If I’m reading a sad story that’s moving just perfectly, and my husband notes my absorption and says, “Good book?” I’ll say through my tears, “Oh my god, he cannot handle another let down right now. And she has like effing nailed the pacing.”
This type of response doesn’t even confuse my husband anymore. He understands that this probably means the main character is a boy who’s going through a crappy time and he’s breaking my heart, written by a woman whose mad pacing skills are blowing my brain.
As a fiction writer and reader, I’m constantly making mental notes and judgments about things like voice, character, and plot. But I do this simultaneously with immersing myself in the story.
Some people say they can separate the two–they can turn off their internal editor–if the book is good enough. Not me. My reader self and my writer self got married and I can’t split them up. Believe me, I tried harder than a kid who hates her new stepmom’s guts.
And why do that, anyway? It’s a fine relationship. They’re made for each other, my reader and writer selves. I don’t think I enjoy a good book any less than I did before I started writing fiction. It’s just a different level of enjoyment.
It’s like an insurance salesperson or a Realtor making new contacts at the bar during happy hour. I’m having fun while enhancing my chances of succeeding with my craft. Win-win?
Writers, can you separate your reader and writer selves?