One Writer’s Journey

February 11, 2019

Loving What You Do: Reading Great Books

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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Since this is Valentines week, I’ll be writing a series of posts about loving what you do, how to keep your writing energy high and your enthusiasm up.  Because, let’s face it, being creative takes a lot of energy.

One of the most important things you should do is read.

Read the types of books you want to write.  These books will show you what has already been written.  From them you will also see how writers create three-dimensional characters, exciting plots, living settings and more.  For me, this means reading good nonfiction. One of my favorite nonfiction titles in 2018 was Chester Nez and the Unbreakable CodeA Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac, pictures by Liz Amini-Holmes (Albert Whitman and Company).  It tells his childhood, his life at the Indian schools, being trained for the military, and how his culture helped him survive the horrors of the war and the memories after.

Read books you love.  I will  never write an “own voices” story as a marginalized author.  It’s just not in the cards.  But I love many of these books and reading books you love fuels your enthusiasm for books and for writing.  Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt) was one of those books for me.  I can’t write an authentic African experience, but I can appreciate a fiery female protagonist who has to overcome her own insecurities to fully be herself.  And I can write that kind of character even if she will occupy a complete different type of story.

Read widely.  Read books that were popular when you were a child, the books that encouraged you to love reading.  But also read what is popular today, because unless you are a teen the chances are that things have changed between then and now.

But read.  When a rewrite is being unbearable, briefly shelter in a great book.  Remind yourself just how much you love to read.  It makes the agony of writing worthwhile.


November 20, 2012

What to Read Before You Start Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:10 am
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One of the things that Emma Dryden and I discussed when she critiqued my manuscript was the fact that I should read middle grade novels with 11 year-old protagonists.  I knew that, but then she asked me who I would read.




The only author that I could think of was Bruce Coville.   His magic shop books feature 12 year-old protagonists who are new to using magic so they’re pretty on the mark but I really needed to read more than one author.

Fortunately, I’m on a list for children’s writers so I sent out an e-mail.  I also posted on Facebook.  These generous souls responded and I soon had a list to take to my local library.

Before you start a new project, especially if it is a kind of writing you’ve never done before or don’t do often, read.  Read new books for the same audience.  And if you can’t come up with enough examples on your own, ask librarians.  Ask teachers.  Ask other writers.  Fellow book lovers will point you in the right direction.

Here is the list my friends helped me put together:

Adam Gidwitz’ :
A Tale Dark and Grimm
In a Glass Grimly

Gary Schmidt:
What Came from the Stars

Joni Sensel:
The Farwalker’s Quest
The Time Keeper’s Moon
Skeleton’s Knife

Anne Ursu:

Melissa Wiley:
The Prairie Thief

Patricia Wrede:
(Enchanted Chronicles series)
Dealing with Dragons
Searching for Dragons
Calling on Dragons
Talking with Dragons

(Frontier Magic Series)
The Thirteenth Child
Across the Great Barrier
The Far West


January 12, 2009

How Do You Read

Writers write but they also read.  How do you read as a writer?  Do you finish every book that you start?reading

I don’t.  When I mentioned this to my critique group, I was suprised to find out just how fickle I am compared to some of the others. 

A book has 10 to 20 pages to grab my attention.  If I’m not quite hooked, I may skip ahead and see if things have improved.  Is there more action?  More dialogue?  Is there some sign of a story problem?  That the main character has gotten off their duff? 

If what I read deeper into the story hooks me, I keep going.  If not, I close the book and drop it into the blue denim bag that I carry to and from the library. 

The only exception is if I need to read a particular book, perhaps because it is research for something I’m writing or because it is for our Book Club at Florissant Presbyterian Church. 

Why read things that bore me?   One of my writing buddies feels that she’s made a commitment, a promise to the author, even if she got the book from the library.

Not me.  Apparently, I read like our target audience.  Catch me quick or I’m off to do something else.   I might even fold laundry although I’d much rather read a good book.


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