Reading as a Writer

Last week I talked about how writers need to write. This week I want to discuss how writers also need to read. As writers we need to read a lot. There are several reasons why we need to be reading. We should be reading for learning opportunities, to support the writing community, and of course enjoyment. Each of these reasons for reading is equally important to us as writers.

Learning Opportunities

If we don’t read how can we be expected to write well? When we read we learn how other authors create their work. We see how they tell a story and develop their characters. When we read we have the ability to learn how seasoned authors have mastered their craft.

When we read we should make an attempt to read novels that are similar to what we are writing. We are not reading these books to make our novels sound like theirs. We never want to do that. We need to create unique stories that are our own. We should be reading to learn why these books are successful and apply what we learn into our own novels.

The book I am writing is about a young woman who travels across the country. After I finished my first draft I realized that the first 20,000 words weren’t working for the story. I kept struggling with ideas about how to make the beginning more interesting. My character just traveled from town-to-town and the story kept dragging on and on. Soon after I started working on the second draft I began reading The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub (Which I highly recommend everyone to read). I started reading this book because I enjoy reading both these authors. I had no idea what this book was about and just started reading. It must have been divine intervention that I started reading this novel; it’s about a boy who travels across the country.

I read how these two masters took their character, Jack Sawyer, across the United States. Seeing how they wrote their novel it opened my eyes to a new way to write my own story. With this new knowledge I deleted those 20,000 words and started the beginning over. While it was painful to do it was well worth it. My novel is so much better now that I made those changes.

Supporting the Writing Community

If we don’t read others’ work then why should we expect others to read ours? Karma, golden rule, whatever you want to call it, is an important principal to follow. Earlier this year at a convention I had the opportunity to hear published authors speak about writing. All the authors that were presenting knew one another and knew each others’ work. As they spoke they would reference each others’ novels as well as other authors’ writings.

Think of where you work now. While your colleagues work on different projects you probably have some inkling of what they are working on. Well, the other writers in the world are also your colleagues. We should and need to have an idea of what they are/have been working on. So we must read. After reading a book, tell people about it, get their book to sell more copies. It’s exactly what you hope happens to your own book one day.

Enjoyment

The main reason any of us read is for the enjoyment of it. Novelists write to entertain. While it is important to learn as we read, we don’t want to forget why we began reading in the first place. Enjoy yourself. Turn off your phone, curl up on the couch, crack open a book and spend an evening reading.

We get so busy in our lives that we don’t make time for reading. Since I have been focusing on editing my own book I can’t remember the last time I immersed myself in the world of a book. While it’s not a lot of time, I plan on taking 30 minutes a day and just reading.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

― Stephen King

It’s fun to read your favorite book over and over again or to read everything within a particular genre. Just don’t forget to expand your horizons. While I prefer reading fiction such as King and Straub I make it a point to read other types of work. I’ve read everything from classic fiction to modern nonfiction, and everything in between. It’s important to read a little bit of everything. It’s also fun when you read something that you were expecting to be boring and it turns out you just found your new favorite book.

Use the comments section to let us know what you are currently reading. If you have a topic you would like me to cover or a question you would like answered send me an email at Axeman@thisweekinwriting.com.

Novel Progress
Draft: Second
75.00% Complete

Writing Habit: Write Every Day

When I began This Week in Writing I made it a point to write every day. This has not been an easy task. Some days I’m so exhausted I can barely form a sentence. Other days I’m able to write for hours. Whatever the case may be I refuse to go to bed until I have written for at least 30 minutes.

Why do I insist in writing every day? It’s to ensure that I build a strong habit of writing. A common belief is that doing something for 21 days will form a habit. I’m starting to think there is something to this. Tonight’s blog post marks the 21st day since I started This Week in Writing and the 21st day since I’ve been writing consistently.

Habits don’t come easy, especially when it comes to writing everyday. When you make the conscience choice to write everyday there will be an adjustment period. This adjustment period isn’t just for you; it’s for everyone around you.

I told my wife that I now consider my writing a part time job. This meant that I would be spending less time with her and the girls at night; just as if I went to go to a part time job. If your end goal is to be a full time writer then you need to be dedicated and begin to write as if it were a part time job. My goal is to work towards writing at least 20 hours a week.

If we want to be writers we have to write. We have to write a lot. And if we want to make a living from our novels we have to write even more. These last few weeks I have made it a point to write at least 30 minutes a day. Now that I’m used to that I plan on writing at least 1 hour a day.

Think of how much time you actually spend writing in a week. Is it sufficient to complete your novel? Last week I wrote about setting goals. To help ensure that those goals are met I challenge you to write for at least 30 minutes each day for the next 21 days. I’m confident that you will see an improvement in how much you write in a day.

If you have a topic you would like me to cover or a question you would like answered send me an email at Axeman@thisweekinwriting.com.

Novel Progress
Draft: Second
71.16% Complete

Goal Setting: Finding Balance

How important are the goals that we set for ourselves? Some goals are important others are trivial. Whatever the goal is it’s up to us to decide its level of importance. It’s always a great feeling when you can look at your list of goals and check one off as completed. But what if you can’t check one off? Do you give up, throw in the towel? Of course not, that is the last thing you want to do.

