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Bloody hell! I had already reached the conclusion that writing seems a lot less fun and a lot harder since I started studying it. Now I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the same can be said of reading.
Recently I have found myself starting books and immediately finding fault with them. Didn’t I used to get pulled on by simple narrative? Wasn’t I a woman who finished the books she started, rather than letting them languish in the company of dust bunnies under the bed? (Apart from that Zadie Smith book, but that was an exception.) I even finished Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and I hated that. (Before you squawk, I’m odd. I think Dickens is like chewing sawdust – broke my English teacher’s heart when I told him that.)
Anyhow, this new critical eye/ear/sense is a pain. I started one book and rejected it because I could see what the writer was doing and felt manipulated. I heard the first page of a new novel, purchased by a publisher at HUGE expense, on an arts review programme. Poncey and self-consciously writerly. “Zeitgeisty” as the lovely CF would say. An interesting idea that might be fabulous in the hands of Margaret Atwood, but I suspect has been bought for the film rights. I’ll have to wait for it to hit the multiplex because the style of page one tickled only my gag reflex. Every novel or story I start, I question the point of view, I doubt the characterisation, I’m on the look out for lazy tricks and turns of phrase – handy reflections that enable physical descriptions (I know it works, but now it appears in italics in my head), dust motes in the air – this is my favourite, I plan to write a thesis on the use of the dust mote in English language fiction, one day.
And does this new found critical faculty help my own writing? Does it buggery. I’m paralysed by insecurity and indecision. Close third, multiple or first person? Too much telling? Present tense, ever? Is she sympathetic? Is he a shallow stereotype? They got published and couldn’t get it ‘right’! What hope do I have?!

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