Does Being a Writer Change Your Reading?

photo (9)-25_editedThree Ways My Reading Has Changed

  1. What I read has changed. I don’t have as much time to read historical fiction as I used to have. All my life I’ve kept journals of the books I’ve read and I would compare years to see what my yearly count was.I still read for about 20 minutes before I turn out the light at night and I read during the day as time permits. Okay, that last part is just funny. Time permits? Not so much. These days, what I read might be edits from my editor, how-to-write books by writers who have gone before, writing magazines–I love The Writer and the Historical Novels Review!, or books in other genres by writers I’ve met in person or online.
  2. How I read has changed.Plot. I was such a reader for plot I would forget the characters’ names and have to go back and check them out. Paragraphs of description were annoying and I became a great skimmer for the ‘good stuff.’ I preferred books that got to the details and wove in character, setting, themes, as needed and certainly not obtrusively. I still love to see how it will all turn out but I find myself looking at the writing differently. Rather than rushing through the story I am noticing just how the author wedged in that essential bit of backstory or just why he or she chose third person or first person. I see the plan behind the story like the framework of a house. I notice whether the framework is steel or wood timbers. And I learn for my own writing.
  3. How I record what I’ve read has changed. As mentioned earlier, I was a great keeper of my reading record. Now I consider whether the author might be someone I’ll interview on this blog. Shall I do a review on Goodreads? I ask myself. Or will I just let the book and my reading of it quietly die? And I love this change as I’ve discovered amazing people through interviews, reviews, and contacting the author to tell them I had written about them. Just this past weekend I finished Barbara Kyle’s 4th book, The Queen’s Gamble, a great read. And now she has the 5th in The Thornleigh Series out so I’ll put it on my list as well. How did I meet Kyle? I found her writing course online a few years ago, took it, signed up for a couple of her workshops, and now I am a Kyle convert. Just this morning I found that she is speaking at Stratford’s Shakespearean Festival this summer and I’ve marked the date on my calendar.

How have your reading habits changed over the years? What has affected them, having children, working full time, change of jobs, change of circumstance or taste? Consider leaving a comment below.


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The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler


16 thoughts on “Does Being a Writer Change Your Reading?

  1. Elaine, I agree, not only has the way I read changed, bringing a deeper appreciation for the writer’s skill, but the way I watch TV and movies has changed, too.

    Writing may have made be a better listener in friendships as well. In a recent conversation with a mutual friend who is in a bit of a crisis at the moment, I didn’t think in terms of ‘hitting bottom’ in her situation, but rather, knew the wave she was riding would take her down to her black moment, and only then could she rise above the water to reach a resolution.

    I didn’t share the analogy with her, but anticipating the dark before the dawn made me more patient, and helped me keep opinion-sharing in check.

    Yes. I’m weird.


  2. Great article, Elaine. No, my way of reading hasn’t changed, perhaps because I was a writer even before becoming one. I literally tore the writing apart to find the different layers from which the final product had emerged. On the other hand, teaching literary appreciation helped.
    What did change was the what not the how. When I was young and felt I had all the time in the world, I would read even postage stamps 🙂 Now I’m very picky, because of a new awareness that time is running short and shouldn’t be wasted.
    Thank you for always bringing up issues worth thinking about!
    Marta Merajver-Kurlat


    • You’re very welcome, Marta! And I appreciate your viewpoint on this topic. Isn’t it just too true that the older we get the sands of time seem to speed up? I, too, treasure my time too much to read just anything. I even had a writer ask me to read and review her novel but when I started reading it, I realized it was not for me. I read about two pages and sent it back with my apologies. Life is too short to spend it reading books we don’t appreciate.


  3. This is a huge, resounding YES. Sometimes, I say that one can let writing theory ruin a fine read. I now don’t finish reading a book that I’m not enjoying. In the past, I forced myself to finish. Now, I pay attention to plot, characters, setting, etc. and find myself analyzing too much. I do record in Goodreads.

    As for historical fiction, I loved Gabaldon’s books and several others when I was in younger. I’m sure I’ll read more of them in the future. For now, I tend to read books from genres that I’m writing or intend to write. I admire you for writing historical fiction. I don’t think I have what it takes to tackle it.


    • Ah, Gabaldon brings back thoughts of Jamie and Claire. I liked her Outlander series much more than her Lord John books and I missed Claire in The Scottish Prisoner. A lot of it is personal taste but your point about reading things connected to your writing resonates with me, Brinda. I reread my cousin’s family history which I’ve had for 20 years but now I find much more to get excited about. Part of that is a natural increasing interest in the subject as we age, but more, I keep finding little anecdotes and details which she has added to give a picture of the times. These just might find their way into my second book as the times and places coincide.
      Sometimes I pick up something by Maeve Binchy or Pauline Gedge just to escape my own writing by reading something totally different in setting and plot.


  4. I definitely find that my experience with fiction has changed as well, Elaine. I’ve sadly become even more critical of what I consider to be bad writing as I’ve done more and more writing myself. I’ll read a few pages of a book, or watch a few minutes of a TV show or movie, and all I can think about is how poorly set up the scene was, or how clunky the dialogue sounds, or how obvious the plot has become. it’s kind of annoying (especially to my wife who has to endure it all) but I don’t seem to be able to turn it off.


    • Isn’t that the truth, Larry? I always say I have never taken a course or set out to learn something that has not been used later on in my life. Oh, maybe not as I thought I would use it but in some way that learning informs other aspects of my life. It’s the same with reading now that I have learned so much more about writing. It’s all good!


  5. I like your new look, Elaine!

    Lately, I’ve been reading my fellow Crimson Romance author’s books, so I can help them with reviews. I don’t have the time to read like I used to, but like you I’m a bedtime reader.


  6. Yes, now I want more information about the author and their writing process, so I always read the introduction and acknowledgements, and I look for the author’s website or follow them on twitter. I am also more likely to contact the authors I enjoy most, with positive comments (never critical) or questions.


    • I like your idea of contacting the authors you enjoy reading. I have contacted a number of people to tell them I’ve written posts about them and their work and most of the time the results are very good. Like you, Janet, I choose not to be a negative critic. I always like to praise what I like. Thanks for commenting!


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