Tag Archives: reading

Trust Your Readers

I noticed some comments by our regular readers/writers on a pet peeve of mine. The use (and, in this case, the punctuation involved) of “then” or “then and.” The comments which came back, explaining the grammatical correctness of various examples were fine. But they skipped the idea of my pet peeve.

When I was teaching English at Salt Lake Community, and later at Utah Valley University, we occasionally had an assignment where students were required to explain, in considerable detail, something which they knew how to do, but had to explain to a novice. It could be about making some woodworking item, cooking a meal, baking a cake, knitting a scarf, etc. The subject needed only to be something they knew and understood how to do. The object was to “teach” someone else how to do the same thing. On paper.

That was when I began to notice what I now call “Timeline” words: then, now, after, before, soon, first, next, etc. The problem, to my mind, is that when groups of such words clutter your explanation of “how to,” they project your distrust of your reader or audience.

Someone writes about mixing a cake:

“First, you need to decide on the type of cake you want to bake.”

“Before you begin, decide which pots and pans you’ll need, mixing bowls, utensils, etc.”

“Then you gather all your ingredients.”

On and on. Even for a fairly simple task, the instructions and constant reminders of what to do when make for a confusing presentation. I found that if students wrote their instructions in a logical order, clarifying where necessary what they meant by each section, they did not need words like “And then . . .” “After that . . .” “First, . . .” (and this was always one of the worst offenders because, too often, two or three paragraphs later they would say “First, . . .” again. How can two things be done “first” ? ? ? Worse still, many students would write “Then, . . .” Three sentences later: “And then, you . . .” and ‑‑‑ for variety’s sake ‑‑‑ they might throw in a “Finally, you . . .” or “Last . . .” (or even “Lastly . . .”) Ugh!

This even carries over into the writing of fiction. You’re so afraid the readers won’t be able to keep track of the sequence of events, you label each step to clarify. What it really does is muddle the issue.

If you write your instructions ‑‑‑ or your fictional events ‑‑‑ in chronological order, and the instructions or details are clear, you won’t need any Timeline. If you throw them into the mix anyway, you are telling your reader “I don’t trust you to see events or tasks in the right order, if I don’t keep labeling their order for you.” Please, don’t assume your reader is stupid.

Cut most, if not all, Timeline words. Your clarity and the logical order of your writing will be enough.

 

To write or to read?

Okay, help me out here. I want to know what you think.

One of the constant struggles I experience is deciding how much of my limited time to spend reading instead of writing. My free time each day is in limited supply, so I want to use it effectively. But what is really most effective? As is often the case, the answer is probably: “that depends.”

For example, I’ve heard some writers complain that if they try to read someone else’s work while working on their own they find themselves unconsciously adopting that writer’s style or borrowing their ideas. And I’ve heard from others who feel it very helpful to read books with a similar setting or era or language style to help “get them in the mood”. For example, someone writing books set in Regency England might want to read Jane Austen novels at the same time.

Others are able to compartmentalize their reading and their writing so that never the twain shall meet. This may be easier to do if what they are reading is quite different from what they are currently working on. Reading a fantasy while writing one might make it difficult not to “borrow”, but reading a biography or a romance might make cross-pollination less of an issue.

But should we as writers even be reading others’ work while writing? Tell me what you think. Do you find that reading another book during the writing of your own results in unwanted cross-pollination? Do you find it actually benefits your work? Do you find there’s not problem at all keeping the two separate? Tell me your experiences, and what you do to keep reading from negatively impacting your work–or how you use it to enhance your work!

The lines are open! Call now! (Ie. comment below)

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

A Middle-Grade Reading List by Brenda Bensch

Writers are wonderful people. They are compassionate, helpful, sharing kinds of people. And I have the proof:

I was actually looking through my online files for old copies of The Writer’s Digest or The Writer for ideas for a new writers’ blog, when I happened across a years’ old message where someone calling herself the “Provo granny” had asked for mystery series suggestions for a grandson who read at a 4th to 5th grade level. The suggested readings intrigued me too. I’d kept all the suggestions so I could make a reading list of MG books “some day” for myself. These were all posted five or so years ago, so I know this “list” needs to be expanded, but these suggestions still have their merits.