Did I meet my goal and finish my second draft by my wife’s birthday? I’m happy to report that I didn’t. You might be wondering why I’m happy about not finishing, at first so was I. The answer is simple; I set myself up for failure. Looking back at my goal I realized I only gave myself two weeks to finish half a manuscript. Between work and family it was impossible for me to complete the second draft.

Is it ok to feel bad that a goal was not completed, of course it is. However it is not ok to quit because a goal wasn’t met. Instead we need to review what our goal was and reevaluate the best way to accomplish it. Goal setting is like the story of Goldilocks. We have to find the perfect balance. Sometimes our goals are too ambitious, other times they are lacking importance. It takes time and effort to find that perfect balance.

Take me for example. I don’t want to make the same mistake by setting too short of a timeframe to finish. Likewise I don’t want to make the mistake of giving myself too much time. If I do not give myself enough time to complete my goal I will fail again. If I give myself too much time to complete my second draft I also have a high chance at failing. How can too much time cause me to fail? Think of it like filing your taxes. We can begin filing them at the end of January however many of us wait till April 15th before turning in our forms?

So where does that leave me with finishing my second draft? My new goal is to finish by Halloween. This gives me a little over a month to finish. While giving myself the whole month I intend to finish much sooner. This extra time allows me to go back and do any minor edits before giving the manuscript to my Alpha Readers.

Take this time to review your goals. Are you on track? Do you need to make some modifications to your life to ensure that the goals are completed? Speaking of goals, it’s time I get back to completing mine. If you have a topic you would like me to cover or a question you would like answered send me an email at Axeman@thisweekinwriting.com.

On a side note I am going to post my progress slightly different. Instead of listing pages and word count I will be leaving a percentage of completion.

Novel Progress
Draft: Second
67.29% Complete

 

Writing Habit: Getting Organized

Good habits are necessary in order to be successful. On habit I struggle with is being organized. All my life I’ve had junk piling up all around me. Each year I clean up my mess and vow to keep everything in its place. This only lasts about a week. I’m sure many of you struggle with this as much as I do.

TWiW plaque

I’ve have this little plaque for years. Its message rings true to my heart. “Seldom tidy” is sometimes an understatement. This is embarrassing, but here is a picture of my desk as it was when I started writing this article.

TWiW Messy Desk

As you can see, I have a lot of room for improvement. Sometimes when I write I like to move my keyboard farther away from me, which allows me to stretch out my arms as I type. This becomes a difficult task when the keyboard keeps gets stuck by a piece of junk.

TWiW statue

I also have this little statue. It reinforces my lifestyle on the lack of being organized. The problem I’m having is my mess has begun to draw my attention away from my writing. I end up spending more time rearranging the junk than I writing my novel. So I decided that it was time to spring, or in this case late summer/early fall clean my writing space.

TWiW Clean Desk

A funny thing happened once I decluttered my desk. My mind also became decluttered. I began to write more efficiently. There were no longer “things” on my desk to distract me. I focused more on my writing and less on trying to become comfortable in my space.

The creative people I know are also the most cluttered. At the same time the successful people I know are also the most organized. In order to become more organized, in hopes to become more successful, I’m giving myself a challenge; I am also extending this challenge to all of you.

Throw one thing away each day for the next 30 days. This does not include junk mail or a piece of paper. Throw away actual stuff. Think of all the spare computer cords you have around the house. Or that cell phone that’s over ten years old. In my office I can see stacks of boxes that are calling out to me, asking me to go through them. And that’s what I’m going to do.

Novel Progress
Draft: Second
Words: 46,091
Total Pages: 206
Current Page Editing: 128

Welcome to This Week in Writing

When I first had the idea to start a blog it was going to be just about the progress I’ve been making with my own novel. I figured this would be a good way to force/motivate myself to complete my manuscript. And then it dawned on me, where’s the fun in that? While I write for myself, I also write for others to enjoy. Why write a blog just for myself when I could write it for all of us aspiring Novelists.

I have a degree in English that focused mainly on creative writing. I’ve also been writing stories since I was nine. So I decided to take this opportunity to pass onto others what I’ve learned over the years. My goal for This Week in Writing it to provide weekly articles to help aspiring Novelists, such as myself, complete their manuscript and to get published.

To hold myself accountable and to ensure that I finish my own novel on time, my plan is to give weekly updates at the end of each post verifying where I am at with my novel. I’ve given myself the deadline of September 24th, my wife’s birthday, to complete the second draft. To be honest, I’m scared writing this for all to read. Will I meet my goal? Check back next week to read my next article and to see my progress.

But what about you, where are you at in your Novel? Use the comment section to let the rest of us know what you are currently working on and the progress you’ve been making. If you have a topic you would like me to cover or a question you would like answered send me an email at Axeman@thisweekinwriting.com.

 

Novel Progress
Draft: Second
Words: 44,742
Total Pages: 200
Current Page Editing: 113