Posts Tagged With: Reading

The Five Things a Writer Needs to Read

1. The Classics

They’ve survived for centuries for a reason. Even if they aren’t your favorite light reading (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you if they aren’t, despite the apparent belief that all writers must devote their bookshelves only to authors who’ve been published for over a century or whose work is primarily existential) , they’re well worth the read.

2. Your Genre

If you’re well-versed in your chosen genre, you’ll soon get a pretty good idea of its cliches and common mistakes, as well as how to avoid them.

3. Your Old Work

I know it’s painful. Very, very painful. I ran across some of mine the other day and had to fight the urge to feed it down the garbage disposal. But, not only can you see how far you’ve come, you can pinpoint areas you may still struggle with. Who knows, you may even find something worth salvaging for a new piece.

4. Other Writers’ Work

Because it’s way easier to spot other people’s mistakes than it is your own. And the more practice you get at problem-spotting, the easier it’s going to be to spot your own mistakes, from plot holes to painful word choice to grammar accidents. There are various sites that cater to amateur authors (fanfiction.net, fictionpress.com, etc.) that work well for this sort of thing.

5.The Things that Set Your Soul on Fire

You know what I’m talking about. The stories that made you want to write your own in the first place. The ones that spark new ideas and make you think. That fire up your creative spirit when you think  you’re too exhausted to write. Whatever you enjoy the most, that’s what you should be reading. So, go! Read!

What do you read to help yourself write? Let me know in the comments!

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Categories: Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Semptember Sequels!

                                              Grab button for The Book Chewers

 I just subscribed to this amazing blog, which posts weekly linkups and prompts. As you may have guessed, this week’s topic is the sequel, a creature which can be incredibly wonderful or perfectly deplorable depending on both the book and the reader. I’m told there are people who don’t like any sequels, whereas there are other folks who love them. I’m firmly in the latter group, as you can read below.

1. Best sequel you’ve ever read?

The Horse and His Boy. I know it’s a children’s book, but I’ve loved it since I was a child. Who cares if I still do? I actually end up rereading the whole Chronicles of Narnia series every couple of years, and The Horse and His Boy even more often.
2. Worst sequel you’ve ever read?

All of the Challenger and Company short stories that followed The Lost World. I’ve loved that book since I first read it, so I was hugely excited when I found out Conan Doyle had written more with those characters.

And then I read those stories…
3. Sequel that outshone the first book?

The Horse and His Boy. Again. I think the writing is tighter, the characters more likeable, and the story just generally better than the earlier books.
4. Do you often read sequels or do you read the first book and move on?

It depends on whether I liked the first book or not. If I did enjoy it, then I’ll likely read the sequel(s). If not, you couldn’t make me touch it with a thirty-yard pole.
5. What’s a sequel that really surprised you (in a good or bad way)? Why?

I’m not sure if it’s the latest one to do it or not, but The Mark of Athena really stands out. If you’ve read it, you will know why. If not…spoilers. Big, honkin’ spoilers which I cannot and will not inflict on you.
6. What’s the last sequel you read? (Briefly, what did you think of it?)

Fired Up by Mary Connealy. It was decent, but honestly the quality of her books in general has been declining in recent years. It wasn’t nearly as good as some of her previous books.
7. What are 3 sequels you’re planning to read (eventually…)?

1) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

2) United We Spy by Ally Carter

3) And whatever the next sequel to The False Prince is.

8. What’s the first sequel you see when you look at your bookshelf?

Isaac Asimov’s Robots and Empire. I haven’t actually read it yet, but it’s sitting right next to the first of the series, which I loved.
9. Best sequel cover!?

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Actually, the cover art was gorgeous for both books. Simple, but beautiful.
10. What book(s) do you think desperately need a sequel…but don’t have one?

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie comes to mind. But due to the pesky little fact that Christie is dead, I don’t see one happening any time soon. *sigh*

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Gumshoes

Saturday morning, my folks and I spent the morning at a bookfair sponsored by our local library association.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday, and all three of us came away with a tote-bag full of books each. Mine were half 1940s mystery novels. In addition, I’m working on making a t-shirt  design featuring literary detectives. Beyond that, the novel I’m working on is a mystery. Needless to say, I kind of have detectives on the brain, so I thought it would be fun to list some of the qualities of a great detective(coincidentally using most of the detectives that are going on the shirt).

