Thursday, January 17, 2008

Have red pen...Will use it!

I love reading. Always have. Always will. Ditto for writing. I've spent the last decade educating myself about the craft of writing, incorporating what I've learned, and enhancing the skills I do have, cognizant that there will always be so much more to learn. It's all good. Right? Knowledge is power. Right? Come on. You guys know there's always a catch.

What's Bullet Hole rambling about now, you're asking? Just this. As I've improved my writing skills and educated myself on various techniques, this acquired knowledge has taken a toll in another extremely important area of my life: reading. That's right. Reading. Well, that's where it started.

Yes, I know. I've got some 'splaining to do. It's like this. Before I began my decade long journey to publication I could pick up any book and generally finish it. If not enthralled by the content, I could, at least, get to the end. Now that I know about goal, motivation, conflict, inciting incidents, calls to adventure, black moments, layering, foreshadowing, etc., etc., etc., I am finding an increasing number of books I analyze rather than read. I find myself saying, "If I had written this book, I would have"...and so on.

But it doesn't stop at books. I find myself doing this during movies and TV shows, the in-house equivalent of Siskal and Ebert. Even worse, I start to make predictions as to what will happen next or share what I would have happen next. As you might imagine, I'm real popular with my family when I do this.

"I'm never watching another movie with you again!" my son said the other night after I'd blurted out what I thought was going to happen. "You can't help yourself!"

"I'll stop! I promise!" I swore--like I was trying to kick some chemical addiction.

"You say that every time," he reminded me. "You're incapable of changing."

At my age, he has a point.

Then there's Bullet Hole's infamous red pen. It seems I can't sit down and read a newspaper or magazine without a red pen handy to circle mistakes. As a result, I turned to the internet to get my news. Huge mistake. The boo boos are still there, staring me in the face, but I don't have the satisfaction of circling them with my trusty red pen which leaves me staring at them, powerless.

The other day my daughter brought home a copy of the high school newspaper. I had a few minutes to spare so I sat down to take a quick look. And almost had the big one. I was back on my feet in two seconds in search of my red pen. By the time I got to the end of the newspaper I was almost apoplectic. Here was a high school newspaper, the contents overseen by a high school teacher, and it was riddled with spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and word usage errors.

"What's wrong, Mom? You look funny," my daughter asked and I showed her the ten page newspaper I'd marked up.

"This is insane! What are they teaching you at that school? What are they NOT teaching you at that school?" I shouted.

"I'm not in that class, you know," she said.

"Lucky for you," I told her.

"You aren't going to contact the school about this. Are you, Mom?" she asked.

I shook my head. "No, sweetie," I promised. "I won't contact the school."

I'm thinking this is a matter for the school board. I'm also thinking my triplets will be so relieved when they graduate this spring.

So, writers out there: how has (or has) your writing affected your enjoyment of books, movies, TV, newspapers, etc. ? What's your biggest pet peeve when it comes to mistakes or missteps you find in books, movies, etc.?

~Bullet Hole~


Wendy said...

This actually doesn't happen to me but my ex was (well, I guess still is) a filmmaker and it was annoying watching movies with him sometimes! He always said what he thought was gonna happened, or what's wrong/right with the scene. Most of the time I didn't mind but sometimes it was annoying, lol.

Also I wanted to tell you that I finished reading No One Heard Her Scream and absolutely loved it! You should really get it. :)

Tori Lennox said...

I'm constantly cracking up or complaining about grammar (or the lack thereof) in our local newspaper. Even our local news is awful. We laugh at them all the time. They're better than a sitcom. *g*

Kathy Bacus said...

I'd wondered if filmmakers and screenwriters tossed items at the screen like some authors say they throw books at the wall, Wendy.