Isn’t it great how so many kids books can live on, and on, and on? Think of some of your old “favorites” ‑‑‑ how many of them are still on the shelves at your local library? Or, better still, on your shelves at home?

KIDS SERIES’ BOOKS TO READ

  • Alcatraz Vs. The Evil Librarians ‑ Brandon Sanderson
  • Box Car Children
  • Chasing Vermeer ‑ Blue Balliett (& The Wright House, The Calder Game
  • The Edge Chronicles
  • Freddie the Pig ‑ Walter Brooks
  • The Gravity Keeper ‑ Micael Reisman
  • The Great Brain ‑ John D. Fitzgerald
  • Hardy Boys
  • The Lucky Series ‑ Dean Hughes
  • Mysteries in our National Parks ‑ Gloria Skurzinski & Alane Ferguson (Wolf Stalker & others)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society ‑ Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Pendragon series ‑ D. J. MacHale
  • Secret Series ‑ Pseudonymous Bosch (The Name of This Book is Secret, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, This Book is Not Good for You)
  • The Seems ‑ John Hulme & Michael Wexler
  • Shadow Children series ‑ Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School ‑ Loouis Sachar
  • Skullduggery Pleasant ‑ Derek Landry AKA: The Scepter of the Ancients
  • The 39 Clues (starting with The Maze of Bones)
  • The Three Investigators ‑ Robert Arther
  • The Time Warp Trio ‑ (John Scalzi ‑ U.S. Ambassador of Children’s Lit 2009 ?)
  • The Warriors
  • Whales on Stilts ‑ M. T. Anderson
  • Wolves of Willoughby Chase ‑ Joan Aikin

Thanks to all who sent these to “Provo granny,” and to each other, way back when. In case you lost track of the list, here it is again. This is an interesting, though not necessarily definitive, list. What books would you add to it now? Since I’m not the particular “granny” mentioned, I won’t even restrict you to mysteries. Or to series. How about some of your cherished single-title MG books? What were/are some of your favorites of any MG genre? Which ones have you read over again as an adult. How did they stand up now. PLEASE answer in the comments: we’ll ALL benefit from your suggestions.

Happy Reading ! ! !

Genre changes

We’re in the process of adjusting to a new dog. We didn’t think it would be this hard. We tend to adopt older dogs, who are supposed to have less energy. This one is defying convention. He paces around the house constantly, bringing us toys and wanting to play.  We take him for walks. We play with him until we can’t stand it any longer.

Every dog has its own unique traits and quirks. So does every genre. It takes a while to understand its conventions, its forms, it’s “rules”. And as my college music theory professor used to tell us, you have to understand the rules before you can break them.  You can have a mystery novel without a detective, for example, but you can’t have a mystery novel without some sort of mystery to be solved.

But why should you care? Why try different genres if you like the one you’re working in now? Well, I can think of a few reasons:

  1. Removing limits – Perhaps you’re limiting yourself, and might actually be a better writer in a different genre. Dan Wells, for example, was determined to be a fantasy writer. Finally he tried something a little different and write a horror/suspense novel. Eight novels later he’s yet to publish a fantasy novel. But meanwhile he’s published suspense, horror, science fiction, and YA.
  2. Experience for crossovers – Some of the most successful books these days could be considered crossovers or mashups. I’ve been reading “Lamentation” from the “Shardlake” series by C.J. Sansom, which is a mashup of historical fiction and mystery.
  3. Focus on new skillsets– Different genres may focus on different aspects of the writer’s craft more heavily. Literary fiction, for example, may require stronger description, analogy, and metaphor. Romance may teach you better character interaction and describing emotions in new ways. Children’s literature may teach you to communicate ideas more simply and directly.

Of course you don’t necessarily need to write in a new genre to learn more about them. The same points could be offered as impetus for broadening your reading list. The more genres you include the more you can pull from those genres in your own writing.

