Pat Garcia, winner of the WEP December Flash Fiction Challenge, with her work The Woman And Her Dream is here today with a guest post. The Importance of Critical Reading.
Take it away, Pat.
Are you a critical reader? If not, it is time to think about becoming one.
One of the basic bricks in the foundation of every good or great writer is reading. Writers read a lot, or at least, I hope so.
Now, before I lose you, let me say, I am not talking about glancing through the first chapter of a book quickly, and then going to the middle to skim through one or two chapters and then to the end to see how the story ends. That is not critical reading. Critical reading forces us to read slowly. It puts us in a position where we receive an impartation from whatever book we are reading. We feel the words the author uses and experience the expressions; we get ideas that give us verve for our story.
Recently, I was reading an article from J.Q. Rose's Blog. She recommended some writers’ books that accompany her in her writing. I love Rose's blog because every time I visit it, which is not often due to my heavy schedule, I find something I need to know, and it advances my writing skills. J.Q. shared her reading list, and da da one book caught my eye. I searched to see if I had it on my iPad, but I didn't. So, I quickly pulled up Amazon and purchased, Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose.
Now, I am a voracious reader. I even read some books over and over again, but I never put any intensive thought into why I do that. Francine Prose's book made me realize why.
Most of you do not know my reading habits, but I prefer reading a book from cover to cover. I also read slowly. Prose says that is a good thing. Now, I do not feel ashamed when I take the time to sit in my comfy chair and let myself sink into a book and read it carefully. Prose says when we do this we are learning to write and also learning how not to write. I agree. So, critical reading helps us write our stories.
Critical reading can also be a cure for writer's block. How many times do you get stuck in your manuscript? You cannot write a scene, or the plot is confusing and zaps your energy. It does happen, at least to me it does. Prose says reading a book which presents similar problems in our manuscripts helps us overcome the block. Again, I agree with her. I have found that retrieving a book I have read and looking at its structure and plot undoes the mental block in me and makes an imprint on my writing. My mind relaxes, and ideas, dialogue, and narratives begin to flow again.
Critical reading also points out loopholes in our plots we need to close. When I get stuck in my plot, I run to my imaginary roundtable of writers. They are so funny. They come from all genres, and they help me the most. Writers like Du Maurier, Sayer, Holt, and Whitney handled their suspense situations well, and they give me great suggestions when I am dealing with my heroine’s reaction to impending trouble. If I am stuck in my narrative, I usually run to John Gardner and his Sunlight Dialogue, or if I am stuck in the spirituality of a character or scene, I turn to Dante and His Inferno or Goethe and his legendary Faust.
Finally, Critical reading helps us to express ourselves. It strengthens our ability in and around writing our sentences and then styling them. So, for me, I have learned how to express myself by examining the sentence styling, the rhythm, and even the word count of a sentence from the authors who sit at my roundtable. It usually becomes clear to me when I am editing an article or story. I can hear Gardner asking me, “Why did you write that sentence so long?” Or, I hear Du Maurier saying, “You don’t have to tell the whole thing, ma chérie. Quick, precise narrative is needed.” Or Dante says, “My Dear Girl, where is the rhythm? Did you forget that?” Through their works, I have dissected sentences and discovered the beauty and simplicity of the simple sentence, and I have learned to laugh at myself.
Deep in the back of every writer's subconscious mind, I believe there is the desire to connect with people and leave a work or works that are not forgotten. Critical reading assists us in achieving that goal if we so desire. It inspires us to write our stories to standards where the words burn within the hearts of people who read our books. Our books give out a sweet fragrance that goes beyond the shelf life of books sitting on a shelf in any bookstore. They become jewels that live from generation to generation.
Many thanks to Denise Covey and Yolanda Reneè for inviting me to share some of my thoughts on writing. I enjoy WEP. It is an important website for writers from all genres because it helps us sharpen our writing skills. I wish you both an awesome 2017 with many pleasant surprises.
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Thank you, Pat, for a very thoughtful post.
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A WEP Guest post by Pat Garcia – The Importance of Critical Reading
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