Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yak, yak, yak about my recent reading habits

Just thinking about my reading habits of late ...

I've been reading a lot of stuff I've been meaning to read for some time, sometimes even years. A good bit of it has been fiction by classic genre authors, or classic genre books themselves (though I'm not talking about "classical" literature here, which is a very different beast). Sometimes I've been let down, but mostly I've enjoyed what I've been reading. I was definitely glad to discover author John Scalzi, and it was nice get back into some Robert E. Howard, who I still think is an underrated writer, often even by his own fans (the man could WRITE people, not just prattle off tales about heaving breasts and burly men wielding big swords).

I've also been going through a little phase with all the Ed McBain police procedural novels I've been plowing through this year. These things are like candy to me. Fast, easy reads that are also quite enjoyable. I love his dialogue especially, and the almost goofy way he describes what all his characters are wearing.

Thinking about all this got me to think about the way I read fiction, and the different ways there are to read fiction.

Of course, there's reading just for pleasure. This is usually the most fun.

Then there's reading something because you have to, for a class or because a friend has talked you into it, whatever. Sometimes this can be fun, but often it isn't. I still hate Charles Dickens to this day.

Then there's reading because you are trying to learn something. Remember, I'm still talking fiction here. Writers, or potential writers, will often read a novel or short story while trying to figure out just HOW another writer does something. How does Robert E. Howard write such great scenes? How does R.A. Salvatore write his melees? How does Alexandre Dumas work out his plots? It's all in there, if you're willing to read and to take the time to study. Sometimes this is fun reading, too, but sometimes it can be tedious.

And for writers, often it's hard to break out of the habit of reading another's work without that critical eye. Sometimes you just want to read for fun, and it's hard to do because you keep thinking things like "oh, so that's how she uses those adverbs so cleverly" or "ah ha! now I'm beginning to understand how he paces his scenes."

That can be annoying. Which is one of the reasons I've turned to Ed McBain so much lately. It's simple, straight-forward writing that I can decipher (from a writer's view) fairly easily. I'm not saying I could write what McBain did, or how he did, or as well as he did. I'm just saying I've got as much figured out about his writing as I want to for now (though I'm sure I could delve his depths further, and may do so at some point). For now, while I'm busy editing novels for myself and other people, it's nice to take a break and just read something for fun.

1 comment:

von Darkmoor said...

Fun post, Ty. I liked how you've voiced your self-discovery tour and I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly.

Prob for me is, (1) I ain't reading much for pleasure at this time and (2)what I do read for pleasure, while I obviously choose it, ain't the top of my list. I've been reading lots of graphic novels and old Savage Swords of Conan comics - something about the graphic pull and ease of reading is very appealing lately - but I'd really like to sink down into the last two Steven Erikson books that I haven't been able to start yet. Oh, well, business first.

Congrats on that mega long list of published work in the sidebar there, Ty!