Reading and Critiquing Published Works

A question for all writers: How do you read? When you pick up a book, do you read it purely for pleasure? Do you find yourself critiquing the story? Do you find yourself learning how to craft your own novel better?

I ask it of writers because I think people who don’t write approach a book differently. At least I do. Don’t get me wrong – I still read for pleasure. But, part of my brain also evaluates plot, character, word choices, and pace. The longer I write, the more I detect subtle symbolism and word selection.

All this also begs the question: Do you, as a writer, think you enjoy the books you read more as a writer, or do you think you’d enjoy them more as a reader? I’ve gone back to reread some of my favorite books now that I write. It’s true that I see them in a different light than before. I like some of them more, others less.

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4 thoughts on “Reading and Critiquing Published Works

  1. I think all writers read a book a bit differently to a person who just reads for pleasure. You end up looking at everything from sentence structure through to character presentation and even how the author utilises things like speech alongside personally editing the tale as you go through.

    As a huge reader (and sometimes writer) I now have a hard time to read purely for pleasure as I really have started to see the architecture underneath the tale, I’ve also generally got an idea where its going and who the villain is and usually guess the ending way before that twist happens.

    I’ve also, unfortunately, started to see how the construction works for the films as well which is a little sad to be honest as a lot of the things I’d enjoyed become fairly transparent.

  2. I agree. I think I notice more of the ‘construction’ aspects than a non-writer would and obvious plot devices tend to annoy me. But I’m also more thankful when I find a writer’s work is so good that I become submerged in it.

    And reading other people’s work also shows me what techniques and styles have been successful.

  3. Agreed, I notice more things now that I’m writing regularly. Things that annoy me, REALLY annoy me. I’ve set aside more books in the last year or so than I ever have before. But like Diane said, it’s a blessing when something is so good that I stop noticing the little things.

    On the flip side, those great books sometimes make me question my abilities as a writer, so I find myself turning to things that aren’t so great just to regain my self-confidence.

  4. There is a vast difference for me in how I experience art forms which I, myself create or have created (writing, theatre, film) and those which I have not pursued beyond rudimentary schoolgirl attempts (visual arts, music).

    I am much more critical of works in the media in which I also create, hyper-aware of both their flaws and their brilliance. Like Gareth, Diane and Julie, I think this makes me a much tougher audience for these works — but when I read a story or see a play or film which I love, it blows me away.

    Contrast this with my experience of music, which I love but have absolutely no talent in creating. I can attend a concert and be moved and energized by the music. I enjoy it, but I cannot give you a detailed breakdown of why. (I have friends who are musicians who have on occasion asked me to critique their concerts, and I have neither the ability to do so meaningfully nor the inclination to try. I like having an art form which I can enjoy without the compulsion to over-analyse it.)

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