And I'll definitely be picking up a copy of NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM. So glad to hear you liked it! I can't wait to get my hands on it!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

I got the giggles yesterday over a somewhat related topic, too, Tori. There's a big flap about the correct pronunciation of the state Nevada. It's pronounced with a 'short a' sound--not Ne-vah-da, and folks who live there get steamed (rightfully so) when people mispronounce it. Last night I started counting how many people got it wrong and it was amazing. And kind of fun. Even Brian Williams on NBC got it wrong.

I'm easily entertained--in case you hadn't noticed...

~Bullet Hole~

Christie Craig said...


I totally agree, reading can easily turn into "study time" instead of a "pleasurable past time." If something isn't working for me in a book, I try to figure out what went wrong—if something is great, I try to study how the writer carried it off.

As for what drives me crazy? I'll forgive grammar and spelling mistakes much quicker than I will the lack of story telling—or just boring writing.

I'm bad about typos myself. Yikes.

Crime Scene Christie

Kathy Bacus said...

I know what you mean, Christie. And as you point out, sometimes those 'study times' can be helpful. I know I hate feeling like a situation is contrived to the point that it becomes absurd so I try to keep a watchful eye on my own writing so that doesn't sneak in. It's so tempting sometimes to stick some element in you really, really love but that just doesn't seem realistic for that particular story and often seeing that in another book or movie can get you looking at your own work critically.

Another pet peeve? Misuse of their, there, they're. Drives me nuts.

~Bullet Hole~

Wendy said...

Kathy, I think in a way, they all do. I know that sometimes he couldn't help it, he's wanted to be a filmmaker since he was a wee boy, that's his passion so I can understand that. It was just annoying sometimes - shut up and let me watch the film! ;)

Jordan's definitely one of my new favorite authors, can't wait to read more of her work.

Kathy Bacus said...

I got to know Jordan at the RWA Convention in Reno in 2005, Wendy. We were both Golden Heart finalists that year. Our GH loop, The Wild Cards, is still going strong and a significant number of those finalists have gone on to sell. She's super nice and an amazing writer and, I'm sure, will be one of my fave authors, as well.

~Bullet Hole~

Lucy said...

Typos in books makes me nuts because you'd think the person, a CP or the agent and/or editor would pick them up and correct them. But unless a story is particularly bad I don't pick it apart...I can still read for pure enjoyment and take the writer part of me out of the equation. That is, of course, unless I'm judging a contest or critiquing. In those instances the reader for enjoyment in me takes the backseat and watch out, 'cause she's not always the nicest person in the room. :-)

Anonymous said...

This probably wont improve the amount of reading time you have, but it may relieve some frustration.
If you use Firefox as your browser (and you should) this add on will allow you to high lite text on a web page.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

You know, I once got offered a job as a proofreader and columnist at a local paper after I got my own red pen out after reading a particularly badly written column they had printed. I marked it up and sent it in - couldn't help myself.

As a writer, I'm constantly editing or analyzing the books I read in my head. In fact, that's how I can tell if they are working (for me): if I'm only editing then I'm not getting sucked in to the story. If I'm analyzing, it's usually because I'm loving it and am taking mental notes for what worked and why.

It's a flaw. It's like those 3-D pictures. Once you can see the pattern through the illusion you can't unsee it.

Kathy Bacus said...

I just received galleys for my April book (cutting it close there, aren't we?) and I always go through the page proofs a number of times to try and catch as many boo boos as I can, Lucy. It's amazing how clean one galley can be while the next may be riddled with errors.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Very cool, bookmobiler. Thanks! I'm for anything that will alleviate frustration. I'd always used Explorer until my son touted the benefits of Firefox.

It's true. Our kids know more than we do. Well, about technology, that is.

Thanks again!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Love your red pen story, Jenyfer! That's the sort of thing I can see happening in a book.

And you're right about the internals that go on in our heads when we read--even if solely for entertainment. Once you've learned what to look for in a story, you can't just shut it down. I think in some respects it's both a blessing--and a curse but it's one bell you definitely can't unring.

~Bullet Hole~