From June 21, 2022 thru September 21, 2022, ebook readers will be able to pick up new ebooks on our site for $1.99 each. Look at our selection of mysteries, memoirs, true crime, poetry, and other titles on our website. Ebooks can be downloaded directly to your ebook reader after purchase.
I’ve been an editor for over twenty-five years, and writers ask me all the time how they can become a better writer. It’s simple, and any pro writer or editor will probably say the same thing: read and write.
Like you’re told as a teen when learning a new skill such as playing a musical instrument, you need to practice your skill of creating stories by actually writing. Practice, practice, practice. Write, write, write. Practice every day, and if you need a day off from writing because it does take a lot of energy to create from scratch, then write 6 days a week and take 1 day off to recharge.
When not writing, read other authors’ books in the genre you write in but also in genres you don’t write. Let those authors inspire you with their creativity, stories, and unique ideas. Read how they stretch their limits and discover how they immerse their readers.
So many things happen while you’re reading: 1) You are internalizing how the characters come alive on the screen in front of you. They become flesh and blood to you, and you begin to hear their voices, see their actions, and how they interact with other characters. 2) As you read stories, you empathize with those characters and learn the tropes of that genre. 3) You are entertained, and maybe you might just smile while reading verses stressing about the next page you need to write. 4) If the story has really engrossed you, you might think about these characters and their stories while you’re doing mundane household tasks. This will get kickstart your brain, get it engaged, and help you brainstorm ideas for your own stories.
Please do not mistake these tips for stealing or plagiarizing another author’s work. That is not what is meant here at all. Never ever use another author’s words in your own work. It is not an ethical practice. Instead, use reading as a way to decompress and get inspired by the pros. Using my music analogy, as kids we might listen to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra but it takes years to be able to play like those musicians.
Which books should you read? Anything and everything that interests you. If you’re like most writers, you also have a love for reading. If you’re still discovering reading, check out the following authors and their books.
For action scenes, you might enjoy: R.A. Salvatore’s novels (Drizzt’s stories), Terry Odell’s Blackthorne series, Charles DuPuy’s E.Z. Kelly series, or D.M. Herrmann’s John Henry Chronicles series.
For series family characters in a romance: Johanna Lindsey’s Malory novels or Barbara Raffin’s St. John Sibling series.
For a unique voice in a memoir: Dallas H.’s Shaking the Family Tree, Carolyn Redman’s News From Lake Boobbegone, How Steve Became Ralph by Steve Buechler, or Bruce Kirkpatrick’s Lumberjack Jesus.
For poetry that tells a story: Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree by Simi K. Rao, Poetry and Ponderings by Diamante Lavendar, or Kaleidoscope by Dallas Hembra.
For characters that stretch their limits: Katharine Nohr’s Tri-Angles series, Paul Lisnek’s Assume series, or Gini Athey’s Wolf Creek series.
For historical fiction: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Sara’s Sacrifice by Flo Parfitt, or Callie Trautmiller’s Becoming American.
For law enforcement/prison topics: Try Scorpion Wind by Joseph Mosca or Prison Clown by Richard Keith.
For tips on writing like a pro: On Writing by Stephen King, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, or Spider, Spider Spin Me a Web, also by Lawrence Block. (Find authors who speak to you and your own personal needs in their nonfiction voice.)
I’ll keep adding to this list periodically, so keep checking back. You can also ask your local librarian for suggestions in the genre that you want to learn more about reading. Enjoy, and remember practice, practice, practice writing!
We asked Nathan Hopp to give us some feedback on writing book reviews. He started the Reader’s Boulevard Review Blog a few years ago, and has a few thoughts on how to write a fair review. Enjoy!
Everyone likes to be a critic.
It’s a truth as real as the beliefs we carry. As a critic you feel entitled to judge everything in either an analytical or enjoyable outlook. You’re giving your opinion on someone’s work, which has changed and evolved over time. In this digital age of social media, blockbuster films, and the Internet, more people prefer visual entertainment over the written word. Therefore, it can often be a challenge to review a random book in an honest, constructive manner. Personally, I like to judge a novel on its most basic objective that anyone can agree on: if it can entertain while leaving an impact.
Now this single objective isn’t black and white. There are dozens of books that can inspire without having good plot, characters, etc. or even vice-versa. When reviewing a book, I dislike judging it with the mindset that it is a masterpiece. No novel is perfect, and no novel will appeal to every single person on the planet, so I keep an open mind on the targeted demographics it’s likely aimed for. If you’re usually a contemporary reader but not a fan of historical fiction, don’t negatively judge it solely because you aren’t fond of the genre. Everyone has different tastes, so a reviewer shouldn’t hate something solely because it isn’t a genre or type of story catered for them.
For me, I can read almost anything, whether it be contemporary, young adult, fantasy, historical, or hardcore sci-fi. However, my favorite kind of novel is the one that has a plot where you don’t know where it’s going. It has memorable characters with personalities that keep you engaged (especially if the story’s tied to their struggles), a setting fascinating enough to explore if they existed, writing crisp and fluent enough to make you feel like you’re experiencing what’s happening on the pages, and a villain you love to hate or even sympathize with.
Like I said though, this can go either way in books. One could have a fantastic plot and bland characters while another might have an incredibly complex villain and a weak setting, maybe even vice-versa with any of these varieties. It’s all subjective in the eyes of the reviewer, and it’s not a bad thing to hold in regard. Listen to others’ opinions, whether they be the reader, the critic, or even the author themselves. In the same way anyone can be a critic, so can anyone have the privilege to decide what makes a book entertaining.
About the Author:
Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1996, Nathan Hopp grew up the oldest of three rambunctious brothers. As a child, he inherited his love for literature from his mother and his love for science fiction/fantasy from his father. He has been a dedicated bookworm since grade school, reading through corny romance novels one hour to an entire Young Adult series in less than a week. In high school, Nathan’s interest grew into writing, eventually leading him to haikus, short stories, vignettes, and novels. Currently attending UW-Eau Claire as an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing, Nathan spends most of his free time as an avid participant in the furry fandom, surviving one semester at a time, and running a review blog. Learn more about Nathan and his book on social media: Facebook.com/NathanWHopp or at Twitter.com/HoppNate.