On the contrary. An aspiring writer should read books that appeal not just once, but twice. The first as a reader, just for pleasure, noting what you like and don’t like. The second time as a writer, more slowly and thoroughly, looking out for how this writer managed to achieve the effect that the book had on you.
Read with critical attention, the second time, with every faculty alert.
- Who is the person who wrote this book?
- How does structure and form help to communicate intention?
- How would you describe the language?
- How does it support the theme?
- How long are the chapters? The sentences? The paragraphs?
- Notice the rhythm of the book. Is acceleration or deceleration used for emphasis?
- Any mannerisms or favourite words?
- How does the author convey the passing of time? Get the characters from one scene to another?
- What is the point of view?
- Is there a chapter list? An index? A bibliography?
- What did the author not tell us?
After the first few books – which you must read twice if you are to learn how to read as a writer – you will find you can read for criticism and enjoyment simultaneously, choosing to reread only those passages where the book shines or fails.
Extract from Creative Clinic 1. Can You Get Me Started?