2020,  Fiction,  Reading,  The Writing Life,  writing tips

READING your way out

Facing the blank page is one thing, but sometimes the complications of life steal your emotional energy. Despite all of the best techniques for getting words on the page, if your emotions are sucked dry, working longer and harder is not the answer. Sometimes your emotions are knotted up in a major life event, and while this may provide material for writing down the road, at the moment you have nothing left to give.

In times of deep emotional exhaustion, I pour out my thoughts in a private journal, but I find it impossible to focus on my fiction. Reading, however, is something I can do. At the moment, I am reading voraciously. Library books. Books on Audible. Books from the bookstore. Books on Kindle. I have stockpiled these like a squirrel collecting nuts for an endless winter. My collection at the moment includes biographies, adult fiction, young adult fiction and a middle grade story.

This, I decided, would be a good time to focus on reading-for-writing. How can all this reading actually help when you feel able to get back to writing your novel?

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” Ray Bradbury

One thing I have become aware of while reading some pretty incredible novels, is that my characters still need more fleshing out. Picturing exactly what the character looks like is not important to me. On the other hand, the background of the character and how it impacts who they are at the start of the story, is super important. That gives the motivation for their actions and reactions, and I’m thinking mine could use a boost. So, even though I have not received feedback from my agent regarding my revisions, I think it would be safe to assume that working with my characters would be welcome.


  1. Conduct an interview with him: Why did he choose his career? What would he consider his top strength? What are his goals and dreams? Does he have any? What frustrates him the most? What is he most disappointed about? What would he do differently if he got a redo of the past twenty years? (If your character is a kid, imagine that she is being interviewed for a special award.)
  2. Write some journal entries from your character’s point of view. If there is a scene where your character is coming across a little two dimensional, write a journal entry where the character shares her feelings about what is going on. It’s amazing the things you learn about your character from these private journal entries! All kinds of back story emerges and you are able to better understand your character’s reactions and motivations.
  3. Try BEING your character for one whole day. Think like your character. Act and react the way your character would in a variety of situations. What does your character do with his hands? What quirks does he show when nervous? It probably won’t be a perfect transformation, but I think you’ll be amazed at what you learn about how your character’s brain works!

The most important part? Have fun!

PS. For some reason, I didn’t get around to posting this, and in the couple of weeks that followed, the world has drastically changed. I have more time. Much more time. Inside. To write. But… there are more people inside with me, both f-t-f, but also talking to me from the screen. I am obsessed with the updates on the Covid 19 pandemic. Like we all are. I am envisioning everyone who has ever written a book, and everyone who has ever wanted to write a book, toiling for hours over their respective computers. Imagining. Creating. WRITING. Distracted or not, I think I better kick it up a few notches. Now is NOT the time to be lazy.

Happy reading! AND writing! (Perhaps I will modify the opening quote to read, “Never put off until tomorrow the book you can write today!)

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