It’s weird not to be writing.

I’m doing a ton of writing-related activities — plotting, brainstorming, outlining, querying, synopsis-ing — but no writing. Very strange.

I’m also doing a lot of reading. Books that might give me insight into how to juggle 3 characters as “one” protagonist. Books that deal with being twenty-something. Books that have nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to read them. Books that show me what works, what doesn’t, and what might.

(Movies can be good for this too.)

I consider all of that to be research. Or read-search, if you will. (Oh man, I am so lame. I blame my father.)

Some writers shy away from this sort of thing, but I find it really stimulates my brain and rouses my passion. I like reading good books and not only enjoying their story, but also analyzing their mechanics. I like reading bad books and thinking, “Whoa, I can do better than this.” (In some cases, a LOT better.) I like reading fantastic, mind-blowing, emotion-whirling books and wondering if I can ever write that well.

And deciding that I have to try.

Like this:



A few notes


Dog days of summer


  1. Oh I completely agree. Nothing fuels my writing quite like reading does. I think there’s value in any book (good or bad) so my time is never completely wasted. I just hope I’m learning subconsciously as well as consciously when I read, and that some of that awesomeness gets absorbed :)
    .-= • Recent post by T.S. Bazelli: What is Cyberpunk? =-.

  2. Les

    Juggling 3 as one is tough… remember the one I keep trying to kill? She’s one of ’em. Sometimes you have to take a break from writing to make it better… I’m the queen of that hahah ;)

  3. It’s so funny, before I was a really into writing I read just to read. Now when I read I notice so much more. I love it!! Good luck and have fun with your read-search. Totally loving that saying, by the way!
    .-= • Recent post by Kimberly Franklin: Sick Day… =-.

  4. Three protagonists is interesting. I guess it depends on how front and center you want them all to be. There’s a little series called Harry Potter that had three leads, although of course Harry was the dominant character. Three is pretty trendy. If you wanted them all to have equal weight, I guess you’d have to make sure their story lines intertwine in a meaningful way a few times. I’ve never taken that on before…
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Hello, private school! Buh-bye, money! =-.

  5. Great post! I especially like watching movies when I’m not writing. It’s like a book on speed– it gets done in 2 hours what it usually takes a book around 12 hours to do. But it’s great, and really helpful, to see a story arc in that time. I find myself saying, “Oh, that’s how they are raising the stakes.” “Oh, this is where they instill a time conflict on the main character to create tension.”

    Basically all we humans do is tell stories to each other, in ten million different ways. Every interaction holds a chance to learn something about how to tell that story better.

  6. Ooh, I’m the same way. I love to read and watch in relevant genres when I’m getting started on a new project, or when my current project starts to go astray. When you obsess about your own writing as much as I do, everything feels like research.

    Good luck with your reading!

    – Liz
    .-= • Recent post by Liz Czukas: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…No, it’s SuperLiz! =-.

  7. T.S.-
    I’m sure that you are. :)

    LOL duly noted. I don’t plan to kill any of my 3, though. Just… hurt them a bit. (Emotionally, mostly.)

    I agree, it IS a fun extra dimension to reading! Some people don’t like it, but I do. And yay for a new term!

    Hmm, Harry Potter? Never heard of it. :P

    But yeah, I was thinking more equal weight. Not sure it’s even feasible. I’m checking out Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, though. She did 4!

    “It’s like a book on speed” – LOL! Precisely! I took a couple screenwriting classes in college to study the 3-act structure for similar reasons.

    “Basically all we humans do is tell stories to each other, in ten million different ways. Every interaction holds a chance to learn something about how to tell that story better.”

    Dude, you are infinitely quotable!

    Everything feels like research, yes, but it’s FUN! ;D

  8. albie

    hahaha you blame your father. i can totally see him saying that.

  9. Now that I think of it, the Penderwicks books have four narrators, too. I think, as a reader, it’s hard not to have favorites and skim the ones you don’t like as much. Also, I would say that the Penderwicks author did not give equal weight to all four.

    I do love those books though. Can’t wait for the next one.
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Hello, private school! Buh-bye, money! =-.

  10. Jon

    Great post! What books are you reading right now?
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Query Letters DO Work =-.

  11. Jon-
    Right now I’m reading Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, lol. But I just finished Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (liked) and Last Will of Moira Leahy (loved).

