In last week’s responses to my piece about how authors can support each other, L. Lee Lowell wrote, "Do I really need to laugh because that author used one adverb too many?"
That simple question sparked a question of my own: Do authors read each other’s works differently once they’ve been published?
Me? I remember a time when I had no mercy. I reveled in snarky book reviews and grinned wide, my lips curving into a knowing sneer. Hell, I even wrote some myself. That was before my own literary efforts hit the bookstores.
Something happened to me as a reader when I signed my first publishing contract. Was my experience unique? Did other authors have similar reactions?
Change #1 More selective
I’ve noticed now that I only read a few paragraphs of someone’s work before deciding whether to invest more time in the book — or to put it aside. This might be because of my lack of free time, and generally fractured life, but I just want to be grabbed quickly by any book I read.
Apparently, I’m not alone in my new selectivity.
"I really do love to read, but am much more ready now to stop reading a book if I’m not enjoying it. There are too many good ones out there to spend time on one I’m not loving." Judy Clemens
"I don’t know if it’s being an author . . . or knowing more about the craft . . . but I’m a MUCH more discriminating reader now. I will simply put a book down if it hasn’t engaged me by page 20 . . . " Libby Hellmann
"I find I’m much pickier about what I read and notice I ‘edit’ in my head phrases/descriptions I would cut that seem lengthy and unnecessary . . . " Louise Crawford
Change #2 More critical
I have to love the author’s/protagonist’s voice. That’s the key for me. It’s the thing that keeps me reading in spite of botched plots or insane premises.
Other authors have specific requirements as well.
" . . . I do read mysteries, and all books, differently as an author. I read the first 2 chapters then skip to the end 2 chapters. If there is a character at the end who has not been introduced by the end of the 2nd chapter, I don’t bother reading the middle . . . " Jill Amadio
" . . . it is in the dissection and resolution of plot that I have become most critical. Where once I would tolerate what I call ‘magical’ solutions, I have now become intolerant." Frank Wydra (no url)
Change # 3 More analytical
Almost every mystery I read nowadays becomes a textbook of dos and don’ts. My internal analyst won’t shut up — no matter how many times I tie gags around her mouth.
Several of my cohorts struggle with the same annoying tendency.
"I’m constantly analyzing the techniques, the style, the characterization. This makes me a little sad — I can’t get totally swept up in the story the way I used to . . ." Sandra Parshall
"It’s harder to find books that I lose myself in instead of deconstructing . . . " J.T. Ellison
"I find myself mentally rephrasing a phrase, or questioning a word. I wish I could turn it off and just enjoy the story! Reading used to be much more fun. Is there a writer-rehab I can turn to?" Mary Ellen Hughes
Ah, grasshoppers, there is hope. Some authors are able to analyze without losing the joy of reading their peers.
" . . . when a fellow writer is able to give me deft characterization and evocative settings and even sharp social commentary, without dragging the pace to a screeching halt, I pause and admire a colleague who has mastered a demanding craft." Mary Anna Evans
"Now I see the soldering in the joints, so to speak. I can tell when a character is introduced for a specific purpose, and I can spot forecasting. For a while, that ruined my reading. Now, I just take it in stride and admire the effect when it’s well done. I’m always trying to learn from the mistakes and successes of others." Charlaine Harris
Change # 4 Broader reading
In the three years since I signed that first publishing contract, I’ve met many wonderful authors. Because I like them so much, I’ve sought out their books and have read subgenres in crime fiction that I’d never known existed.
Again, I’m not alone.
" . . . I meet friendly, interesting people and I want to read what they’re writing and more often than not, I go ‘Wow. This is REALLY good stuff . . . " Jeff Shelby
" . . . I now count numerous mystery writers among my friends and warm acquaintances, which has led me to read a lot of books that I normally would not have picked up and read . . . And I’ve been pleasantly surprised at times." Robert Weibezahl
Before I ask all of you a question, I’d like to thank the other, hitherto unmentioned authors (and unpublished writers) who took the time to respond to my initial query. They were: Gene DeWeese, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Mike Manno, Chester Campbell, Sandy Jones, Ilene Schneider and Barry Gelt. I appreciate your willingness to share your perspectives with me.
Final Question for people reading this blog today:
1. Has your reading changed due to publication?
2. For those of you who consider yourselves mystery "fans," has your reading changed over the years as you’ve met more authors?
I’m truly curious to know.