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Book-Talk Monday: Do You Read Differently?

Monday, May 14, 2012

I’m in the midst of judging the second round of the ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished writers. Whenever I open up one of the entries, I have to remember that I’m not reading it as a professional editor, but as a mentor, as a critiquer. It may not seem like there would be a big difference, but for me there is. As an editor, I’m very cut-and-dry with my comments—terse almost. I don’t sugarcoat my suggestions for changes; I just point out what needs to be changed and why—and that’s only if I don’t just go ahead and make the change myself. I can’t do that when I’m critiquing. I have to not only look at the structure/technical aspects of the writing and story, but I have to think about the person behind the writing. I know that we all say that writing contests are impersonal, not focused on the writer but on the writing, which is why they’re anonymous. That’s partially true. I’m not trying to figure out who the writer of a submission is. What I mean by saying that I think about the person behind the writing is that as I’m reading, I’m constantly thinking of what guidance that writer needs from me, what experience I have that I learned from others that I can pass on to this person so that they can follow their dream and calling as I did.

So this got me thinking about how the fact that I’ve now started sharing brief “reviews” of the books I read on Pinterest has changed the way I think about the books, especially as I get toward the end of them.

Before, when I finished a book, I didn’t really consciously sit down and think of what I thought about it. I either liked it or I didn’t. If I ended up in a conversation with someone else who’d read the same book, I would then put my thoughts and feelings into words—words shaped by the feelings/reactions of the other person: warmer in praise if we both liked it, more subdued if we are of opposite opinions.

I’ve written on the blog before about the in-depth critical reading process I had to do in graduate school and how, between that and making my living as an editor for almost six years, I stopped reading almost completely for most of that time. It’s only been since last year that I was able to truly start enjoy reading for pleasure again.

But when I think about trying to write real reviews of books for Amazon or wherever, it throws me right back into that “reading means working” mindset that made me quit doing it for so many years. And I realized it’s because I read differently if I know I have to write an analysis/review of what I’ve read afterward. That’s why I’ll keep up with the brief liked-it/didn’t-like-it blurbs on Pinterest (which has a 500-character limit now) and not stress myself out thinking about writing “real” reviews.

Do you read differently when you’re reading something to review than you do if you’re just reading for pleasure?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. chrissiedesign permalink
    Monday, May 14, 2012 12:14 am

    Actually, not yet. Part of the reason I’m on deviantArt.com is to learn from others. I find a ton of people over there who are also seeking critiques, and we’ve begun to balance each other. I’ve gotten to where every piece I read I think about the person behind it, what I know of them, if it was an attempt at something new, or if this was something they should really be good at by now. And I’ve begun critiquing prose pieces I was very certain on.

    I actually enjoy reading to critique as it helps me also. I learn better that way. I actually get to where I see mistakes I commonly make but didn’t think about until I read it in someone else’s attempt.

    However, I’m also sure all that will change in a few months *giggle*. I’ve only been at it a few weeks now. 🙂

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    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Monday, May 14, 2012 12:15 am

      I should probably mention that this is bleeding over into anything I set eyes to, and that I spend so much time on dA that I don’t read much right now outside of it (my schedules too hectic to nail down a reading time right now). It’s even coming out in my bible study LOL!

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  2. Monday, May 14, 2012 6:18 pm

    When I’m reading an ARC or other book for review, I’m reading on my Kindle and taking notes as I go through to make writing the review easier.

    It’s then nice to get to a book that’s not on my to-review list, and just be able to read it.

    But I’m about to start a couple of editing assignments, which means I will have to get a lot more detail-minded. And I have noticed I’m a lot more nit-picky about the books I read for review or recreation immediately after a proofread or edit – I’m more likely to pick up factual errors or writing issues, because that is where my brain is.

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  3. Monday, May 21, 2012 2:34 am

    As I’ve gotten further along in my writing knowledge, I developed a tendency to really dislike books I read for pleasure if they throw me out of the story. At all. It’s almost like I’m hypercritical of them. A couple of times, I’ve given ratings based on my emotional experience at the end of the book and then changed them after thinking more about the story. (5 They got together and it was wonderful….er, probably could have done without chapters 4-6, but other than that…well, there was more I really didn’t like about it…)

    I have been thinking about your comments about unpublished authors giving lower scores in contests. I wonder if this is true for book reviews as well.

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