 

1. The Hardy Boys~A great detective is likeable.

 

In my younger years, these guys were my favorite detectives. They were smart, capable teenagers who got to go off on adventures, crack amazing cases, and had an uncanny ability to recover from getting conked on the head at least twice every novel. They got to do essentially everything the average kid wants to do with his/her life.

 

Cover of the revised edition of The Tower Trea...

 

I know that an anti-hero works just as well or better than the classic heroic crime-solver in many cases, but even the worst reprobate of a detective needs to have some quality that your audience can love.

 

2. Nero Wolfe~A great detective is unusual.

 

Rex Stout’s mysteries are one of our family’s primary sources of road trip entertainment(audiobooks–relax, no one was reading while driving). Nero Wolfe has always been a favorite, mostly because there’s no one else even remotely like him. He’s a brilliant private detective who never leaves his brownstone, collects all evidence and clues through his hired help, has an immense collection of orchids which is matched only by his impressive poundage, and is easily the most snarky, disagreeable, and cranky character I’ve ever read. And yet, for some reason, he’s still likeable.

 

Publicity photograph of Maury Chaykin as Nero ...

Publicity photograph of Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe in the A&E TV series A Nero Wolfe Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the points I keep coming across for writing good mysteries is that you must always have a hook, and I can actually agree with the general wisdom for once. Without some sort of unusual quality, most detective protagonists fall flat and lose readers within pages of their introduction. The quality itself doesn’t matter; the more creative and off-the-wall, the better, as long as you can make the reader believe in it–and your character.

 

3. The Saint~A great detective is himself a mystery.

 

I confess that I have not actually read any of the actual books featuring Simon Templar. They tend to be rather hard to find, unfortunately. All I’ve been exposed to is the 60’s TV show, but I did love that. Simon had a definite air of mystery in whatever he did, and I found that intriguing. It helped keep me hooked on the show.

 

Many Saint novels were reprinted in new editio...

Many Saint novels were reprinted in new editions in the 1960s to capitalize on the popular television series, starring Roger Moore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, this isn’t a hard and fast rule (since when is anything in writing?), but almost all of the best written detectives I’ve come across have something about them that the audience doesn’t know, but is dying to find out. A secretive past, a shady past-time, a great tragedy from long ago–the possibilities are endless and they can add a tantalizing depth to your characters.

4. Sherlock Holmes ~ A great detective is versatile.

Do I even need to explain Sherlock? He’s fantastic, he was one of the original fictional detectives, he’s one of my fictional crushes, HE IS THE ULTIMATE DETECTIVE!

And he’s also an expert swordsman, boxer, master of disguise, chemist, and he writes about various types of ash in his spare time. See what I mean about versatility?

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. W...

Having your detective specialize is great. It helps pinpoint your target audience, determine facets of the protagonist’s character, and just generally helps with the details of writing a decent character. But don’t let him/her get pigeonholed into one specialty and never leave it. A forensic scientist at the top of her field is great, but make sure she has skills outside of categorizing stab wounds and classifying the stages of rigor mortis.

  5. Hercule Poirot ~ A great detective is brilliant.

Hercule is one of my favorite characters of all time. He was sophisticated, endearingly arrogant, unintentionally funny, and, above all, brilliant. Kinda reminds me of a cat I had once. He was both intellectually superior and common-sense smart. He knew both facts and human nature. That’s what made him dangerous as a detective and awesome to read.

Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot (Photo credit: elena-lu)

Every character, detective or not, should be brilliant in his or her own way. There are far more varieties of brilliance than garden-variety smarts. Some are people-brilliant, some are book-brilliant, others are nature-brilliant, others still tech-brilliant. Whatever their area, make sure your detective shines.

Hey, guys! I’ve been fiddling with the blog again (now you’ll know why, if it suddenly decides to go haywire). Please note the new suggestion page and feel free to add one!

 

Categories: Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Comment

While I was away, something…monumental happened. My blog was flamed for the first time. In a way, I guess it’s a good thing that this was the first negative comment to come through in the almost-year I’ve been writing here, but it stung all the same. However, in frantically reviewing the post in question(Things to Do in a Library) to see what the problem was, I realized that there were some things that could be misconstrued. The commenter had a point.

As such, I deleted the post, did some thinking, and am now sitting here, writing this. The post itself was only meant as humor, and I apologize to anyone I’ve offended. I value your readership, and intend to be significantly more careful in future. I would also like to reiterate that I am in fact still in high school. I have no expertise, no training, and no real business giving advice. But I’m doing it anyway–mostly to myself, as a way of organizing my thoughts and motivating myself to stay focused on my own writing–so don’t take anything I say too seriously.

