Thursday, September 9, 2010

Intentional Reading

I read as much as I can, but it never seems like I have enough time. My TBR list on Goodreads stands at an impossible 150 books! But I've recently taken a slightly different approach to my precious reading time, and it's paying benefits for my writing.

First of all, my TBR list is crazy big because whenever I hear someone suggest a good book, I throw it on there. Then I classify it with a "shelf" description: I have 37 different shelves, ranging from "writing" to "young adult-paranormal-werewolves." Before you write me off as hopelessly OCD, these shelves have been fantastically helpful for intentional reading. This is what I call looking for a book with a specific purpose in mind - either a new MG book to review for my blog, a new writing book to bump up my craft, or books similar to my current WIP.

For the manuscript I just launched, Byrne Risk, I intentionally read three different books (Hunger Games, Dark Life, Inkheart) and analyzed them before launching into my final draft revisions. I read each of these books with a specific purpose in mind. Hunger Games has a similar "rebellion fiction" theme to my novel; Dark Life is a recently published dystopian SF MG novel, also similar to Byrne Risk; and Inkheart has multiple POVs, including an adult POV, again similar to my novel. I read these books with writerly intent, looking for lessons I could learn and apply to my manuscript.

It worked so well, I'm trying it again, this time for my young adult paranormal WIP. I'm reading White Cat, Evermore, and Paranormalcy - books culled from my expansive TBR list (under "ya-paranormal-powers") and relevant to my WIP. I'm only 40 pages into White Cat, but I'm already gleaning lessons on characterization (Holly Black is an amazing writer!).

How do you use reading to juice your writing?


  1. Great ideas, Sue! I need to get more organized with my reading list.

    Once when I was revising the last page of a manuscript I went to my bookshelf to read the last pages of my favorite books for inspiration. Imagine my moan of agony when I found that my last page was WAY TOO SIMILAR to someone else's last page. I rewrote in a hurry.

    Today I got my BYU-Hawaii special instructor ID card. I took it straight to the BYUH library and checked out some books I've been meaning to read. See you later!

  2. I need some juice today. Maybe I'll put the laptop down and pick up a book. :) Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. @Rebecca I'm so awful at endings, I should probably peruse a bunch of books just to figure out how to do it right! :)

    @Leisha Good luck! :)

  4. When I was writing my MG fantasy novel, "Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor," I used "Watership Down," my favorite fantasy novel, as a guide. I especially looked at it for plot structure, but also when I had a specific problem to solve. Worked great!

  5. Hey, isn't Holly Black teaching a class at WIFYR next summer?

    Drool, drool...

  6. @Rebecca Man, I would love to hear her talk!


What be on yer mind?