On Giving Up A Favorite Author

I could have titled this post “How Writing Has Changed My Reading Habits, Part 3” because it’s really a continuation of how my growth as a writer has changed the way I read. Part 1 focused on how querying made me switch from reading mainly adult books to middle grade and young adult. (I sort of cringe now when I realize how long I waited to start reading in the category I was writing, but hey, I was a new writer then.) Part 2 was just last summer, when I shared how sometimes my reading is not as much just for fun as for market research or to support authors I know. (Although I enjoy it then, too.)

Well, now I have another topic that’s been brewing for a while. It has to do with how I read these days. I used to be able to pick up a book and immediately get lost in the story. I didn’t notice if the author loaded the opening chapter with backstory or “as you know, Bob” dialogue. I happily breezed through chapters of flowery description and passive voice. I didn’t mind if every character in the book paired off and the ending was tied up in an unbelievable happily-ever-after bow.

Because I didn’t know any better. I was just a reader. But after several years dedicated to improving my craft, it’s impossible for me to turn off that inner writer when I’m reading, and it’s had a rather sad side effect.

You see, I have some favorite authors I’ve been reading for more than twenty years, since I was in my early teens. Their books take up multiple shelves on my book case. Whenever a new book comes out, I add it to my collection. Except … after reading one of those author’s latest books, I found myself frustrated and tempted to stop reading halfway through. I decided I’m not going to pick up her next book, and now I’m a bit nervous about re-reading any of the thirty other books of hers I have on my shelves downstairs. Will I decide I don’t love those anymore? Or will the nostalgia of reading them under my desk during eighth grade Earth Science pull me through?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first of those old favorites I’ve given up on. I’m pretty sure some of them are being published on the strength of their name and twenty (or thirty) years of publishing history. Why fix what’s already selling? In some ways, I wish I could turn off the writer part of my brain so I could enjoy them the way I used to. And I’m glad not every reader thinks like a writer. Because one of those authors I gave up on? I heard her speak once and she inspired me, so even though I can no longer get lost in her books, I will always be grateful for her inspiring me to write.

Now, I should point out that this writer disdain (gosh, that makes me sound like such a snob!) definitely doesn’t include all of my old favorites. Many of them are totally writers whose brains I want to pick and ask, how do you do that so well? It’s just that I’m no longer able to read anything with the same disinterested reader brain I used to have.

Have you had this experience with authors you used to love and aren’t able to read the same way anymore?

Responses to “On Giving Up A Favorite Author”

  1. Shen.Hart

    I know this feeling 🙂 I’m a book reviewer, author, and developmental editor so I really just can’t switch off that mindset. It does make me a much fussier reader and I have walked away from some authors that I previously loved. It was a shame, but I’m happier for it. On the flip side of the coin, it’s made me really admire and adore some new authors because I see their technical prowess in a way that I didn’t before. So it’s balancing out reasonably well 🙂

  2. Kimberley Griffiths Little

    Oh, yes, absolutely. And that is one of the sad things about being a writer . . . losing that complete lost-in-a-book fall-in-love experience. Especially when it was the love of reading that turned most of us into writers in the first place.

  3. Greg Pattridge

    The same thing has happened to me. My inner critic doesn’t stop with my own writing but continues on with whatever book I’m reading. It does make us better writers I hope.

  4. blairbburke

    I definitely have that same critical mindset that I can’t turn off when reading, but most of my old favorites hold up fairly well under the brighter light. But lots of the stuff I read in YA (like you, to immerse myself in the genre I’m currently writing) really isn’t very good. The surprising thing is how many not very good books are out there, and how many are quite popular. Makes you think a little more about whether brilliant prose is actually a necessary component to financial success.

    • Michelle I. Mason

      Hmm. I haven’t had that experience with the YA I’ve read. Sure, there are a few blockbusters that have slipped through with mediocre writing, but the majority of what I’ve read in the category is very well-done. (Not that anything ever comes through perfect.) I hope you find some better reads soon!


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