Read Like a Writer


I’m a reader. When I read, I read for entertainment. I love the escape.

But I’m also a writer. Writers need to study the craft. One way to do that is to read like a writer. To that end, I did some research into exactly how one reads like a writer. I discovered this handy little printout from Teaching That Makes Sense. It’s the best at-a-glance resource I found on the topic.

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That left one question: What do I read like a writer?

I find my inner writer comes out easily when I’m reading bad writing. I see the obvious mistakes or failings and laser in on them. But that’s not what I want to study. I want to study good writing. I need to study the writing I would love to emulate.

The genre of my WIP is fantasy. It didn’t take me long to decide the novel I was looking for:

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Yes, you see two copies of the book there. On the left is my hardcover. The thought of writing in it to make notes broke my heart a little. So, I purchased a paperback copy. It’s so pretty I had second thoughts about writing in that one, too… but I must.

This will be a bit of an adventure for me, and possibly a bit of a struggle. Forcing myself to pick apart the words when all I want to do is fall into them… I think I’m going to have trouble with that. I’ve read this novel twice before, and got lost both times. Maybe the third time will allow me to focus on my purpose.

I may do a follow-up post to share how it’s going.

Here’s to reading like a writer!

Update (due to lack of updates)


It’s been a couple of months since I’ve consistently posted. Part of this is due to the fact that I’ve hit a reading slump. Life got hectic, and my brain has been exhausted to the point where reading was the last thing I wanted to do. Writing was second-to-last.

I’m trying to get back in the groove, though life is still hectic. I’m beginning by starting a new book. I was a little less than halfway though my re-read of The Fellowship of the Ring when I hit the slump, and I can’t seem to get back into it. So, I’m stopping. I won’t be counting that toward my 52 books challenge, and I am 9 books behind on that.

A co-worker loaned me a couple of books, so I’m going to start one of those tonight.

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I’m hoping that the fresh start with an unread book will help, and that I can work toward catching up on my reading goal, as well as get back to my writing.

Times like this I have to remind myself that we all hit slumps, even with things we love. Especially when we’re trying to do too much.

Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell


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Writing is a craft. It requires the use of many tools in such a way that they almost go unnoticed by the reader. In this book, Morrell explains these tools and gives examples of how they’ve been used in other stories.

Topics such as backstory, subplots, tension, flashbacks, and more are covered in this resource.

The great thing about this book is that it makes a handy reference tool. Each topic has its own chapter, which is clearly titled as what is being discussed. You don’t have to read this book from cover to cover to benefit from it.

What I found a little distracting at times was the number of examples used. Examples are great learning tools, but I sometimes skipped over them after one or two were given.

All-in-all, this is a great resource, and I would recommend it.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 4
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average score of 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


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In 1888 London, Audrey Rose Wadsworth defies her father and society, and secretly tutors under her uncle doing autopsies. Through her studies she comes face-to-face with the victims of Jack the Ripper. She feels compelled to figure out who the Ripper is and bring him to justice, but the investigation may lead to dark secrets better kept hidden.

This debut novel by Maniscalco and the first YA novel in James Patterson’s “Jimmy” imprint, fell flat for me.

The premise caught my interest, and the first chapters were a nice set up, but the pace soon slowed. The title is a bit misleading, as most of the “stalking” is done through forensic investigation and autopsies. The middle sags, and the climax picks up with more action, though the true identity of Jack the Ripper was a bit predictable.

Because Audrey Rose wants to practice man’s work in the late 1800’s, I was expecting a bit of feminism in the book. Obviously, this character was breaking through barriers. The amount of it, though, seemed unnecessary as the character reminds us in almost every scene that she is capable though she is a woman. It also, at times, seemed that Audrey was using feminist arguments just as a means to do whatever she wanted, which was often foolish and dangerous.

There’s a romance between Audrey Rose and her classmate, Thomas, that’s more love-at-first-sight than depth of feeling.

There were a couple of times I almost stopped reading, but I kept going because of Thomas, though it wasn’t necessarily that I liked his character. The more we see of him, the more he reminded me of Sherlock Holmes; from his way of deducing to his arrogance, right down to the dog named Toby that he borrows and he declares is smarter than half of Scotland Yard (a close paraphrase from the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle). The likeness and references were so obvious to me that I thought it was have been intentional and I wanted to see where it went. It didn’t go anywhere. Even in her Author’s Notes, Maniscalco makes no mention of Doyle or Holmes, which seems odd since the character felt heavily borrowed from Holmes.

I can’t say that I enjoyed much about this novel. I was able to finish, but just barely and only out of curiosity surrounding Thomas.

