No, it’s not getting major rewrite requests from your editor, or the need to keep coming up with fresh ideas, or being given a cover you don’t love, or even reading nasty reviews on Amazon. For me, the worst thing about being a writer is that I feel I’ve forgotten how to be a reader.
As a child, I was such a voracious reader that I literally would read the cereal packet if that was what was in front of me. I’d even re-read it,, multiple times – because, you know, there might be some sub-textual layers to it that I hadn’t quite seen the first or second time around.
When I became a writer, things inevitably changed.
Sometimes I needed to read for work, not pleasure. When you’re writing a connected series with other authors, they’re not always your favorites, but you need to read their stories so you can keep the connected storylines going. When you’re judging a contest, you don’t always receive books you love, in your judging packet. Occasionally, you’re actively gritting your teeth and counting the remaining pages. When you’re trying to break into a new romance sub-genre, you tend to read exhaustively within that sub-genre to find out exactly how it works, what the boundaries are, and where you might fit. You can get to the point where you have so many shopaholics, secret babies and serial killers swirling around in your head that you don’t know whether you want to write sassy romantic suspense with a chick lit edge, or sweet small town stories centered around a match-making dog detective, or what.
Sometimes it’s like being at the theater and taking more notice of the lighting cues and set changes than the actual play. Instead of being swept along with the story, I find myself thinking, “How did she do that? Why did she structure the scenes in that way?”
As for my own books, I’m not sure that readers realize how many times a writer might have to read her own manuscript. I tend to read my early chapters over and over, in order to launch myself into the later parts of the story. If the book comes back with rewrite requests, that means at least one more big read-through, and sometimes more. Then there’s the edited manuscript to look at, and the copy-edited version. By the time the book comes back to you for the last time, you can feel physically ill at the thought of having to read it yet again, and every descriptive phrase or line of dialogue that you couldn’t get quite right tends to jump out at you as the ugliest words you’ve ever read.
I’m re-thinking a lot about my life as a writer at the moment. I’ve actually decided to retire. My Cherry Sisters trilogy, out several months ago, was my last work for Special Edition, and the current Riverbend series that I’m writing for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born Books imprint will be my last work for this publisher, also. If you haven’t read the Cherry Sisters or Riverbend, I hope you’ll pop on over to Amazon and grab them, because I’d love to go out on a high note. Here are a couple of handy links to my favorite books in each of those series.
The Sweetest Thing
It Began With A Crush
Meanwhile, I think the thing I’m going to enjoy most about retirement is that I’ll be a reader again. Just a reader. Reading what I want, when I want, tossing a book aside if I don’t love it, getting swept away with the action instead of noticing the lighting and scenery changes.
Readers, does this make any sense to you?
Writers, have you experienced the challenges of being a reader and a writer at the same time?
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