Most writers are also readers, and may be more widely read than most. But if you find yourself in a rut, either in your writing or your reading, considering breaking out into some new ground for a while. You don’t have to stay, but you might enjoy the trip

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

Put a little “non” in your fiction

Most of us started out as readers before we decided to be writers. We still enjoy reading every chance we get (when we’re not writing). It’s even recommended that we be well-read in our genre in order to know what’s out there and what’s been done before. But in case you don’t already, make space on your reading list for non-fiction. Just a book or two each year could make a difference.

Why? Well, here’s why I read various types of non-fiction:

History: No matter what genre you write, it’s good to know your history if only for a source of plots to mine. But if your work involves any level of speculation, a knowledge of history can help you ground your ideas in reality to make them feel more real. And if nothing else, it’s good to drop historical references into your work now and then. Familiar historical references can be a sort of short-hand to bring your reader up to speed quickly without spelling it all out. Stories often work better if they are grounded in historical context.Bibliothek_der_Alten_Welt2

Biography: Creating characters with depth is something we should all aspire to. Why not launch an detailed character study by picking up a biography of someone you feel might be like your character? Biographies can give you enormous insight into what might influence a character and how those influences might manifest themselves. As with history (because it is history) you might find a myriad of plot ideas, as well.

Science: Yes, science can be boring to read about, but there are many writers who can make it interesting, and there’s nothing saying you can’t skim. Knowing how the natural world works can keep you from making glaring mistakes in your writing. It can also be a source of ideas, whether for plot or setting, or even character (how would growing up in a desert, for example, influence a person’s personality?).

Current events: It could be argued this is just an off-shoot of history, but I call it out separately for a reason. We all think we know what’s really going on in any current or recent situation because we’re living through it. But in reality we’re usually getting only a small subset of information, filtered by our own favorite biases. Reading someone’s in-depth analysis of a recent event can help you understand what more was likely going on that you never heard about. It can be useful to get a different perspective. It helps us add more depth to our characters when we realize how many different ways there are of looking at the same event.

Those are just a few reasons for expanding your reading list into non-fiction. As writers, regardless of genre, we often need to “know a little bit of everything.” Sure, you can always do your research after you’ve decided what to write. But what you choose to write might improve by simply broadening your horizons and learning more about the world we live in.

If you’ve been avoiding non-fiction I advise you to start. Perhaps just one book for now, just to get your feet wet. If you find reading non-fiction boring,  consider getting an audio book. I’ve found a good narrator can make any subject more interesting. Give it a try and see if you don’t find yourself applying what you’ve learned to your writing.

If you already read non-fiction as part of your regular reading, what books have you found particularly helpful/inspiring? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

What’s Voice Got to Do With It?

By Rebecca Blevins

I’ve been enjoying literary agent Sara Megibow’s #10queriesIn10tweets Thursday afternoons on Twitter. In real time, Sara shares why she rejects queries or why she asks for samples.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend.

Besides factors like a cool premise, strong and likeable main characters, a well-edited manuscript, etc, there is one thing which keeps standing out as to whether a query works or not—voice.

What is voice?

I love how Julie Wright described it a few months ago on Twitter. “Every writer has a cadence, the beat they use to express life. Word choice, sentence length, pet phrases . . . all make us the writers we are.”

So, every writer has an innate voice. Is that it? Do you just have what you’re born with, and either you’ve got it or you don’t? I believe that whether we have voice that sells millions of books or voice which makes our blog followers feel connected with us, we can always improve in some form.

How can you develop your writing voice? I have discovered two ways thus far:

1)      Read.

