Last May I thought I had finished writing a novel. I wrote 80,000 words, sent it off to my friend Ksenia who edited it for me, and what I received back was a lot of red and feedback that I hadn’t properly written a book…just a summary of a book. And man, was she spot on.
That launched me into the most splendid year ever.
I have always valued books and writing above most other things, but truth be told, I wasn’t a reader. I had read books, and I’d read a couple a year, but I wasn’t really a reader. That was the problem with my writing. If I learned how to be a better reader, I could learn how to be a better writer.
So, when June rolled around, I started reading. A lot. And I can proudly say that in the past year, I have developed a routine, a habit, of making time for reading.
In the past year, I managed to finish 41 books.
That is really huge. I know it might not seem like a big number to some of you, and it might seem massive to others. That doesn’t matter. It’s not a contest.
What I did was dedicate myself fully to a practice that I knew would get me closer to my dreams.
One year and 41 books later, I am closer. That much closer.
Here is what I learned from my first year of dedicated reading:
- You learn as much from bad books as you do good books. It is very valuable to ask why something doesn’t work for you and to incorporate that knowledge into what informs your craft.
- The value of story structure should not be overlooked. I’ve studied and practiced seeing and writing story structure (mostly a traditional 3 act) and now I see it everywhere. When I sit with my husband to watch a movie we discuss it. I see it in TV and sometimes even video games. A story without structure usually just doesn’t deliver.
- Outlining is my jam. I pantsed (wrote on the fly) the first draft of my book. By the end, I had a mess of partial conflicts that never got resolved, and mostly, no conflicts at all. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the outline for my 2nd draft. I’m a planner, always have been, probably always will be. No shame in that!
- I’ve been given permission to use poetic language in my book. That was something I shied away from a bit because I thought that wasn’t how it is done. But now that I’ve read all sorts of books and really paid attention, I know that having your own unique writing style is exactly what counts for artistic flair.
- I love first-person POV. I never thought I would, but “The Fifth Season” and “Red Rising” changed my mind. I’m a convert…though I don’t think my first book will utilize that.
- My love of dark imagery is sustained in books as well as visual arts. Any book that can poetically describe something sad is everything to me.
- The more specific the character, the more I love the character.
- If a character has very clear desires, I as a reader desire that thing as well. When the desires are unclear, I don’t want anything out of the book.
- Anything is possible to write, as long as it 1) makes sense within the world, and 2) moves the story forward.
- I’m becoming a better reader! I’ve always considered myself a slow reader. However, and I should have seen this coming, reading is like anything else. It is a muscle, it takes practice. I used to only be able to hold my attention long enough to get through 15 minutes of reading at a time. Now I can get through hours. I read smarter, faster, and I enjoy myself more.
- Books have replaced my phone. Well, not entirely. But, where I used to keep my phone by my side, I’ve actively replaced it with a book. Now, when I have the urge to waste time on my phone, I read in those micro-moments instead.
- My writing will be heavily influenced by imagery. My first draft wasn’t at all image-tastic. Which is inherently weird for a visual artist. But, now that I see how great authors weave visuals into every sentence of their books, I know how to do the same. I’ve got some awesome visuals planned for my novel!
- I am very serious about writing. I knew I wanted to be a writing, but now that I’ve dedicated myself to this craft in such a big way (it’s no easy task reading that many books in a year while running a full-time business), I’m more in it than ever before.
- The best books are the ones that make me wish I lived in their worlds. I want to make a world like that, too. They are blossoming inside my head.
- At best, protagonists are your best friends. At worst, they are acquaintances. At best, antagonists are tragically wounded friends. At worst, they are pure evil. Note: I love the antagonist in my book!
For those asking, my book is shaping up to be Fantasy, and maybe Young Adult. I was originally going to only do one, but it is looking like it needs a sequel or a trilogy. I’m already excited for the expanded horizons I will offer.
Here’s my really, really rough pitch so far: Twins are born into a world on the brink of death. Separate, their powers could destroy everyone in existence, but together, they could save the Tree of Life and all of Her children.
