Friday, January 20, 2012

YA Indie Carnival - What Reading Teaches Me

YA writers and bloggers unite each week to share their thoughts, hopes and dreams about what it's like going indie in today's publishing world.

Today's post is all about what reading teaches me as a writer.
The easy answer is: SO MUCH!
But let me flesh it out for you a little more.

Reading is a fantastic teacher. You always here that a good writer is a good reader and there are many reasons why. Now that I've started to take writing seriously and am attempting to make a career out of it, I take my reading very seriously too. I can't sit down and read a novel without picking it apart and analyzing what I do and don't like about it. 

Here are a few of lessons I've learned so far...

LESSON ONE - The beginning
I used to always finish a book whether I was enjoying it or not. I would turn each page with the hope that it would eventually pick up and satisfy. Now, I simply don't have time. I will always give an author at least three or four chapters to grab me. I feel like that's fair. 
It makes me realize how vitally important those first four chapters are. There is no time to waffle or slowly work your way into a story anymore, no time for massive chunks of description or backstory. Those elements need to be threaded into the action. The mystery or hook has to be presented early on. 

LESSON TWO - The voice
Voice is vital. The way a story is written will either help you turn each page or turn you off each page. You have to like the author's voice. It needs to be unique and touch a place inside you that you can connect with. I like stories with a quirky voice that has some humour, but also a fair whack of emotional depth.
I always struggle with getting the voice right in my stories, but it is easy to pick the books I like, so I try to emulate what I've read.

At the end of a book, I always ask if the story took me where I wanted it to go. Did I feel tense? Did I feel emotional? Did I find myself cheering for certain characters or worried about what might happen to them? Did the flow of the story steer me through to the end, so that I found the book hard to put down?
If the book was successful and did all these things, I like to look back and see what elements they used to entice me and make my reading experience fast and exciting.

LESSON FOUR - Satisfaction
As a writer I always want my audience to finish one of my books with a smile and say, "That was awesome. I'll definitely read that again sometime." So when I read a book that makes me feel that way, I like to figure out what it was about that book that ticked all the boxes. Usually it's because I was able to connect with the characters, I felt emotional about what might happen to them, the story was well paced with a mixture of action/tension and slower emotional patches, and I found myself thinking constantly about the characters throughout the day, desperate to know what was going to happen to them.

Those are only a few lessons that I have learned along the way. I am bound to learn plenty more as I keep breaking apart these novels and adding all the elements I love into stories of my own.

If you're a writer or reviewer, what do you look for in a good book? What lessons have you learned along the way?

Don't forget to check out the latest news on the YA Indie Carnival site.

Also, check out what the other carni's have to say...


  1. What excellent points... I'm definitely going to take your advice about understanding what it was about my favourite books that made them so enjoyable and try to emulate them myself! Thanks!

    1. You're very welcome. Thanks for joining me. It's great to have you along :)

  2. Great breakdown of important qualities in a book. I agree about the beginning of the book, especially.

    1. Hi Jenna. Yes, the beginning is vital and I find one of the hardest things to get right!