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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

WEP Guest Post - The Importance of Critical Reading by Pat Garcia



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.

Shalom Aleichem
    Pat Garcia
~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

Thank you, Pat, for a very thoughtful post.

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 A WEP Guest post by Pat Garcia – The Importance of Critical Reading





26 comments:

  1. Lovely post Pat.
    Thank you.
    This reader is sometimes critical, and sometimes in it for 'fast food'. And so very grateful to all writers.

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    1. Thank you. I love reading fast food sometimes too. It is also a relaxer.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  2. Who can imagine a life without books, a life without reading? Great post Pat. I love Francine Prose's fiction. Writers can learn so much by reading writers like her. Thanks Pat.
    Shalom
    Denise

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    1. Thank you, Denise. I have fallen in love with her fiction. I have to admit I didn't know about her until I read J.Q. blog.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  3. I try to be a critical reader, but some of the books end up sucking me in and I'm so engaged I forget to be critical. But that's a joy too. :)

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    1. Thanks, and I hear what you're saying. I get sucked up too in some books and have no other alternative but to go back and read them again at a later time so I can grasp what is there to learn.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  4. Great post, Pat. Reading did make me a better writer, no question about it. But like everything, critical reading has its flip side. It spoiled some books for me. I'm much more sensitive to style and grammar blunders now than I was before. When I encounter a bad sentence, it makes me wince. I want to start editing the narrative. If there are too many of such instances, I can't continue reading, even if the story seems interesting.

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    1. Thanks, Olga. I know what you mean. When I encounter style and grammar blunders, I start editing with in my head. Sometimes, I ask myself if the writer is aware or better I ask myself who edited this book.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  5. ooooh, I like this prompt. Very open to interpretation.

    If reading slowly makes me a critical reader, then I can check that box, lol. But I do consider myself a critical reader. I've done that trick of reading something I know I enjoyed, something with a similar scene I'm stuck on. It helps me think outside the box, so to speak. I've watched shows with that notion in mind too. Even reading/watching a story you don't care for can offer writing lessons, if you act on all those "what if" questions they raise for prompt/stream of consciousness writing exercises.

    Excellent advice Pat; thanks for sharing your insights.

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    1. Thank you, Dolores and Right On! You've hit a good point. Critical reading helps us think outside of the box. Watching TV shows is another good way to get out of a hard place when you're stuck in your writing. I've even gone to a cafe and sat in a corner and observed people and their behaviour toward one another and came back to work on one of my character flaws with inspiration.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  6. No one could have written this better than you Pat. Perfect. I've become more and more critical since I started writing, and that's been both a positive and a negative. I used to read with no thought but to trust the writer to create a story and draw me in. Now I approach stories with a more analytical mind. That means I have a lot of unfinished books lying around.

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    1. Thanks, Lee, and you've just joined the club. I can't count the unfinished books I have on my iPad where I have stopped because my mind kept stumbling upon the errors that could have been corrected before the book was published. I ask myself who was the editor. Or the number of books, I have sitting on my iPad waiting to be read, not because of errors, but because I want to take the time to read them carefully, especially the books that I review. It is so important to me to give the writers' books I review my complete attention and not just read the first pages, two chapters in the middle, and the end.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  7. Before I became a published author, I got more enjoyment from reading. Now that I'm conscious of making every word count, I've become critical of books I read. When I'm reading a book, instead of just enjoying the ride, I find I'm constantly analyzing the wording, flow, characters, etc. Does anyone have this experience?

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    1. Thanks, Feather. Yes, I know that feeling because that is exactly where I am now with my first manuscript. I am constantly analysing my wording, flow, and my characters. I know it has to end sometime, but my desire is to send the best possible copy to my editor. I don't want him to get boggled up on things that I could have improved upon before I sent it.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  8. Great post, Pat. Thank you. I am becoming more of a critical reader but not on purpose. The joy of reading and being dragged into a story is what I enjoy most about my day but sometimes something does gripe - overuse of unnecessary adverbs or too much fill of information just because the author wants to show off their research rather than use it to enhance a story - and these are from well established best selling authors. However, I don't over analyse a book I'm reading if my purpose is to unwind and relax.

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    1. Thanks, Nicola. I enjoy being dragged into a story. When I am, I don't see the tiny things. Usually, when I am reading my fast food stories, I am not looking for excellence but just a good book I can enjoy.
      Shalom aleichem,
      Pat

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Dumb auto correct. haha

      I like to read slowly and take it all in. Sure has shown me some stuff I was doing wrong, even spurred me to start to go back and edit books I released years ago a bit more.

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  10. Thought provoking post and even more thought provoking comments. Critical reading can be both a blessing and a curse. One can sometimes get tired of the 'analytical' voice in the head pointing out flaws and merits of the book rather than simply enjoying it.

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    1. I hear you Nila. Sometimes my senior English students say to me...we're sick of analysing everything. Why can't we just enjoy a book? Poor darlings!

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  11. Great post! Since I started going back and analyzing books I've loved, my writing has improved. I think this is useful for any writer. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I am not a critical reader. How ever I read every word and over and again if a book is compelling. Thanks for the reminder that we do have to be a critical reader in order to be able to write. Great Post.

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  13. Sorry, unreliable Wi-Fi. Love this post. I do both. Sometimes just want to get lost in the story, nut I agree, a deeper read helps with the writing!

    Thanks, Pat, for such a lovely post!

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  14. Great post with some excellent advice. Because I'm constantly looking for Beta Readers for my work, I do a lot of critiques. This is so much help for my own writing. Of course, these people are normally not what you would call 'the experts', but most are pretty darn good writers. By taking the time to really review their work to leave a thoughtful critique, I see the flaws more clearly in my own writing. Often, I suggest they remove something and thing, 'I do that all of the time', but usually it's ideas that willhelp improve my own storytelling.

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    1. Spot on FE. It's sometimes hard to pick up problems in our own writing, but far easier to see them in other's. That's why we need critique partners to assess our work. We all have strengths and weaknesses in our writing and sharing is a way to make our own writing stronger. Hope you're doing well on your memoir.

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  15. I enjoy reading with Kindle's highlighter or with a notebook by my side. I rarely ever get through a book (fiction or non) without taking notes. Some of the books (for example http://amzn.to/2kO5QmW Dust by Sarah Daltry) I took so many notes I feel like I have a novella on my hands!
    Great post.

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