It’s a massive work in progress, and I feel no pressure to go faster. I am taking my time with this, letting my passion seep into every crevice before I start writing out each chapter. Until then, I’ll continue going on early morning hikes with my Love to discuss new details, writing my outline, and enjoying new books.
Here is a list of all the books I read this past year. I’ve put in bold my absolute top recommendations. If they are part of a trilogy, I only highlighted the first. The one that is bold and red is my favorite of the whole list.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these and which are your favorites!
Also, tell me your favorite book!
Extra points for fantasy or science fiction!
“The Graveyard Book” by Niel Gaiman
“Myst: Book of Atrus” by Rand and Robyn Miller
“Myst: Book of Ti’ana” Rand Miller
“American Gods” by Niel Gaiman
“Myst: Book of D’ni” by Rand Miller
“Story” by Robert McKee
“Sabriel” by Garth Nix
“The Story Grid” by Shawn Coyne
“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
“Lirael” by Garth Nix
“Abhorsen” by Garth Nix
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by J.K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling
“Good Omens” by Terry Prachett & Niel Gaiman
“Structuring Your Novel” by K.M. Wieland
“Outlining Your Novel” by K.M. Wieland
“Everworld, Volume 1” by K.A. Applegate
“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin
“The Lost Years of Merlin” by T.A. Barron
“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
“The Obelisk Gate” by N.K. Jemisin
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
“The Strange Library” by Haruki Murakami
“Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri
“From Here to Eternity” by Caitlin Doherty
“The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ” by Philip Pullman
“Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick
“Many Waters” by Madeleine L’Engle
“The Martian” by Andy Weir
“Pawn of Prophesy” by David Eddings
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly
“Down Among the Sticks and Bones” by Seanan McGuire
“Mistborn: The Final Empire” by Brandon Sanderson
“Mistborn: The Well of Ascension” by Brandon Sanderson
“Mistborn: The Hero of Ages” by Brandon Sanderson
“Red Rising” by Pierce Brown
“The Three-Body Problem” by Cixin Liu
“Golden Son” by Pierce Brown
Excuse me while I go devour Morning Star.
Gallagher Green - I told you “The Three-Body Problem” was great! 😀 The next two in the trilogy just get better!
I have read “Frankenstein” which I liked, I just finished “The Hobbit” which I loved. I am sorry to say I read “The Fifth Season” and couldn’t get myself to read the next two in the trilogy, I just didn’t like it at all, sorry. 🙁
I have now started “The Lord of the Rings” which I really like so far.
I also listened to the audiobook (free on Librivox) of “Mathilda” by Mary Shelley, it is very poetically written and dark(ish). I liked it much more than I had planned on.
I also recommend the book “Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King, it’s much different from most of his work, I think you would like it.
I am still working on the first draft of my novel, but I did write a children’s book that I now need to illustrate, once I learn how to draw! LOL
I also decided to write a quick short story (to try and make a little money on 😉 ), but it is suddenly getting kinda long, and the other night I was typing along and “Bang!” two new characters just popped into the storyline. It surprised me, it was like the story was writing itself, and my fingers were just there, I think my brain left for a coffee break! (it can be a slacker)
Writing has become very important to me. 🙂
Sam - My book recommendations:
The Fey series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
For me the Fey had been the by far best planned and written fantasy world.
And for fun: “Illegal Aliens” by Phil Foglio and Nick Polotta
Science fiction, but I just love Phils humor!
And now I’ll be off, looking for “Fifth Season” 🙂
Addie - yay, this makes me happy…. Im a huge reader and my favorite genre is YA fantasy… 🙂
here are some of my favorites
– The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss,
– Monster Blood Tattoo – DM Cornish (this one is a bit complicated as it almost has its own language, but its so worth it!)
– The Onion Girl – Charles De Lint
– The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M Valente
those are just a start and looking at the list, I realize they are all part of a series, so if you like one, then you can continue the story… maybe one day we can sit down over tea or hot chocolate and discuss our favorites!
Chantel Schmitt - Try Wool by Hugh Howey. I can’t remember when I first read it. Had to have been around 2012 or so. There are also two more in the series…one a prequel. I’ll have to re-read Wool before I start on the others though because it’s been so long.