Last month here at the Think Tank Blog, Mikey Brooks wrote a great piece on why writers need to read. In this post, I’ll focus on how reading helps us find our literary voice. Stephen King had definite opinions on the subject in his book On Writing:

“Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing—of being flattened, in fact—is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

This next example—from the same chapter—is something I have personally experienced. Something about reading someone else’s prose gets those creative neurons firing in my brain, even when I’m not aware of it:

“You may find yourself adopting a style you find particularly exciting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When I read Ray Bradbury as a kid, I wrote like Ray Bradbury—everything green and wondrous and seen through a lens smeared with the grease of nostalgia. When I read James M. Cain, everything I wrote came out clipped and stripped and hard-boiled. When I read Lovecraft, my prose became luxurious and Byzantine. I wrote stories in my teenage years where all these styles merged, creating a kind of hilarious stew. This sort of stylistic blending is a necessary part of developing one’s own style, but it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so.  . . .  If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So, thanks to Mr. King, we see that in order to help find our style, our own personal voice, we need to experience as many other authors’ voices as we can.

Ready for the second tip?

2)      Write.

“Why, thanks, Captain Obvious!” But really, we can use our own writing to help us discover our style of voice.

Here’s how:

Write about Harry Styles. Uh, I meant write in different styles. (Got your attention though, if you are a teen girl or know one, right?)

If I’m only writing first-person picture books about an octopus named Sal who has a thriving medical practice in the ocean, am I going to venture very far in developing my voice? I guess Sal could escape from a fishmonger or live in someone’s aquarium for a while, but he’s pretty much going to have his tale centered on his doctoring and the sea where he lives. (Can you tell I write for children?) However, if I then write a third- person suspenseful romance—told from two points of view—about a hunk o’ burnin’ love wilderness- survivalist who’s sent to the Alps to rescue an emperor’s daughter being held for ransom, I’ll develop a whole new set of storytelling skills. In turn, those new survivalist and future empress-saving skills will have expanded and deepened my voice, and when I go back to writing about Dr. Sal, who knows what new depths of the ocean I can plumb?

“Well,” you might say, “I write epic fantasy but have been secretly inspired by Dan Wells and am tempted to write a twisty murder mystery. But I don’t really want to write a full-length novel about it, or a novella, or even a two-thousand-word short story, so should I forget the idea?”

Here’s the answer: flash fiction.

Say what?

From Jason Gurley at writing-world.com:  “If you’re anything like me—the traditional short story writer—then perhaps you’ve had the same reaction I exhibited when I first heard of something called ‘flash fiction.’ I stopped, stared, then turned to a writer friend of mine and said, ‘What?’”

Further on, Jason explains, “In brief, flash fiction is a short form of storytelling. Defining it by the number of words or sentences or even pages required to tell a story, however, is impossible, for it differs from writer to writer, editor to editor. Some purists insist that it is a complete story told in less than 75 words; others claim 100 should be the maximum. For less-rigid flashers, anything under 1,000 words can be considered flash-worthy. And there are even a few who stretch their limits to 1,500 words.”

I was introduced to flash fiction a few years ago by my friend, Karen Hoover. We wrote from prompts and utilized specific rules—1000 word maximum, written in one hour, all editing included.

I quickly found I had to shut down my internal editor and write from the hip. Not gonna lie; some of my stories were awful. Yet there were good points here and there, and I grew as a writer. Then life happened and the weekly contributions fizzled out.

Fast forward to this January. Each Friday Suzanne Warr hosts a flash fiction link-up on her blog, Tales from the Raven, so I joined in. When I wrote a story about a boy breaking his New Year’s Resolution, which involved Winnie-the-Pooh, a brown bag, and a lighter, I remembered how fun it was to experiment with a short project.

Flash fiction is a fantastic way to try on different styles of voice, genre, characterization, etc. You’re only committed to that one story, so what’s the worst that can happen? You could—and likely will—figuratively fall on your face, but who’s watching? Even if you don’t share your story, the experience will help you develop and expand the richness of your writer voice.

So, in summary: How do you develop voice? The short answer is to 1) read widely and 2) write with courageous profusion.

Also, eat chocolate during either exercise. Somehow, I think that helps.

________________

Rebecca Blevins lives in the Midwest, land of tornadoes and cows. (Hopefully not mixed together.) Her first book at age four was a huge hit, with a cover made out of a cut-up diaper box and pages of stick figure drawings. The title? Mommy and Rebecca Go to the Store. Now, Rebecca creates stories for several age groups, but she has a special fondness for writing middle grade humor.

