Make Time for Reading
by Traci Borum
I’ve always been a reader, for as long as I can recall. My entire life, I’ve loved the printed page—the smell of books, the worlds found inside them, the poetry and music of language.
I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the past few years, a dramatic shift occurred. I began to read differently. I began to read as a writer. Instead of relaxing into a novel and letting the author take me away, I found myself paying attention—to technique, to craft, to things like pacing and dialogue and characterization. I started to peek behind that Wizard-of-Oz curtain, to see how the “magic” was happening. And although it forever changed (and in some ways, diminished) my experience of reading strictly for pleasure, reading as a writer has becomeone of the most valuable tools I possess. Right there in my hands is a textbook, a writing lesson, a master class from another author. If I pay close enough attention, I get to watch writers at work. And to learn from them.
The superbly-written books can intimidate my writer’s self,if I let them (“I can never be as good as this author! I could never write a book this well!”). But if I rein those insecurities injust enough, I can allow superbly-written books to inspire me,instead—to encourage me to reach new heights as a writer, to find my own personal-best potential.
Ironically, the poorly-written books can also be a valuable lesson—of what not to do. I’ve found myself sometimes reading poor dialogue or confusing storylines or slow pacing and thinking, “Aha! This is definitely something to avoid.” When something isn’t “working” as I read, I don’t automatically close the book and dismiss it. Part of the studying process is to dig deeper, find out precisely why the book isn’t working, so that I, as a writer, can avoid those mistakes in my own writing.
In my creative writing classes, I assign a “book report” for the students, hoping that, if they don’t already read as writers, their eyes will be opened to start doing so. The book report contains a questionnaire that highlights specific qualities of any novel—questions regarding characterization, overall themes, pacing, dialogue, symbolism, etc. Students are forced to read deeper, to dig around for elements they might not ordinarily seek, as a passive reader.
As I present the book report assignments to students, I first read this wonderful William Faulkner quote: “Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”
Faulkner is absolutely correct. Reading, for a writer, should never be a passive activity. Writers should, in my opinion, always be in “studying” mode – paying careful attention to the dialogue, the pacing, the characterization, the techniques of the author they’re reading.
Seeking the Star
By Traci Borum
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
One December night, in the sleepy Cotswold village of Chilton Crosse, a drifter named Ben collapses on George and Mary Cartwright’s snow-covered doorstep. As Christmas cheer spreads throughout the village with a Dickens-themed festival, Mary nurses Ben back to health, but she becomes curious about the secrets he seems to carry.
On Christmas Eve, one of Ben’s secrets accidentally comes to light, forcing him to confront the darkness of his past and to rediscover the faith he once knew.
Traci Borum is an insatiable bookworm whose first love is fiction. As a little girl, she became mesmerized with books—with the textures, the smells, and most especially, the worlds created between the pages. Years later, she discovered she could create her own worlds by writing. She’s been scribbling away ever since, writing bits of poetry, articles, and especially fiction.
Traci has been a Creative Writing teacher at a community college for the past ten years. She's a native Texan and an Anglophile at heart. She owns two "British" dogs—a Corgi and a Sheltie—and she’s completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater (must be those dreamy British accents!). More than anything, she treasures the friendships in her life and adores her supportive family.
Traci’s Blog: http://writerscorner-traci.blogspot.com/
Red Adept Publishing: http://bit.ly/RAPSeekingStar