1) Overall Plot = 2
2) Characters = 2.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 2.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond


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We live in a time when people seem to be generally discontent; Impatient, moody, complaining and jealous. Though we have moments of happiness, we’ve lost what it means to be truly content. The good news is that we can learn this, as the Apostle Paul says.

Erik Raymond lays out what true contentment is and why it is found only in God. He then explains, through scripture and personal stories, how he can go about learning to be content in God.

Every self-proclaiming Christian should read this book. The Gospel message is at its core: we deserve Hell, but God sent His son Jesus to redeem us and bring us back to Him. This is where our contentment lies. Raymond lays it out in such a way that anyone with a heart willing to be changed will feel the need for it.

This isn’t the name-it-and-claim-it gospel. It’s not health and wealth. It’s loving God and being content in Him, whether you have everything or nothing at all. It’s Biblical truth, and much needed.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves


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In London, in the mid-1800’s, Anna Arden lives a life of high society, marked by the ability to use magic. Only she can’t perform the simplest of spells. But she can break them, though she doesn’t know how.

There are some who believe that magic should be available to any who wish to use it. They believe the rich and powerful restrict magic from the common people in a spell called The Binding under the pretense that it is to protect the untrained from having their magic become a danger. These people want to use Anna to break The Binding. But there are others who will do whatever it takes to stop her.

This first novel in a new trilogy had potential, but it fell flat. It starts off well enough, then the tension fades and the pace slows for almost half the book.

I almost gave up after a hundred pages, but I wanted to be sure I really gave it a fair chance. After about a hundred more, I stopped. The action was finally picking up, but I had little connection or concern for any of the characters, especially the main character. Anna, who is sixteen, leaves an impression of immaturity that I couldn’t shake. The few hints of something deeper in a couple of other characters weren’t fleshed out enough to make a connection. The only exception is the Romani young man, Gabor, who feels like he doesn’t fit among his own people, and is unwelcome in Anna’s world.

The basic idea of the plot is interesting, but there was too much downtime in what should have been an intense, action packed story.

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 2.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3.1 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

11/22/63 by Stephen King


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While grading English assignments in 2011, Jake Epping learns of the tragic childhood of Harry Dunning, one of his GED students. Dunning managed to be the only survivor when his father slaughtered his family with a sledgehammer.

But a bigger revelation comes from his friend, Al Templeton. The storeroom in Al’s diner hides a portal to the past, and he wants Jake’s help. His mission? Stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The first problem is time. The portal only leads to one place, at one time, in 1958. Jake will have to live in the past until the assassination in 1963. With a few side missions to help pass the time, Jake eventually finds a place he can call home, and a girl he can fall in love with. Only the more Jake changes things, the more he realizes that the past may not want to be changed, and it’s fighting him at every turn. Which leads to the biggest problem: what happens to the future if Jake succeeds?

This story is epic. I can’t think of a better word. To call it a time-travel story would be to over-simplify it in the worst way. This novel isn’t about time travel. It’s about people, and choices, and cause and effect. It’s about family, and love, and heartbreak, and everything that makes up life. And as long as this book is, the pacing never falters. A novel like this is why King is considered a master.

Content warnings: There is a massive amount of cursing. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t like the F-word, just skip this one. There’s also quite a bit of g**d**. There are a couple of sex scenes, though I wouldn’t call them graphic, and there’s violence.

If you can push aside the content warnings, the story you are left with is beautiful in so many ways. It’s dark, yet hopeful. There’s danger, but also love. It’s life, from a kind of outside perspective.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Gospel According to Paul by John MacArthur


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The writings of the apostle Paul make up a majority of the New Testament. He is a self-proclaimed defender of the gospel. So, what does Paul have to say about the gospel? John MacArthur lays out Paul’s message, calling upon his writings and the other apostles’ to make the case that Paul’s gospel truly is the gospel of Christ.

The teaching in this book is sound, but I was not able to get through it. I listen to John MacArthur on the radio and I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of his books, but the writing in this book was off. Maybe a book of this brevity wasn’t the right format to present this topic. Maybe it was the structure. I’m not really sure, but it didn’t leave me looking forward to picking the book back up.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 3
3) Quality of Writing = 4
4) Overall Enjoyability = 3

Average score of 3.75 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I Am a Writer: Mission Statement


I AM A WRITER

My mission is to create fiction that will entertain readers while sharing the Gospel in some form. I have always admired writers, and have dabbled in creative writing since about age nine. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve written longer stories that have caused the urge to write and publish a novel to grow until it could no longer be ignored. I see great fiction as a portal to another world inside of our minds, and hope to succeed in helping readers find that portal through my words.

