As an Author, Are You a Good Audience Member?


When I studied music, many of my classes centered around analyzing music that has already been written and deconstructing and critiquing it. I blame these classes for my inability to listen to music solely for enjoyment. I have to either be participating in it or critiquing it.

Do you do this with your storytelling? Can you read a book or enjoy a movie without looking for aspects of the story that could have been improved?

I’ll speak for myself. I still enjoy movies and books. Since I began writing, however, I do view them differently. I look for things that I can improve in my own work. I look for techniques and trends. Mostly, I try to take off the writer hat and enjoy the experience.

It’s interesting to look to notable authors to see what they enjoy reading. It is well known that Stephen King is a fan of J.K. Rowling and her writing style.

In his New York Times review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire King said, “The fantasy writer’s job is to conduct the willing reader from mundanity to magic. This is a feat of which only a superior imagination is capable, and Rowling possesses such equipment.”

He has also been outspoken about Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series. King compared the Meyer author to J.K. Rowling, saying that both authors were “speaking directly to young people. The real difference is that Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

As part of my blog, I frequently review books that I’ve read. As I go back and read them, I’m hoping that I stay true to my intent which is to review them as a fan or audience member and not as an author. I try to avoid critiquing the literary style or use of passive voice, for example. I am more focused on the story and how it moved me and how it compares to other work that I’ve read.

I’ve also tried not to review books of authors that I know personally. For one thing, Amazon seems to frown on that practice. For another, I want to stay friendly with them and I can only be honest when reviewing their work as a reader.

So, now I’d like to hear from you. What kind of audience member are you? Do you take a notebook to movies and plays and critique the work? Do you put your writing aside and enjoy it as an average audience member? Are you somewhere in between?

12 thoughts on “As an Author, Are You a Good Audience Member?

  1. I’m blessed, I think, Don. My writing is done in free verse poetry, though still story-telling. In a way, I can read with pleasure, and also gain for my own writing purposes with the ‘distance’ that comes from writing a style I am quite sure is different from most others. So I’m free to learn and enjoy, both. Happy days.

    Sadly, I am also increasingly aware of poor to poor-middling writing that I’m exposed to, now. I am much more intolerant, and find it harder to read a book to the end. This I also place at the feet of my own improving writing skills, and increasing exposure to ‘writing circles’. As you say above, there are friendships to be unmade and lost forever.

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    • Very good points, Frank. I tend to keep bad reviews to myself it the author is just starting out or a fellow indie. I will, however, unload on a traditionally published author that sells millions of books that produces something of lower quality.

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  2. I try very hard to take the writer hat off when reading, because I want to appreciate the words this author has produced.
    There are times when I can’t help it, if someone has repeated errors, or a repetitive style of writing.
    But when someone makes me sit up, and want to read, to laugh, to cry, I definitely try and store snippets away in my mind for my own development!

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    • This is exactly why I was afraid to read books by other Indie authors. Part of it was fear of finding sub-par work. The other part was fear of finding work that was much better than mine. Neither fear was warranted and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the work of other indies.

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  3. That’s an interesting question! I do read as a reader as best I can. But I also read authors whose work I admire from the point of view of a writer. Mostly I do that so that I can try and learn from what I’m reading, if that makes sense.

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  4. I don’t know if being a writer has impacted me as a reader, but I know being an editor has. I can only think of a few works that drew me so deeply into the story that I lost sight of sentence structure, word choice, repetitions, etc. I find I even anticipate plot now. It’s sad because I used to enjoy the escape reading provides, and now I don’t get that same benefit.

    I agree with you about reviews, though. I try not to mention things I notice with my editor’s eye and just stick with the story itself.

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