In writing, there’s nothing more important than tone. Its importance  is exactly the same on the page (or the screen) as it is in conversation. Perhaps more so. And unfortunately, it’s significantly easier to mess up when writing rather than talking.   A phrase intended as sarcasm or humor can be taken seriously twice as easily through written words as when spoken, and it’s three times as hard to smooth things over.  It doesn’t do either the writer or the reader any favors and generally results in an unpleasant experience for everyone. So, without further ado, here are the things I plan on doing to avoid further problems.

1. READ!

All those writing technique manuals have an excellent point. Every author has a unique tone, and the more varied range of tones you’ve experienced, the better equipped you are to skillfully form your own. By studying successful authors, you can see how to capture an emotion or a idea effectively. Without coming off as condescending when you meant to be welcoming, ingratiating when you try to commiserate, or purely stupid when you try to be funny. Better yet, don’t try to be anything. Except yourself, of course.

2. REREAD!

…your own work. Simple proof-reading. As important as we all know it is, it’s easy to forget about tone when you’re hunting for typos, working on deadline(AHHH! IT’S 1:00 AM AND I’VE GOT TO WORK IN THE MORNING! Now, where’s the publish button…?), or simply in a hurry.

Secondly, reading phrases that you have doubts about out loud is good. Try them out, put emphasis on different sections and see if any of the versions are…not so good.

3. Don’t Take It Too Seriously

It’s impossible to be perfect, especially in an area as subjective as writing. There will always be people who love your style and people who loathe it with every atom. Misunderstandings will still occur. Problems will still arise. Take the criticism and learn from it, but don’t sweat it. It’s not worth the time and tears(those are far better spent on those problem chapters of your novel), and there are far more productive things to do with your time.

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Mwuhahaha! : Writing About Fear, Horror, and Other Delightful Things

Just to be clear, I don’t do horror. Being a writer, I have a despicably overactive imagination and it makes monsters out of shadows often enough as it is, even without adding fodder to it. I once accidentally read (yes, it is possible) a gothic horror novel and didn’t sleep for two days afterwards. But, even in genres other than horror, there are still sections that involve a little suspense and a little terror. Some writers do them well. Some not so much. This is what I’ve noticed about them.

1. Emotions

If something’s really gone and shook your puddin’, you aren’t going to be calm, cool, and collected. Yet, in a disturbing number of books, the characters go right on with their adventures, even after supposedly being terrified moments beforehand. I was in my first car accident last week, and, despite it being minor with no injuries, I still didn’t stop shaking for a good hour afterwards. Though, that was partially because the first responders were rude and rather scary, but I digress. If you’re really and truly scared, the feeling doesn’t  just evaporate once the danger is past. Granted, you can’t take it too far, or it will throw off the rhythm of your story, but it’s still something to think about. Also, it depends on the character you’re writing. Some are cool through the crisis and fall apart later, some bawl throughout the duration, and some lock up like clams. Whatever works for your story.

2. Details

As I’ve mentioned before, I am aware that adjectives aren’t exactly cool in the writing world right now. And I understand why. They can be a real nuisance if used incorrectly. But when you’re attempting to pull off a good scare for your readers, mood is everything. And without adjectives to describe it, there is no mood. You don’t have to use a lot (In fact, you shouldn’t use a lot–bad form. Very bad form.), but a few well-placed descriptors can work wonders.

3. Pacing

This can be a major issue. If it drags on for too long, you lose the sense of urgency that makes suspense and horror what they are. If you cut it too short, there isn’t enough time for the reader to become invested in the scene and therefore become frightened. The age-old writers’ advice of reading aloud really helps with pinpointing areas where the action is either too choppy or dragging. Also, having a disinterested party (who has a decent ear for words) read through and highlight areas where something feels off can be a lifesaver, since we all know how blind we writers can be to the failings of our own works.

4. Excessiveness

According to Google, that really is a word…It still doesn’t sound right. But I digress. While trying to write something capable of keeping your readers up that night, the tendency is to go overboard. If a little is good, a megaton is better, right? In writing, no. Definitely not. With blood, gore, monsters, and the abilities of said fictional monsters, it seems to work better to keep it realistic. Well…as realistic as you can while writing about fictional beasties. If the terrors you describe in your tale are too out of the bounds of reality, then it may very well pull your reader out of the story long enough for them to put the book down. If your monsters are too powerful, then your readers are going to hate you for writing a perfect character, evil or not. And I’m going to stop here, because doing more would be…excessive.

 

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