Writing Goals:

  • 300+ words per day
  • “show, don’t tell”
  • avoid filter words
  • First rough draft by the end of 2017

Writing Schedule:

  • Mon – Fri: 7:00pm for one hour
  • Sat & Sun: 3 hours per day (finds times that work best and keep me most productive)

 

I crafted this mission statement as part of a writing exercise in The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills.

Alyssa Palombo: Author Q&A + Giveaway


Historical novelist Alyssa Palombo, whose second novel The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is out now, graciously agreed to answer a few questions on writing. You can read her answers here, and be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post.


1) What drew you to write about Simonetta Cattaneo?

There were a few things: the first is that I learned that she is the woman depicted in Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus, which is my all-time favorite painting. I love novels that tell the story (or imagined story) behind a famous work of art, so it seemed natural that I would write a story like that myself. The second thing is that, in my preliminary Googling of Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, I learned that Sandro Botticelli had been so in love with her that he asked to be buried at her feet when he died – and he actually was! This seemed such a romantic detail that suggested more than a simple artist-muse relationship, so I knew I had to write about it. Lastly, I don’t think there is nearly enough historical fiction set during the reign of the fascinating Medici family, so the opportunity to write about that era was very exciting to me as well.

2) Did you find it easier to write your second novel?

Absolutely not; it was much harder than the first. Even though The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence took me MUCH less time than The Violinist of Venice, it was more difficult in every other way: I knew, by then, all the work it takes to make a book ready for publication, so I knew exactly how daunting the task that lay ahead of me was; it was the first book I’d written KNOWING it would be published (as it was the second book of my two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press); it was tough to transition from working on Violinist for so long to writing something new; and having sold Violinist I started to be plagued with doubt that I could write something as good that my agent and editor would love as much. I definitely got in my own way on this, but I now know this is a common occurrence for published writers writing their second book (or first under contract).

3) Do you type or handwrite your first draft?

Always type! I tend to write long and then need to cut down (although The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence was an exception in that the first draft was the shortest, and it kept getting longer as I fleshed it out in revision and in edits with my editor) so if I hand wrote, I don’t even want to think about how long a draft would take me!

4) What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I love both drafting and revising, because both are exciting in their own way, but I think revising is my favorite. I love the feeling of taking the words I’ve already put on the page and polishing and shining them until they really sparkle. That said, there’s no feeling like writing the first draft of something you really love. And probably the BEST feeling is when you finish a first draft 😊

5) Is there an aspect of writing you struggle with?

Most of my struggles do tend to come during the drafting process, when I have those days where it just feels impossible to get any decent words on the page. I always hit a bit of a lull in my creative energy in the middle of a draft, because that’s when it starts to feel the most like a slog – I’ve been working on the draft for a while and still have a long ways to go before I get to the end. The good news is that I’ve done this enough times now that I know that feeling is coming and can mentally prepare myself to push through it and not let it get me down.

6) Describe your daily writing routine.

I don’t write every day, so I don’t have a daily routine – and I don’t have much of a routine at all, either, come to think of it. What with working full time (and having the same family/personal obligations as anyone else) I just have to make writing time whenever and however I can. I usually write a few nights a week after work and most weekend days when I don’t have other plans. When I’m on deadline or really rolling on a project I also will write on my lunch breaks at work. I also have a writing group that meets Wednesday nights at a café, so that helps me plan writing time into my week and show up and get the work done.

7) Are there any authors who have influenced your writing?

Absolutely! Philippa Gregory was the author who inspired me to write historical fiction. Other big inspirations for me are Sarah Dunant and Margaret George. And, though she’s not a historical fiction writer, I love Ann Patchett and strive to write sentences as beautiful as hers. Her novel Bel Canto is one of my all-time favorite books.

8) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was pretty young – maybe eight or nine? I used to write little one page stories (some made up, and some about things that happened to me throughout the day) and give them to my family and friends. In middle school and high school I started seriously trying to draft novels – those ones were handwritten, because I used to write during my classes when my teachers thought I was taking notes! 😊

9) Name three authors you read for entertainment.

Only three?! Okay, here are some recent favorites: Vanora Bennett, Michelle Gable, and Donna Leon.


A BIG thank you to Alyssa for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to check out her latest novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, on sale now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other stores.

Palombo-ViolinistOfVeniceNow, on to the giveaway!

The novel up for grabs is Alyssa’s debut novel, The Violinist of Venice. I chose to do this novel because it left such an impression on me. I knew in the first few pages that I was a fan of the writing, and the story just pulled me in. Click the cover to the left, and you will be taken to the giveaway, hosted on Amazon.  The giveaway ended May 20, and the winner was contacted by Amazon. You can still click the cover to the left to bring you to the giveaway page.


Be sure to visit Alyssa’s website for more information on her novels, and her great posts on art and Italy.

https://alyssapalombo.com/
@AlyssInWnderlnd