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Joys of reading 2016

4 Tips to Help You Become a Writer Who Reads

“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 (1920-2012), fantasy & science fiction author

During the last decade, I’ve done a lot of different things to improve my writing, including

  • attending writers conferences
  • annually attending the MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat
  • entering writing contests
  • finding mentors — and listening to their advice
  • following writing blogs
  • upping my game with each book I write by focusing on one specific craft element to improve on

There’s always more I can be doing to become a better writer. As 2015 ended and the new year came into view, I determined to get back into one habit that I’d let slide: I’m going to read books again.

Oh, sure, I read books. On occasion. If someone asks me for an endorsement and I say yes because a) I believe in the author and b) I have time in between my deadlines. (A rare commodity these days.) To be honest, most of my reading involves reading and re-reading my manuscripts. A fairly limited amount of literature, yes?

But if you’ve spent any time in the writing world, you’ve heard authors and editors and agents exhort writers to  “READ!” Reading makes us better writers. We read other books in the genre that we write. We read other authors to learn what they are doing right — or wrong. And sometimes we read just for the pleasure of it … to give ourselves some downtime.

But deciding to read more in 2016 and actually reading more wasn’t just going to happen. I had to make changes to ensure I took time to read. Here are four tips that have helped me become a writer who reads:

  • Sign up for the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. Join the online community by listing your goal of how many books you want to read in the upcoming year. I want to read 35 books — although my “secret” goal is to double that. I’m not worrying about anyone else’s goal. I’m competing against myself.
  • Join a book club — or start a book club. When my daughter was younger, we started a mother-daughter book club, which was loads of fun. Reading books and discussing them with others is a great motivator to read. You can go the traditional face-to-face route, or find an online book club.
  • Set aside specific times to read. If you just say “I’m going to read” but never determine when you are going to read, it will never happen. I’m developing the habit of closing my laptop at 9 PM and picking up a book. It’s a relaxing way to end my days.
  • Read both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a novelist, but I also love nonfiction. I just finished:
    •  Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer, which is a wonderful book about prayer.
    • Where the Wind Leads, a memoir about a family that fled Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. The fact that the author is one of my husband’s professional colleagues makes the story all the more compelling.

And yes, I’m reading novels — both contemporary and historical and I’m about to start Curio by Evangeline Denmark, which is Steampunk.

What about you? What do you need to do to be a writer who reads?

 

 

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#ForHisGlory by Nick Joies

 

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been struck by the uproar over the bad sportsmanship by both fans and players in the playoffs. While I normally thrive in the midst of the noise, I’ve found myself thrown off – distracted even.

Why am I bothered by hurtful fans and players in a game where my team won. This isn’t the first time these issues have been part of the noise of life. Most times, these kinds of things make me ponder humanity. Where we fail. Where we lack love. How far we still have to go. I can write about this. I can capture some part of the noise and put it into a character, a conflict, a victory. Normally, these noises inspire me.

Not this time.

Why?

There’s the answer.

For me, and maybe you too, contest season for Christian fiction writers is upon us. Submissions for ACFW and the Frasier contest, amongst others, are due this spring. I’ve been pondering whether I should enter the contests. The Genesis would be big for me as I’ve never dipped my toe in that well. Maybe I’ll enter the Frasier again. I did okay last year.

Okay.

And there it was. My why.

I did okay.

Okay is why the noise was chaos instead of inspiration. My noise was their noise. My why was their why. There are good and bad games for every team. Why cheer an injury or throw bottles on the field? It’s only an award. It’s only a game. It’s not a matter of life or…

Death.

#RIPDavidBowie. #RIPAlanRick… No, wait. #RIPSeverusSnape. #RIPGlenFrey.

It’s only a contest. Does entering and, if I’m being honest, winning, matter? Should it matter? The answer is in the why.

Why enter? To gain valuable feedback on my work? Sure. To validate my storytelling skills? To test God to show me I should or shouldn’t be writing at all?

I’m guilty of this chaos – of these whys.

Better question. Why do I write? Because I can? Because I think I have a story or two or twenty to tell? Because I need the money? Can’t be these.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV)

To glorify Jesus. Make Him known. To spread the hope of redemption, grace and mercy I value as much as life itself.

These are the whys that matter.

It doesn’t mean contests aren’t worth entering. They offer helpful feedback at times. One Frasier judge made me rethink an entire character. Another pointed out I write long, sometimes convoluted sentences she had to reread multiple times, probably causing the lines in her forehead to etch deeper into her brow, to figure out what I was trying to say.

That one’s on purpose. I already knew that.

Still.

Enter contests. Or don’t. I may. But if I do. It will be for the right why. #ForHisGlory.

~*~

Nick Joies writes contemporary and Biblical fiction with a touch of romance, as well as Christian living, Bible studies and devotionals. She writes for His glory because salvation is a matter of life and death.

 

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Thank you! in typewriter

Don’t Be Legalistic About Social Media

Social media stresses a lot of people out, but it doesn’t have to.

One of the biggest issues is that people tend to approach it with a have-to-do, legalistic mindset. Truthfully, because successful social media is all about relationship building, it works best when we treat it organically.

Because it’s easier to manage with a set of guidelines:

  • Be consistent.
  • Avoid self promotion.

It’s easy to get caught up in the to do list and forget the point

They’re not numbers, they’re people.

We even begin to judge the worth of what we have to say by those numbers. Let me remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why you sweat over a keyboard, struggling to find the right word. Why you risk rejection by submitting those carefully crafted words to editors, agents and contest judges.

We’re doing it because we want to make a difference in the world around us—a world made up of people. If all we’re looking for is higher numbers, we’ve missed the point. We’ve set a course that follows certain frustration and ultimate failure. So if it’s not for the numbers, then what’s the point? Why even bother with social media?

The point is what the numbers represent…the point is the individuals who can be impacted by what we write…challenged by what we say…changed by what we share.

When I get caught up chasing the numbers, the significance of what I’m doing diminishes. But when I step away from the race and concentrate on who I’m writing for and who I’m writing to, things fall back into place.

I’m first and foremost a writer. For me, social media is a tool. It’s the means to an end. It helps me find my audience. But when I begin to measure my worth as a writer through the numbers of social media, I’ve gotten off course.

My worth is not determined by my numbers.

For me, the blog posts that mean the most are rarely the ones that generate the highest numbers. The ones that mean the most are those that help someone, that connect the dots for an individual who’s hurting or help someone who’s frustrated finally see the light. It’s when I pen those words that I feel true satisfaction in my calling.

Here are some other things we need to remember:

  • It’s God who provides the reach, we only need to be faithful to do our part.
  • We build relationships one person at a time.
  • I remind myself that it’s not about me.

How about you? How do you avoid the trap of legalistic social media? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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