Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Hopes of Getting Lost

Sometimes knowledge can be a bad thing.

Before you throw your virtual tomatoes, read on a little further.

A couple of years ago I completed the first novel I thought was worthy of publication. I still think it's a great book, but as a writer, as a reader, I was blissfully ignorant. I knew a good story when I read it, but I didn't look for character arcs, I skimmed over plot holes and if the pace dragged a bit, I attributed it to being a more "literary" type of book.

Not anymore. These days when I open a book, I have a hard time pulling myself out of critique mode. And it's spilling over into other parts of my life. As I watched The Fairly Odd Parents with my kids on Saturday morning, I found myself following an internal checklist.
  • Okay, there's what Timmy Turner wants for this episode. Check.
  • There's the first obstacle to getting what he wants. Check.
  • Oh, now they've given him an inner conflict. Check.
  • Mommy's finally gone over the deep end. Check.

I'm not trying to be critical. I want to enjoy what I'm reading or watching. But the bar has been raised. It takes more to impress me. And maybe that's why it's harder to catch the attention of agents and editors now than it was even five years ago. Because they're looking at a LOT more stories than I am and it takes way more to impress them.

I'm not sure how to stop analyzing everything I read (or watch!), but I do know that when a novel pulls me in to the point that my editorial pen disappears, it's a really good story. It's a story I can get lost in, a book I want to tell my friends to read because it's THAT good. It's the kind of story we all dream of writing.

Here's hoping we can all get a little lost.

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15 comments:

Christine Fonseca said...

Dude! I totally get what your saying...and guess what? There's no going back now!

Corey Schwartz said...

UGHH! I am totally with you. I over-analyze everything and it is ruining my enjoyment! Cheers to getting lost in something :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Remember the good old days because they're never coming back. Gone are the days snuggling under the covers with a good book. I always have a highlighter with me to underline what's gone wrong with whatever I'm reading. it sucks.

Kristan said...

Oh, I so know what you mean. I've actually learned to categorize books in 3 main groups, nowadays: (1) Books that aren't that great and I pick them apart to learn, (2) Books that are good enough to enjoy but not SO great that I can't see their inner workings, and (3) Books that are so amazing that I am pure reader -- my writing brain does not engage (until a second read).

It's a little different with TV shows and movies, since there's one less element (the prose) to think about, but generally speaking everything in life kind of falls into those categories now.

Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. :)

(And as usual, a balance is probably best.)

Carolyn V. said...

I analyze everything I watch too (how funny is that?). It's when I catch myself not analyzing when I know it's a well written piece, because I'm lost in it. =)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Yes! Usually, I can't turn off my inner editor even with books I like, so when I do find one that takes all of me on the ride, I'm telling the world.

I'm starting to get bored with TV (and that's a good thing).

Kelly H-Y said...

That is so true!

Krispy said...

It's like those "Cannot UN-SEE it!" LOLcats or whatever. Haha. It is pretty annoying when you find yourself analyzing things instead of just enjoying them, but I think it also helps you appreciate it when it's done well. I started having this issue after too much AP English in high school. Luckily, I'm apparently one of those people who are really good at compartmentalizing. So I just switch off my analytical/academic thinking when I'm doing something for fun. Too bad I suck at turning off the inner editor. :P

Tere Kirkland said...

Yeah, unless I speed read or the writing is really good, I can't help but pick the books I'm reading apart.

Movies and shows are even worse.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I know what you mean, Sherrie. I even do that during movies. Maybe that's why I don't watch so many anymore.

Speaking off which, I'm off to watch a teen flick. Ahhh, what I do for research. :D

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

LOL...I do the same thing with books and tv...too much, not enough...It's hard to just kick back and enjoy sometimes...like you said; to just get lost...

JEM said...

Oh I totally agree! I actually appreciate that I'm able to better voice my criticisms now than I was a few years ago because I've read so much about the process of writing. The same feelings are there for me, I'm just better at defining them. Good post!

Laura Pauling said...

Same with me. I know by the first paragraph if I'm going to love a book or not; and I assume it's like that for agents. I still give some longer and might end up loving them but it's so much about me and what I like. I ending critting movies too! Hazard of the trade, I guess.

Dawn Simon said...

I do it, too. I think we all do. You know what cracked me up? "Mommy's finally gone over the deep end. Check." Hee!

You make a great point about agents and editors. They see a lot--which reminds me of an interesting post Mary Kole did, "How I Evaluate Full Manuscripts." You can find it here:

http://kidlit.com/2010/09/08/how-i-evaluate-full-manuscripts/
(I don't know how to link it in the comments yet. I'll have to ask my hubby!)
Your post made me think of the second paragraph in her post.

Lori W. said...

I agree w/others. There's no going back. Before I thought it akin to sin to not finish a book I'd started, but now it's got to get me by page thirty (in rare cases, I'll persist), or I don't have time. The best is when I get so lost in a story that the analyzer in me shuts off completely. Still happens.

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