Including Your Own Enjoyment of Reading

(and Watching Movies)…

For some reason, early on, writers think they must start being critical about all sorts of things. Books they don’t like because they are not to their taste, certain types of movies, the wrong use of one thing or another in a story by another author.

This is the critical voice, the very thing that works to stop you from writing. And also makes you believe that everything you do must be perfect, therefore you must outline and rewrite and not put something out anywhere until it has been polished to a shine.

The job of the critical voice is to stop you. It has no other function.

And the first sign critical voice is winning is when you allow it into your reading for pleasure. Or your movie and television viewing for pleasure.

What you used to love as a kid you now can’t watch, not because a part of you still doesn’t love it, but because you have become a “writer” and are looking at everything critical. And what you used to love you can now see the flaws.

Deadly to your writing. Writers must absorb story in all forms. And you just can’t do that if you can’t read or watch something for pleasure.

Now, there are far, far too many stupid things in being critical because of your writing for me to even begin to list them all. But let me list a few of the major warning categories.

— When you say, “The top bestsellers can’t write.” You are just about doomed right there. When you say any writer can’t write, you are on the way to being lost. Now it is perfectly fine to not like a story or a book because of personal taste. I have a well-known taste issue with Regency Romances. But the writers in that genre can write. Just not to my taste.

— When you read a dozen stories and not like any of them. Oh, oh. We see this at times in the anthology workshop, writers who flat can’t find a story that works for them. Critical voice hell right there.

— When you write critical reviews of other people’s work. (You really need a life in another field and a long ways from where I might run into your scummy face.)

— You look down your long, pointed, and ugly nose at someone else’s choice of movies or television shows. Again, you can not like something because it is not to your taste, just don’t be critical of others for liking something that is not to your taste.

— You think someone is a bad writer because they use too many of the most recent fad thing to omit like adverbs, paragraphs, or whatever, and think they are a good writer if their grammar is perfect. Oh, oh, you need to toss your Strunk and White out the window because it has infected your mind.

— You are an “expert” in some tiny area of the world and the FICTION writer didn’t get your expert thing right, so the writer must suck and be lazy and so on. Guns and doctor crap people are the worst at this. Military and historical buffs right behind. You might not read the writer because of taste, but because the writer does not match YOUR TASTE does not mean the writer is a bad writer. Sigh…

So, that’s enough. Annoying myself. (grin)

So, the next question should be from smart people is that if you can’t tear apart someone’s work, how can you learn?

First off, you read for pleasure, not allowing the critical voice in at any point. If you get done with the book or story and you flat LOVED IT, that is the book to study.

Again, catch yourself for any negative thought. Don’t allow them. Only positive.

Second, on a book you LOVED, ask yourself how an author did something in the book that you admire. A craft bit, a pacing, a dialogue scene, whatever.

If you liked the plot, outline the book to take that in more. (I have outlined numbers of Patterson Alex Cross books and many other thrillers.)

If the opening sucked you into the story, go back and in your own manuscript format, type in the other author’s opening. (I do this all the time, actually.)

You never tear apart someone else’s work, you study it for what they did right. A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

So I am watching Hallmark Christmas movies this year for some reason, enjoying the heck out of most of them with good characters. Some I must admit I do fast-forward through or turn away from for taste reasons only. But many I have enjoyed. First year in a long time I have had the ability to do this sort of thing.

(Remember, Kris and I novelized a bunch of Hallmark movies at one time in the past, including The Tenth Kingdom.)

As I watch the movies, I have nothing critical to say. I know the pattern, I know when something will happen, and how it will happen. But knowing that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment at all. Perfect entertainment.

Folks, we are entertainers. If you don’t allow yourself to be entertained, and then have fun entertaining yourself with your own work, how in the world can you expect to be entertaining to someone else????

So go have fun reading, watching movies, and writing.