  12. awesome. I totally benefit from your read-searching (The Last Will of Moira Leahy is very interesting, thanks for the recommendation!) I find that when my energy is running low, it only takes a good book to energize me (and other inspiring people like yourself)
    .-= • Recent post by Sarah: It’s not easy being Green =-.

  13. Lee

    I’m with you. Read-search is crucial, and though it does feel weird to be obsessed with a project and not be writing it, I always find that the time away from writing, as long as it’s spent on relevant research helps immensely.

    I also find it nice to read the occasional bad novel and realize “I can do better than this.”
    .-= • Recent post by Lee: Teaching! Learning! Excess Exclamation Points!!! =-.

  14. I’ve also been a writing break and it feels SO weird. Like go to the beach in formal clothes and high-heels weird. But it’s helped me re-evaluate lots of stuff, including what exactly I want to write and why. AND I get to read lots. And lots. Hope your break is bueno!
    .-= • Recent post by Samantha Bennett: Weird Writing Friends =-.

  15. It is weird not to be writing. I just started taking a Creative Writing class because I knew it would motivate me to write even MORE – I’m used to writing blogs and reviews and magazine-type stuff, but not fiction, and I was excited to give it a try. The assignments have been so open ended – “create a character!” “describe a scene!” “write a monologue” – completely open, which SHOULD be easy… but when there’s no instruction given sometimes it’s the hardest thing to sit down and actually CREATE. But I’ve found once I force myself to sit down and start writing the first thing that comes to mind… characters and places take shape seemingly all of their own accord :)
    .-= • Recent post by Emily Jane: PUBLISHED! =-.

  16. Sarah-
    I hope you like it!

    “Like go to the beach in formal clothes and high-heels weird.”

    Lol. Well I’m glad you’re figuring that stuff out. I kinda had that revelation last year, and it led me to YA/NA books. :)

    Emily Jane-
    Ooo, the class sounds like fun! I hope it opens you up to be even more creative. ;)

  17. “Writing-related activities.” Is that like “gang-related activities”?

    I am reading like a schizo at the moment. Seriously. I am reading 5 books at once. A few pages of this, then a few pages of that. Depending on what mood I’m in. Not surprisingly, the YA stuff always wins out. I realize I should try to read the occasional book for grown-ups. Just to remind myself that I am one.

  18. Um, only if we’re talking the nerdiest gang ever… ;P

  19. I like read bad book too for the same reason! Your post is very funny!

  20. One of my favorite parts of being writer (if not THE favorite part) is that reading IS working. It’s the best!

    How’s your WIP going? I can’t recall your last update?
    .-= • Recent post by Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist: For the love of words =-.

  21. Well, the WIP is on hold, taking a backseat to the Twenty-Somewhere revision proposals for St. Martin’s Press.

  22. I’m in this weird in between phase where I just finished my first novel, and I’m brainstorming on the next…and I completely see where you’re coming from. Although, weirdness notwithstanding, this is a phase I look forward to in the future. It’s good for creative gluttony, an all you can eat buffet where I consume every bit of inspiration I can from every resource I can find. Some ideas are cold and uninspired, others delicious and inspirational. Film, books, video games, blogs, graphic novels, current events, leave no dish untouched!

  23. “Creative gluttony,” haha, I like it. I feel the same way.

  24. I love reading, but don’t have much time for it, unfortunately. You read a LOT more than I do! It takes me about a month to read one book these days, but I do still love it.

  25. You cannot be a writer if you are not a reader. At the beginning of the year my MFA program assigned me as a mentor to a incoming first year. He told me right away that he doesnt really like to do a lot of reading. I gaped for a moment then laughed and told him, “well that is going to change.” I usually do four books a month for school. Plus I am generally listening to an audio book in the car on top of what I am already reading. I usually reserve the audiobooks to more entertainment fiction and not anything I am expected to critique.
    .-= • Recent post by Lauren: So that’s AWP =-.

  26. Lauren:
    I respectfully disagree. I am an information junky. I spend every moment of every day (subconsciously and consciously) collecting information from every medium possible (from spending time learning from my kids to surfing the web). There are two things, however, that I do not do regularly: read books or watch television. Yet I have written a book, and plan to write several more. Writers write. That’s the only absolute I can agree with.
    .-= • Recent post by S0BeUrself: In the Name of Love =-.

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