Friday, August 10, 2012

Things Have Changed

I've been writing seriously for almost four years now and I started thinking about how much I've changed since I started especially regarding my reading habits.

1. Word of mouth is king
I used to buy whatever book sounded good to me in the bookstore at the time. Word of mouth had some influence, but not very much. I might pick up a book if I was hearing a ton about it and was curious to see what the fuss was about. Even though my friends were also readers, we didn't really talk about books all that much.

Now, however, that I'm connected to hundreds of readers and writers, word of mouth has a huge effect on what I read. Good things can cause me to add a book to my TBR list or raise it higher on the stack. Bad things can cause me to lower a book on my to-buy list or even remove it completely. Of course, there are situations where I won't love a book that's getting rave reviews or times when I will love a book that I'm hearing less-than-favorable things about. I've learned through experience how to factor word of mouth into my decisions, who has tastes similar to mine, and exactly how much stock I should put in reviews if a book interests me otherwise.

2. Don't excuse a book for bad writing because it has a great story
This change has caused me to lose a lot of love for books that I used to adore (and appreciate some books even more that I loved before I was a writer). Now that I know how to look at writing and pick out things that are good and things that are bad, I do it a lot with published books. I can turn my inner editor down, but never completely off. I'd say this is both a good and a bad change. It's good because I have a whole new appreciation for great writers, but bad because I can't just enjoy a book for its story anymore.

3. No longer have to read every book in a series 
There was a time when, if I started a series, I had to finish it. It didn't matter how long it took me, I would finish that series. That habit is still around to a point, but I no longer find it impossible to drop a series if it's dragging on forever or if I'm just not interested in going on to the sequels. It also gives me a lot more restraint with waiting for sequels.

This is good because with the recent glut of trilogies there are times when I have to wait months after a sequel's release because I can't afford to buy the next one. I have a multiple second books on my shelves that I haven't read yet, even though the third book is already out (The Demon's Covenant being one of them and it's gotten so bad that I've decided to wait until I buy Surrender and just read the entire trilogy together). This is bad because I know that I have restraint so I'm not as selective about the trilogies that I read as I probably should be.

4. No longer force myself to finish a book that I don't like reading 
It used to be that if I didn't like a book and it was taking me forever to read it, I would push through anyway because I wanted to see how it ended. I'm incapable of just skipping to the end to see what happens. That's one reading habit that hasn't changed over my years as a writer. I still have trouble giving up on a book that's just not working for me, but it's not impossible. I recently created a "did not finish" shelf on Goodreads to encourage myself to say "It's okay, I don't have to finish this book."

5. Know within a few pages if a book is going to be for me 
I've learned, just by reading the first few pages and getting a feel for the writing and the voice, how to tell if I'm going to like a book or not. Now, it's based on the writing and the voice. There have been books that caught me immediately but then lost me as they progressed, either because of the characters or the plot.  But how I feel about the opening is often a great indicator.

Did you notice changes in your reading habits when you started writing seriously?