Any day that involves me shelling out $140 for unplanned auto maintenance before 8:15 a.m. is generally going to have to work extra hard to come up with some redeeming qualities. But the blow was immediately softened for me this morning by the fact that I was able to get a little unexpected reading done for Pasta.

As I learned from my weekend’s critique with Don and Julie, I needed it. My sample chapter had too much sample, not enough chapter. I have a habit — a bad one, I’m suspecting — of taking notes immediately on my initial reading of books I use for research. That one reading is all I had time for before generating the draft I shared this weekend (ideally, I’d allow myself a note-free read-through at the outset), and the neat-o approach I took to telling the story failed to connect.

It wasn’t the narrative approach itself that was the problem, I don’t think (I could be wrong), but the fact that I simply didn’t know the protagonist well enough. I knew the outline of his story, but I hadn’t made the effort to inhabit his character, to see his situation through his eyes, to feel his heartbeat quicken at the moments of high drama, of which there are many in his tale.

This morning, I began re-reading one of the books I’m using for my research, and I was amazed at how much I’d missed the first time around. The notes I took today didn’t overlap in the slightest with the notes I took previously. Quick descriptions and references that hadn’t resonated before had meaning and relevance like nobody’s business this time through.

I’m dying to return to my manuscript to work in what I’ve gleaned today, but I think I’m best off reading this book again in its entirety before I do. If the mere act of reading can take the edge off an early-morning outlay that would have been better spent on 15 or 20 cheese enchilada plates, there must be something to it.