2020 (like half the world right?). Anyway, I was among the many during Covid times that tried to tap into my untapped writing potential, and I’ve been taking courses, reading about writing, and learning and growing my craft ever since.
Now, I’ve always considered myself a little bit of a grammar snob. I’ve always instantly noticed the wrong “your” or “their” when I’m reading. I could also usually pick up on typos and misspellings. I instantly got hot under the collar when someone used “our” instead of “hour” or forgot the extra “r” in “February” or “Library” when speaking.
But in that vein, since I started writing, I’ve learned grammar rules I’d long since forgotten from school (back in the Stone Age). Like now I know what a comma splice is (even though I still can’t seem to stop creating them 😂). I know how to properly employ an ‘em-dash and a semicolon, and for the most part, I’ve learned how to control my tendency to write run-on sentences (for the most part). The point is, after much research, I usually (and I use that lightly) spot poor punctuation and sentence structure issues when I’m reading. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about when I say writing has ruined reading for me.
What I mean is, before I started writing, I would get annoyed by typos and grammar issues, but it wouldn’t affect my ability to finish a book.
*Side note* I admit, I was a bit ignorant to the existence of self-publishing and how costly and involved that process is, so those small issues probably annoyed me more before I became a writer. Now—a few years in—while I still find typos hard to ignore, they don’t bother me as much.
Now, what I can’t get past, as a reader, are crutch words, overused words, flow issues, and poorly worded sentences. I notice when the character’s name is said way too many times, and when there is far too much exposition or back story. Unnatural dialog, and overused dialog tags are hard to get past. And even though I'm not sure I even fully understood it before I started writing, showing vs telling sticks out like a neon light now. The point is, as a writer, when I read, I always have my editing lenses on. And I can’t seem to turn it off and just read the story for the pure joy of reading anymore. It has, more times than I care to share, made me DNF (did not finish) a book.
I especially find it annoying when a book isn't self-published. I mentioned a second ago that until I started writing I was ignorant of how publishing worked. I think, like most people, I just assumed if a book was available on Amazon it meant some kind of professional publishing company or editor had reviewed it and put it there. I had no idea a person could write a book and release it without it ever passing the eyes of a professional editor. And I understand now why some people choose to self publish without hiring an editor. IT'S FREAKING EXPENSIVE! Though I still think professional editing is necessary, and I find it difficult to overlook when a book isn't well edited, at least I have a deeper understanding of why someone might skip that step. I also understand how small errors make it into books in the marketplace.
But, I find it almost irredeemable, as a querying author, when traditionally published books have errors and editing issues. I know now exactly how flooded the market is. Editors and publishers have SO MANY OPTIONS of books to choose from. To me, there's no excuse to put a book out with issues like the ones I mentioned before. I find dialogue problems, overused words, and flow issues harder to overlook in trad-pub books. And aside from that, they make me angry because I know how hard I've worked to eliminate these issues in my own writing, and I don't have a staff of editors at my disposal. Plus I'm jumping up and down trying to get an agent/publisher to notice my book, and it makes me frustrated when I pay money for books that I know have tens of thousands of dollars worth of edits, and I still find issues.
Don't get me wrong, I understand these issues from all points of view better now. It's kinda like how everyone who’s ever worked in the food or hospitality industry says that everyone should have to do it so they understand how hard it is. Publishing a book is hard AF. It doesn't matter which route you take (traditional or self), it's ridiculously hard.
I can't count the number of times my friends and family have said, “well just get an agent.” As if I could just Google “agents” and click “hire,” and all the work would get done for me.
I'll admit, I knew that wasn't how it was when I decided to write a book, but I also didn't realize how hard it would be when I started. I don't want to get off on a ranty tangent about traditional vs self-publishing, but the point is, it's hard. And like being a waitress did for my view of the hospitality industry, writing has forever skewed my vision of books.
It's why I'm finding it difficult to write the review I've been promising the last couple weeks. The book I keep mentioning is self-published. And it is an ARC (advanced reader copy), which means it's not 100% ready to be published. It will likely undergo several more rounds of edits before it hits the market. But when I read ARC books that I'm supposed to review, I find it hard to straddle the line of what I should mention about the editing issues, especially in self-published books.
To go back to my previous example, I went to a restaurant last night and the entire experience was terrible. I wrote a whole long explanation, but what it boils down to is, the food was terrible, and the service wasn't great. But a lot of the issues we experienced were mostly out of the waiter’s control. So I left the server a tip commensurate with what I would've left had we not gotten half the food we ordered free. Because ultimately, the server (himself) wasn't my main issue. His service suffered because he was tasked with working way more tables than was reasonable for one person. And I found it hard to penalize him for the kitchen staff’s inability to make good food, or the management staff’s inability to adequately staff the restaurant for a busy Saturday night shift.
Similarly, the issues I'm seeing with the aforementioned book aren't 100% the author’s fault. Sure, she wrote them, but these issues should be fixed during editing. I understand, as a writer, how they happen, and how hard it is to get them out of your own work. But since it's self-published, I don't know what her editing experience looks like.
I don't know how these issues will change before the book hits the shelf and how many times the book has already been edited. If it were a traditionally published book, it would be easier to point a finger in my review saying “this book needs a lot of editing work, and the editors aren't doing a great job.” But as a writer, I 100% empathize with the author. Editing is HARD. I'm sure she's doing a lot of it on her own, and if she paid a professional, they likely aren't as well vetted or experienced as those publishing companies can afford. I know how hard it is to determine who the good editors are, and even if you know who they are, finding the money to pay them, and getting time on their schedule can be incredibly difficult.
Ultimately, what it boils down to is, I find it hard to separate my personal issues with the editing from the actual story. So I'm struggling with the review. On one hand, I want to just review the story. But I also don't know how to separate my perceived editing issues from the story. As a writer, I find it incredibly difficult not to edit when I read. So how do I write an honest review giving credit to how I feel about the story, and not weighing too heavily on the editing issues. I can't just read a story because I like it anymore. So reading, in general, just isn't as fun. And reviewing has become increasingly difficult, because I give writers so much credit for simply finishing, and I want to give them appropriate feedback based on their resources.
What does it all boil down to? In essence, becoming a writer has ruined reading for me. And as a fairly new writer, my question for you older/more established authors/editors is–does it ever go away? Am I ever going to be able to read a story just for the story again? Will I ever be able to turn off my editing lense and just enjoy a book? Because since I started writing, I've found a small handful of books I've been able to do it with.
This post is going on far too long, so that's it folks, that's my roundabout way of explaining My Two Cents on how Writing has Ruined Reading (for me). Once you learn how to edit, it's hard to turn it off. What about you? Am I alone?
-Rose Rayne Rivers
Comment below and tell me if you experience this is issue? Tips for turning off the editor while you read?
Next week we have Lashun Williams guest blogging, so don't miss her post: "Thirst For Self: A Writer's Journey to Self-Discovery."
Also, let me know if you have any topics you want me to cover in the upcoming weeks!
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