Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turning off the editor

One of the things that has changed as a result of my taking my writing more seriously is that I pay so much more attention to everything I read. The editor in my brain is always working. If a book I'm reading is particularly gripping, I'm able to turn it off. But other times, I just want to take a pencil to the book I'm reading and fix stuff so that I can read it the way I want to.

Last night I was reading one of those pencil books. It wasn't a book I had chosen, but my book club is reading it right now. Strunk and White would have had a field day with it. Single sentences take up six or seven lines on the page, and are so convoluted, full of commas, semicolons, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that even though they are grammatically correct and properly punctuated, they are exhausting to read and by the time I have finished reading one I have to go back to the beginning because I've forgotten what it was that I was reading about while I was trying to decipher all of it like a sixth grader diagramming sentences in middle school English class. How is it not exhausting to write that way?

I wonder if I enjoyed this kind of book more before I automatically edited inside my head.


Lisa said...

Now I want to know what book it was. I'm a sucker for long, convoluted sentences, provided they're well-done. Maybe it's because it makes me feel smart, to follow a trusted author that far into their thought process. Long sentences make me feel like I'm getting into an author's brain.

Of course, this book you're reading doesn't sound like a trusted author.

I'm reading Snow Crash right now, and it makes me feel smart when I get even half of the references.

I'm wondering how to do that with middle grade books...make kids feel smart. How to use enough new vocab and ideas to challenge them, while at the same time making them feel smart for figuring things out on their own.


Amy Tate said...

Oh...I so relate! And I find it most annoying that I read work by a new author much more carefully than I would if I were reading work by a well known author that has earned my respect. Isn't that snobby? I'm so ashamed!

Michelle said...

Lisa, if you really want to know, I'll email you the title of the book. And sometimes trusted authors write convoluted sentences.

Amy, I'm glad I'm not alone in my language snobbishness!