Honing Your Craft Through Reading

by Alena Tauriainen, writing as @AlenaWendall

When I started this writing journey, I believed I could set my schedule and everything would line up so I could write. Can you hear God laughing? Really, I’m sure you’re snorting. I know I am.

There are times when I come home after working a 50-hour work week, the house is dirty, dinner still needs to be cooked, the dogs have torn up the garage and the laundry is flowing outside of the laundry room. I have no mental energy to write.

I stare at my TBR pile longingly. You know that pile of books sitting on your night stand? The books that you don’t have time to read. Yep, that pile. 

I can’t possibly take the time to read, I mean, look at the state of my house. I should be cleaning not reading! Then I make an executive decision, I pull leftovers from the freezer, send another teenager to clean up the mess in the garage, throw a load or two of laundry in the washer. (My husband is forever complaining about over stuffing the washing machine – hey, it’s why I bought the heavy duty one.)

Then I notify any person that wants to continue living—Mom has had a rough week and she is going to indulge. Those who want to meet Jesus can interrupt her with trivial things. I know I just earned the bad Mom award, but, y’all, my kids are 15, 17, 20 and 22. They will survive.

I select one of my favorite authors from my TBR pile and pull out some highlighters from the overstock of school supplies that are always in our house. I prepare to work on my craft.


I read to learn.

I may not have the mental energy to write but I can learn from the best. As I read, I look for elements that make a great story or techniques I struggle with. I usually take note of:

  • The inciting incident, the noble quest, the disasters, the disappointments, the happily ever after.
  • The laying in of a spiritual thread. How the author plants the bread crumbs. 
  • Metaphors
  • Settings
  • Emotions

I use a different color for each item. It might look like this:

  • Spiritual Thread – Red
  • Metaphors – Yellow
  • Settings – Blue
  • Emotions – Purple

I also create a legend in front of the book with a Post-it note so I can remember what each color represents. 

So the next time, you are totally drained, it’s not all lost. You can pick up that book from your TBR pile—Guilt free. You are working!

Click to Tweet: Honing Your Career Through #Reading by @alenawendall via @NovelAcademy #writing https://buff.ly/2iIqtoo


Writing as Alena Wendall, Alena Tauriainen pens contemporary Christian romance novels that always end with a happily ever after. By day, she partners with her lifelong mate Clyde, to run the family HVAC business. She manages both business and family life with four lovable but crazy kids. She is the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is represented by Rachelle Gardner with Books & Such Literary Management. Visit her at alenawendall.com.