Effective reading for writers

Successful authors, literary agents and editors all agree that aspiring and already published authors need to read. In fact Stephen King recommends reading about seventy books per years, or a book about every four to five days.


Now this might seem excessive at first but let’s look at the reasons to understand why reading is so important to writers.

Firstly, reading expands the vocabulary and helps with improvement of writing style. Secondly it’s always easier to judge someone else’s work fairly than your own. By understanding what works in their chosen genre, good character development, effective story structure and so on, writers are able to reflect more efficiently and critically on their own work. Lastly, it is important to read to understand what direction the industry is moving into and become aware of particular trends and fads.

But what does reading a book every four days looks like in reality and how can one read in the most useful manner?

How long it takes to finish a book depends on how quick you read. Personally I find that in order to meet my twenty-five percent quota for the day I need to put aside daily three to four hours. That is a lot of time. So how do I do that? Certainly there are times where I read consciously and leisurely, perhaps while sitting on my balcony. But other days when I’m pressed for time, I have been reading in the gym while on the treadmill, during the preparation and consummation of meals and yes even while brushing my teeth. Finally, the brutal truth is that when one cuts back on TV, Internet browsing and magazine reading precious time begins to free up.

The second part of the question as how to read in a meaningful way as a writer is a bit more complex. There are certainly many paths and I encourage you to unearth the one that works best for you. Personally I like to always have a pen and two notepads with me while I read. The smaller sized notepad is used for words that I have to look up (either directly on my Kindle or if I read a printed book on one of the various downloadable dictionary apps). After familiarizing myself with the meaning,I write it down, its explanation and synonyms.

Secondly, whenever I find a sentence or passage that is particularly inspiring or astutely written, I also note it down in the smaller booklet. This serves to improve one’s personal writing style and become more aware of various word/phrase usages.

Thirdly, I ensure that I pay attention to the structure of the novel. Each novel can be broken down into four equal parts: The Set-up, The Response, The Attack and The Resolution. Particular attention should be paid to the two pinch points, the two plot points and the midpoint.

The reason why it is important to pay attention to these beats or milestones is to pace the novel and keep the reader intrigued.

Next post will focus in detail on these beats and what exactly should occur at each of them.

Happy reading!


Is the vampire fad over?

Once upon a time there was a novel called Twilight. It became so successful that its author Stephenie Meyer became a millionaire and was even able to sell movie rights. The first installment of the cinematic experience was released in 2008 and in turn increased the euphoria for the books. Simultaneously HBO released in 2008 the first season of True Blood, a series about vampires based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. (The first book Dead until Dark was published in 2001). Due to the first one being geared towards the young adult genre and the second one being part of the urban fantasy genre and featuring explicit scenes that included both sex and violence, the two series together covered all age-ranges and their desire for vampires.

Those who found Bella Swan too sulky and Eric Northman’s escapes too gory didn’t have to fret either. Their desire for vampires was fortunately fed through the super natural drama Vampire Diaries, which was also based on a book series of the same name and released by the CW in 2009.

Suddenly it felt as if one could turn into any direction only to find oneself surrounded by vampires and not just any kind but broody, enticing and gorgeous vampires that were misunderstood. Ones that were able to hang on to their humanity and debated their animalistic urges.

Bookshelves in stores were overflowing with tomes on bloodsuckers for middle graders, young adults, romance and fantasy readers.

But that all came to an end recently. The fang trend is over. Done. Finito. Readers had enough of vampires and editors won’t publish any more stories that feature them. At least that’s what one would assume if one scans articles on the Internet or visits the closest Barnes & Nobles.

Young Adult bookshelves are filled with grimly, innovative fresh takes on classical fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland as well as stories about assassins (Throne of glass) or heroines with amazing powers (Shatter me).

If we look at fantasy bestsellers George R.R. Martin’s tomes of Game of Thrones are dominating the store landscape, while contemporary seems to be the main trend in the romance category.

And yet, in a time and age where vampires are out one has to wonder how they can be out when eBook sensation Bella Forrest has been able to stay at the top of the amazon best seller list with her series A Shade of Vampire. One that has sold over million books and released twenty-eight installments so far with no intention of slowing down.

As I write this Vampire Girl 2: Midnight Star by Karpov Kinrade (penname of a wife and husband writing team) is in the top twenty of Amazon fantasy best sellers, while Book 1 of A Shade of Vampire is both in the top ten of the Romance and young adult best seller list.

Thus, it seems that for the dedicated fang writer there is still a market out there. One that is hungry for adventure and love stories that center among the creatures of the night.

If you have just completed a vampire book or are in the middle of the writing process there is still hope. We can agree that the peak of the vampire hype has passed, but there are still new vampire books that capture a readership. Thus, vampires should not be seen as a fad but rather a timeless topic with a dedicated readership. Certain readers will doubtless grow fatigued with bloodsuckers, but some never quench their thirst and others are just getting into the taste.

The question therefore is not if there is demand for fresh vampire novels but how you will reach the audience that is still thirsty for them?

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this post.