Tag Archives: improve your writing

Reading Routine 3 – Nonfiction

On Wednesdays, I’ll cross-post my blog from Routines for Writers here…

People who love to read can get a little crazy-excited talking to each other about their to-be-read piles – TBRs, online. (Took me a while to figure out what TBR meant.) Most everyone seems to talk about all the fabulous fiction they’re trying to hurry and read. But it occurs to me that we rarely talk about the great time to be had in the midst of our nonfiction TBR pile.

Do you have one?

Most of my nonfiction books have to do with writing or research on something I’m writing. Sometimes it’s just something that looks interesting in general. Just for fun, I thought I’d tell you what is literally sitting next to my bed right now (much to my husband’s chagrin). Some I’ve read more than once, some I skim looking for something in particular, some I’m dying to sit down and read cover to cover some (nonexistent) free weekend. Here they are:

The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
The Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
Running with the Giants – John C. Maxwell
How to Write Crime – edited by Marele Day
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed – Jared Diamond
Be Your Own Literary Agent – Martin P. Levin
Writing Popular Fiction – Dean R. Koontz
How to Write Best Selling Fiction – Dean R. Koontz
The Action Hero’s Handbook – David and Joe Borgenicht
Making a Good Writer Great – Linda Seger
Story – Robert McKee
Living with Angels – Theolyn Cortens
On Writing – Stephen King
Get Known Before the Book Deal – Christina Katz

That’s my list. And I hope one day soon to have/take the time to read all of them. What about you? What’s in your nonfiction TBR pile?

Reading Just Might Be My Favorite Routine

On Wednesdays, I’ll cross-post my blog from Routines for Writers here…

We’ve talked about a lot of routines at Routines for Writers in the last few years. Things to routinely do, things to routinely avoid, things that break up your routines. But I don’t know that we’ve talked much about a routine many writers say they have no time for – reading!

I am amazed by the number of times I hear writers say they don’t have time to read. But I also understand the dilemma. There are only so many hours in a day, a week, a year. Many of us complain that we don’t have enough time. Many of us worry we aren’t using our time wisely. How does the value of one hour of reading compare with one hour of writing, or sleeping, or time with family?

Available for your reading pleasure end of September

When taken out of context, it’s difficult to compare these things. But I think most things in life fall into cycles. For me, that cycle is most notably one day. I do certain things at certain times of the day and, when it comes to reading, I can almost always count on having 15-60 minutes at night.

I find I sleep better if my mind relaxes around a story, something I don’t have to think about but can just float on. When I read non-fiction at night, I usually dream about the topic – not great for a good night’s sleep, but I used to solve math problems this way in college!

Like my own target audience, I am a reader who sometimes craves an escape from my everyday life. When I’m really stressed out, I need to read romances. In fact, high stress situations are almost the only thing that make me return to a book more than once. When I’m calm and relaxed and nothing interesting is happening in my life, I crave excitement and danger in my reading life.

But I’m finding those reading cycles incredibly helpful to my writing. Because I read at least a little of so many genres, and because it might take me a year or more (or as little as a month) to cycle through romance, YA, suspense, fantasy, and more, my story brain is constantly being fed new and different ideas. Those all combine like eggs and flour and cocoa make brownies – to help me create some sweet treats of my own!

I love reading and my guess is you do, too. I encourage you to make – and keep – reading one of your writing routines. When you need a break from life, from work, from writer’s block, or you just have a few minutes to relax, reading is the perfect routine.

Random Thoughts August 11, 2011

I’ve been catching up on some blog reading this week. Elizabeth Spann Craig has a great blog called Mystery Writing is Murder. I’ve been reading her posts about her self-publishing journey, but she’s got lots of great stuff.

After reading my friend Laura Drake’s guest post this week, I wrote a piece for my RWA chapter about encouraging words. It takes so little to brighten someone’s day, and so often it comes back to you in one way or another. Laura said she’s going to keep a copy of all the lovely comments people left her to read on the hard days. What a great idea!

