Reading other people's work

May 28, 2019
Have anyone had issues with reading other writer's fiction work?

I am not talking about beta reading or critiquing work but published novels.

I know that you are told as a writer that you should read in order to improve your own writing but I have been struggling to read any fiction for a good while. In the past I tend not to read novels when I am writing something new until I have the 1st or 2nd draft done. Then I can sink into a good book. But nowadays I can't even do that.

I am suppose to be reviewing a friend published novel - I am sure it is going to be good but I just can't pick it up. it probably does not help that she got it published by a publisher who rejected mine (said it was not 'uplifting enough'.) but it is not just with this one - other writing I can read - bios, factual.

Has anyone else gone through this?
Apr 5, 2019
I could probably look at someone else's work in a diagnostic fashion.

But I've given up trying to read books (even audiobooks). I can no longer immerse myself in the story, and always end up picking things apart in my head.
Aug 10, 2013
I find pros and cons with reading or listening to other's work. Part of me looks for good turns-of-phrases, metaphors, etc. The other part critiques the book, especially long-winded descriptions.
Jun 14, 2014
You raise and interesting question, Shamrock. I have been in a reading group for many years. It is a well-educated, mixed group of people (A Bishop, a couple of psychologists, a college literature professor, a few lawyers, and an artist).

We typically read well-recommended modern novels, although we have also dipped into many classics. We always have lively discussions, but I have the same reactions that HK1, Jeff and carolinamtne mention. I can immerse myself in the stories if the writing is good, but I definitely hit a roadblock when it isn't. And I am typically the one who talks about the quality of the writing (or lack of it) in the books.

I do love to see the language used well and cleverly, but I really hate sentence fragments and they seem to be everywhere in modern prose.

All that being said, a truly well-written book will draw me in every time.
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Jun 14, 2014
I find that "internal critic" to be one of the best indicators of truly good fiction. If the story and the writing are really good to excellent, my internal critic stays quiet, and I enjoy the read.
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May 24, 2017
"Spoiled for reading." Once we know what goes on behind the scenes, we never find the stage lights so honouring.
@Shamrock, I understand the disappointment of not finding good books. That's one reason I write! I want to read something written the way I want it written. We are also in a craft that has no final exam, no certificate that says, "you know everything you need to know."
There are two things we can do.
1. Apply heap loads of grace. I know what that author is going through or did go through to complete that manuscript. I rejoice that they found a publisher because it means there are still publishers out there. If I get a rejection, it is only seldomly a reflection on my manuscript. "Not inspiring enough" means "edgy, deep, intense, and not what they were looking for! Keep up the belief that there are people looking for your story! I know what that author has to do to publish (a very different skill set from writing). I can sympathize and encourage.
2. Put that inner editor to work for you and the other writer. a) give honest, constructive feedback. b) consider how well I am accomplishing in my own work the thing that my inner editor flagged. Be in community with all the authors you read. The good ones need to know that you really appreciate their work. The struggling ones need you to come alongside and bolster in confidence and craft. Point out resources. Invite them to the party/conference/group whatever. Enjoy the detective-like attitude of hunting for the good and the bad. If we're going to be like this (talented at seeing behind the scenes) then let's be the best we can at it!

Other writers are not our competition. We are all in this together. There is enormous joy in community!
Jan 5, 2021
Yes, Shamrock. You're not alone. I allude to what HK1 said. It's really hard to drop the editing cap. When I'm writing or editing my novels I can't read other's. Since I've taken a break, it's been great to get back to being a reader.

I don't doubt the cycle will repeat itself when I come off my break, so I endeavor to read as much as I can now.
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