You can find Rebecca on her blog at http://www.rebeccablevinswrites.blogspot.com/

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Are you reading?

ID-100201807
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m just going to say it. If you are a writer, you NEED TO BE READING! I have been going to writer’s conferences for well over ten years. I have sat in on a lot of really good panels with some of the best of the best in the business. Every time the question arose of how to be better at writing, it always got the same response, “Are you reading?”

 

That’s right folks. We need to be reading. Why? I’ll tell you. As you read other books you learn the basics of writing. You learn what crafts a good scene and what makes great dialogue. You may be just reading, but in reality you are teaching your brain how to do something. Let’s say you were a lousy cook but wanted to be better. What do you need to do to improve? Well, yes you need to cook, but just cooking isn’t going to make you all that. You need to find out how to cook first. You need to follow a recipe. Once you get the basics down, then you can go out and experiment with other foods. But you have to get the basics first. There are talented authors just as there are talented chefs. As writers, we can use these talented authors to learn from.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you want to write really good beginning in your story I recommend reading books with really good beginnings. Authors that fit this criteria would be, Jennifer A. Nielsen, James Dashner, or Neil Gaiman. Heck, Jennifer A. Nielsen’s book, The False Prince, got into a bidding war with publishers over the first chapter. I think she might have a few things to share about how to write a good beginning. We can’t sit down and talk with Jennifer about how she wrote the first chapter, well maybe you could, but probably not. What I suggest is getting a copy of the book and reading it. Study it out and see what she did. I shared a post about how to do this a while back here’s the link: http://wp.me/p2AmV1-kI.

If you want to write a good fantasy novel, read a good fantasy novel. Pay attention to books that are popular, chances are they aren’t bestsellers because they suck. Even Twilight, although it gets bashed all the time by ignorant writers, has amazing things to teach us. Stephanie Meyer knows how to relate to high school girls. Her books are filled with teen emotions. Readers sink their teeth (pun intended) into those emotions and they love the books. If you want to know how to add more emotions to you YA novel, read Twilight. If you want to know how to write a good action scene read books with great action scenes in them. I love to read James Patterson’s Alex Cross series. They are filled with thrilling action scenes. I read them and examine what it is that Patterson is doing to bring those scenes to life.ID-100154196

Yes, reading takes time and it takes effort, but it will improve your writing in more ways than you realize. You will become better and better because subconsciously you will be teaching your brain how to write better. Just as a beginning cook will learn from watching cooking shows, reading recipe books, and trying out grandma Bird’s gumbo soup recipe, so can better your writing by reading! I am currently reading The fourth book in the MG adventure series, Infinity Ring: Curse of the Ancients, by Matt De La Pena, and a MG urban fantasy book , The Swap, by Susan Quinn. Both books I highly recommend; Infinity Ring for suspense and action, and The Swap for magic systems and out loud funny inner character thoughts. What books are you reading? If you’re not, I’ve given you a list to start on. Read so you can write. Happy writing…and reading!

Mikey Brooks

About Mikey Brooks

Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is an award-winning author of the middle-grade fantasy adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His other middle-grade books include: The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis and The Stone of Valhalla. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie, and Bean’s Dragons. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works fulltime as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’ (emblazoners.com). You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com.

Reading is Beneath Them

reading5

I had a run in the other day with someone. They told me that contrary to popular belief, people did not like to read. The concept this person brought to my attention was that as people become more educated, and get better paying jobs, they feel reading is beneath them. The idea stemmed from a comment where lower ranking people were meant to read for those higher up. So in thought, reading is a job for those who are lower on the socioeconomic scale.  –More important the person, the less they read.

Well, this was eye opening. It all suddenly made sense. Those in government don’t read the piles of legislation that someone wrote, CEO’s don’t care about what they sign, and leaders don’t understand the people they are serving. Could this be why our world is so upside down and why our society is declining? Could it be so simple that people just are not educating themselves or taking the time to read? People these days are busy. It’s easy to see we live in a fast paced world.  Are they just too busy to care about anything other than themselves?

