Critical Reading

I’ve been making an effort to read more fiction recently to try and understand what it is that makes a writer ‘good’ in my opinion. The problem is that I’ve become quite critical in the process. I picked up a book that I had recently chosen from the library – the blurb on the back made it seem like a fascinating read – but by the end of the first chapter I was bored and frustrated with the text. There was no life in it. The author had breezed over the big main event that had pulled my interest in the story to begin with, and was taking a tangent route into the religious belief, or lack thereof, of the protagonist. After that first ten minutes of reading I was completely disilluisioned with the concept of the book and no longer cared about the character or what she had apparently done to the person who killed her sister.

I’m finding that I am much more likely now to throw down a book in dismay and never think of returning to it; prior to my own ‘novel-writing’ I would probably have stuck with it, pushed through the not-so-engaging opening and tried in vain to find something in the words to entertain me. But now I am actually writing one of my own it mentally pains me to read something when I honestly believe I could do a better job of it! And, while that’s quite egotistical of me, it’s equally heartening to know that I have enough faith in my ability to write to feel admonished because I feel I could improve on that which has already been published.

Of course, it’s not necessarily that I could do a ‘better’ job – merely that I could write more to my own liking and style. Some novels just aren’t written in a way that engages my imagination. I struggled to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories because the way it is written doesn’t appeal to my reading style, both in the language used and the way the plot is unravelled. Whereas, I stuck with Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo despite the intial frustration accepting the different language style because the story fascinated me from beginning to end. Some stories are just more ‘me’ than others; as I’m sure those who love Wuthering Heights would agree when they discover how much I abhor it (I read the entire thing so I could justify my opnion that it’s an awful book!) . It all comes down to personal taste. Which makes me wonder; what would a random selection of readers think of my novel?

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4 responses to “Critical Reading

  1. I feel the same way. I am a terrible book snob. I find myself in the trap of knowing I need to read more widely, but most the books I read I think are crap and I don’t finish them. I end up going back to read my favorite books again instead. I’m reading Bernard Cromwell’s “Rebel” right now and though its decent, I honestly don’t see the big deal. I too wonder how the heck some writers make it when they really aren’t that good.

  2. ‘But now I am actually writing one of my own it mentally pains me to read something when I honestly believe I could do a better job of it! And, while that’s quite egotistical of me, it’s equally heartening to know that I have enough faith in my ability to write to feel admonished because I feel I could improve on that which has already been published.’ – don’t worry, it’s called being a writer! One of my lecturers at university told me that is how you know when you are a writer, when you start saying things along the line of ‘I can do better than that!’ I’d be surprised if there’s a writer out there who has never read at least one book and decided they can produce something of much higher quality…

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