Laura also wrote a blog post at Writers in the Storm called Adjusting to the Paradigm Shift. She looks at the trends of first sales as reported in the RWA magazine, Romance Writers Report, and considers how to proceed.

My Routines for Writers partner had a great post last week about making sure each of your scenes has a purpose. An excellent way to stay on track or to find out which scenes need to be edited or cut.

Agent Rachelle Gardner has a great blog post on how to market your book. The fun part about it is that it’s made up of all the great posts that her clients have written on the topic. Check it out.

In grad school, I accidentally wrote a couple of Young Adult pieces. Since then, I’ve been reading blogs relating to YA books. Here is a post called Are You a YA Writer and You Don’t Even Know It?

Writer Beware issued a warning about emails soliciting authors to send their work to a publisher who wants to work with them. Publishers don’t solicit material in this way. Read the post and, as always, be wary of emails from people and companies you aren’t familiar with.

[I just deleted a section because the link was to something that ended yesterday.]

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hope you find something interesting and/or useful. Tomorrow and Monday I’ll talk about my City2Surf pre-race panic and post-race steak and eggs celebration. Have an awesome weekend!

What Are My Characters Really Like?

On Wednesdays, I’ll cross-post my blog from Routines for Writers here…

When I read Shonna’s post from Friday on the writing book Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck, I was struck by one of her quotes.

As you mature into a professional writer, you will do well to study the way people really are. Not what they ought to be. p.9

When I say “struck,” I really mean “smacked across the side of the head.” Ouch! I’ve known for years that one of my biggest problems as a writer is that I tend to see people as they almost are, as they could be, and sometimes as they ought to be. It’s one of the things that scared my mom the most when I was growing up. I wasn’t as interested in nice, well-adjusted boys. I wanted to save the peripheral boys. I could see what great people they could become…later. I was the Boy Rescuer.

Now as it turns out, I married a boy in whom I could see a world of possibilities and promise. 🙂 He grew into a pretty fantastic man over the years (21 of them last week!). But I read that quote from Peck and I thought, oh man, if I’m unwilling to see real people as they really are, how in the world will I ever train myself to see my pretend people as they really are?!

But the other side of the coin is that I’ve had a good life and been a good friend to people by believing in who they could be. Surely there is a way to leverage that positive characteristic into my writing. I think it’s time to go back to my character diamonds and look at the characters’ arcs.

In fact, this just occurred to me as I was typing – what if I overlay the character arc in four words across the three acts? Over Act One, say a character is clueless. Then over the first half of Act Two the character becomes curious. During the second half of Act Two the character gets frustrated with her lack of progress or overconfident with her apparent progress. And finally in Act Three, she becomes caring and confident. This is pretty close to the character arc for Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless.

Okay, this is why I write! Because if I just keep going, I tend to find some answers! LOL! 🙂 I’m so excited! I have to go write now!


Welcome to my new blog and web site! I’ll be sharing here about my journey as both a writer and a human being. When I find information I think you might find useful, I’ll post it here with applicable web links. And I hope to make you laugh and gasp when I share bits of my writing.  🙂

Today I want to share a few articles for writers that I’ve read over the last week or so. Agent Kristin Nelson wrote about some of the biggest culprits in weak writing. Author Sharla Rae explores flabby writing including examples and how to turn the flab into lean writing. Good stuff, both of them.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware wrote a great explanation of the “interminable agency clause” and why you should avoid it. Agent Jennifer Laughran has a great post on agency agreements as a follow-up to chatter after Kristin Nelson’s post about the “in perpetuity” language in those agreements.

Over the next several months I’ll share what I learn about the pros and cons of self-publishing ebooks. And at some point, I’m going to have to make a stand – is a master’s degree in creative writing worth it? Six more weeks left of school, then I’ll see if it makes any difference on my career path. (Quick answer: I think it will make a positive difference, but I’m not sure how much yet.)

I’ll do my best to make sure my posts – both serious and silly – have a take away value for you. I hope you enjoy walking with me on the journey!