I wanted to discuss this conversation on the blog today. Who are readers? As authors, most don’t make a great deal of money but we do try to support our community. So, who are readers besides those that write? Is reading and writing really looked at as a social stigma? I’d always thought it was the opposite. In society we’ve always been taught to read and write. It’s the building blocks to becoming something in society. So, how has this idea evolved and how have people become so out of touch?

In order to see who reads I’d like to prove a few points to those who believe they are “above” reading. If nobody was reading anymore then what on earth would Hollywood do to make money? So the poor people of Hollywood seem to be readers. Books have become the biggest box office money makers for years. In our fast paced lives people still want to be taken to new worlds to escape their own. Without readers and writers society would not have this outlet that becomes media frenzy.

Teachers still educate students. I know this because I have kids that go to school and read. My husband is a school administrator and he still reads. So if you believe that educators are extremely under paid then in this case, these are the lower class of society. Most people believe that educators are paid well and have benefits that many do not in this ever unstable economy.

Kobe Bryant, Oprah, and Mitt Romney all have shown the public that they are readers. Are these the bottom dwellers that read? If they are, I’m good with hanging out with them. To all you CEO’s, politicians, and professors who find reading beneath you, It’s time to rethink your life. I’m not worried about offending you because I’m quite certain you won’t have the time to read this.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on who you think are readers… And whatever you do, keep reading.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Learning to Write by Reading

by Brenda Bensch

reading

I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling from the outpouring of information at the LTUE three-day conference held Feb. 14-26, 2013 (Light, the Universe and Everything, for any who are unfamiliar with it).  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to thank at least a handful of the participants by sharing my take on what they offered.

An excellent panel on “How to Read to Learn Writing,” consisting of Adam Meyers, Laryssa Waldrom, Emily Sorensen, Christopher Loke, and Tyler Whitesides, reminded me of several points I’d like to share with my students, my blog readers, and all the LTUE participants who just couldn’t make it to every session all three days.  Among other excellent ideas, they proposed the following to improve your own writing:

1.  Don’t read only “your” genre, but expose yourself to other genres.  Specifically go to the originals” of specific genres, and the really old masters like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ovid, etc.
2.  Read what you’ve already read.
a.  The first time, read as a fan, to find out “what happens.”
b.  The second read through, notice how the author made you feel what you felt.
c.  On the third read, figure out why the author made you feel that way.

3.  Read to examine POV (Point of View).  How is the story told through that POV? Could you replicate such a stance?  If you’re not sure, figure out how you could do the same thing.

4.  Don’t “just” read: rewrite.  Rewrite scenes from “good” books, attempting to copy the style, tone, rhythm, etc., into a scene from your life and/or book.

5.  Read everything you can lay hands on within your sub-genre.  Figure out the “rules” for that type of writing.

6.  Analyze something in a popular genre.  “Rewrite” it into a different genre.  Vampires in one book might become faeries, farmers, skeletons, pirates, horses, or giants in another.

7.  Go to a library or book store and read the first sentence (or even the first paragraph) in many, many, many books, all at once.  What did you learn?

8.  Most importantly, Live in order to write.  Expand your horizons by doing.  Expand by being.  Go to an art show.  A ballet.  A symphony.  An improvisation troupe performance.  Go sky diving.  Brush up your French, Spanish, Latin, whatever.  Hit that bucket list and do five things from it in a week.  ENJOY feeling alive by expanding.

Why are you just sitting there?  Go read something!

BIO: Brenda Bensch, M.A., is a teacher of multiple decades teaching in Utah’s university, college, high school and community ed. classrooms (English, fiction and non-fiction writing, drama, humanities, etc.)  Brenda writes YA fantasy, adult historical, articles, essays, poetry, adaptations, plays and screen plays. She invites you to “Ask The Teacher” at http://BenschWensch.wordpress.com

Brenda Bensch

BenschWensch@yahoo.com

or on The ABC Writers Guild at

www.benschwensch.wordpress.com

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.