Read When We Write

Do you find that your writing is at its best when you’re reading a book at the same time? Do you read in the same genre as you’re writing? I find that my writing is at its prime when I’m reading as well. This would make sense because I went through a long dry spell and now that I think about it, I wasn’t reading anything.

So before I go and dive into this, if you’re reading something as you write, be sure of 3 things.

  1. DO NOT rip off the writer. Being inspired by writing is one of the best tools we as writers can use. Even if you don’t downright plagiarize, it’s not right to rip off from writers.
  2. Make sure what you’re reading specializes in what you think your weakness is. Dialogue. Read a story that has rich characters and each one has a clear personality that shows in their dialogue. Too many stories die and wither from bad and unbelievable dialogue.
  3. Lastly is narrative. If you’re writing is weak on narrative, just like dialogue, read books that have long and meaty narratives. I always struggled with detail and narrative while my dialogue thrived. So I started reading books with long paragraphs of details and narratives. As soon as I began, I saw my writing improve before my eyes in just the first writing session.

Are you writing a love story that includes heartache and raw feelings? I’d recommend reading any one of the following: (Most of these are available on Amazon for absurdly cheap prices)

(No spoilers I swear)

 

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This fantastic story is unknown by way too many. It’s a tender story of two brothers (Sam and Riddle) from a broken and dangerous home. They find comforting arms and a warm home in teenager Emily Bell’s household. The story thrives on hard situations with a violent father, and the love Sam has for his brother and the life his new interest – Emily has. The story sucks you in and carries you on each page.

 

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Tears have never been so close to my eyes because of a book. Matt Beaulieu’s wife Elle suffers a terrible injury and is left brain dead. The catch here is that he finds out she’s pregnant. Through this struggle to keep her body alive there are unexpected challenges that appear that will test both Matt and your heart. Flashbacks in this novel are key as they show the couple younger and allow you time and pages to grow close to both Matt and Elle. This story remains in my top 10 – maybe I’ll make a list sometime.

Are you writing fantasy?

I’m not too versed in this field of writing but I do have two recommendations.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

There’s a reason critics tell readers to shelve this next LOTR and The Hobbit. Kvothe (pronounced Kwothe) is a simple boy traveling with his family as a traveling circus. One day he finds his parents and his entire troupe slain. The culprit? A group of people that are thought of as fictional fairytales. His only answers are at a place called The University where they teach magic, but not the cheap “abracadabra” magic. It’s well thought out magic that happens in the mind. This book which is book 1 of a trilogy is good for everything. Narratives and description that rivals any book I’ve ever read and dialogue of equal value.

Need a short story for narrative value?

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – By Patrick Rothfuss

Yes same writer. However this small novelette ranging just over a hundred pages takes a side character from his trilogy and spends a few days with her. Auri is a cute, innocent girl who cracked. She isn’t mentally sane and sees the world in a different light. You don’t need to read his others to understand this. All you need to know is that she lives underground beneath a school and is gathering different items to make a gift for her friend. The entire thing is ALL NARRATIVE. Pages of description of rooms, chambers, pits, wells and everything in between. If you’re not a fan of fantasy, don’t be afraid to give this a chance because it isn’t fantasy at heart. It’s a story of a girl who sees regular items commonly discarded as something special. It’s truly an interesting read.

Are you writing horror?

Horns – Joe Hill

You may not recognize Joe Hill by his penname, but you may recognize Stephen King’s name. Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son and let me tell you, he made his way into horror writing not by being King’s son, but by writing damn good stories.

Ig Parrish’s love of his life, beautiful Merrin Williams is dead; brutally attacked, violated and killed. The town believes he did it no matter what he says. After some drunken night to which he remembers almost nothing, Ig wakes up and has horns on his head. With these horns come influential power over others. He sees into their lives like a peeking through a window and can tell them to do things. This novels covers dark comedy, murder mystery, supernatural, romance, let’s just say it  covers everything and covers it well. This is one to read a few times, and then maybe watch the movie (which was actually pretty good).

Let’s go to the King.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Have you heard of this one? Because it’s not like other King novels. Trisha McFarland is a young girl who is forced to go hiking with her dysfunctional family. After taking a few steps away from the path, she is lost with no idea how to get back. She’s not in a small wooded area either. She’s lost in the Appalachian Trail. In addition to being a survival story, King weaves a sinister plot line with something watching little Trisha from afar. She can hear it growl, she can hear it move around her but she can’t see it. This shorter novel (speaking in terms of King’s usual length) is a smooth and creepy read.

Other very honorable mentions

This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathon Tropper

Do me a favor and read anything by this great writer. Every story he puts out, he creates a new story that mixes heartbreak, nostalgia, humor and some of the richest characters you’ll find in writing. Just do me a favor and read the story before you watch the movie…or don’t watch the movie at all.

This Bright River – Patrick Somerville

This lovely story is also in my top 10. Being my only exposure to Mr. Somerville, I’m not sure why I haven’t picked anything else by him. This book is about a tortured protagonist who has a dark history. He runs into a woman from his past with a terrible life as well and the two clash and mix. It’s a dark love story that travels through family secrets, possible murders and worse things still.

That should about do it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment what you like to read when you write, or what you’re reading right now.

Thanks,

Zac Zinn

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A Writer’s Sorrow

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A Writer’s Sorrow

I dipped my quill in ink but my heart is dry
Finding myself only writing “…” I realize I’m empty
Call it what you want
Cold spell, dry spell, some blockage in the way
I can’t write, and I can’t live properly

It casts a shadow over the day
And covers night in black
Do I force the words?
Do I wait for them?

How many days have you gone without writing?
Days?
Months?
Years?
How long has it been since you released your heavens and hells onto a page?
If you feel blocked then please heed my advice because I have been there too many times. Go to a bookstore with no target in mind. Walk around for as long as it takes and find a book that stands out. Buy it on impulse and read it. Become enveloped by its story and fall into the power of what words can do. When you finish, grab a paper or open a blank document, and write what’s inside. You may even begin writing while you read the story.
Cover yourself in literature, and the words will find you.

Thank you for reading
Zac Zinn

A Quote For You

Is there a quote that ever stuck with you?

Here is my favorite besides the one I use from Hemingway all the time:
“A writer is the sum of their experiences” – from the movie Stuck In Love

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Don Draper from Mad Men here because this show is the finest example of the human experience and top class writing.

What are your favorite quotes?

The Struggles of Writing

I don’t believe there is any struggle in life that can be more rewarding than writing besides childbirth or parenting. Anyone who is a writer knows this.

But I must confess I feel like a fraud when I call myself a writer because a writer doesn’t go weeks, or for that matter, months without writing.

So I have some encouraging words that I have learned recently.

Once upon a time, I stopped writing. We’ll call it writer’s block to save some face. I was frustrated because when the time would come once a month for my writer’s meeting, I had nothing new to submit. I would submit something a second time and claim that I wanted further work done to it, or I’d submit something I had written years ago.

Anyone who is involved with an author’s social media outlet will see quotes from them saying “Just write” and a thousand variations of it. But I would just say to myself, “It will come in time, just let my mind work itself out and when it’s ready it’s ready.”

But I was telling myself a lie. There is a time to let things cook in the mind before spilling it on paper, but I was abusing this. I was letting my mind grow lazy by not exercising it. So if anyone is in the same boat, believe me when I say KEEP WRITING. There’s a reason that when you Google “writing” this picture shows up-

Or my favorite –

There’s a reason.

If you are working on a novel and have no inspiration, write a poem. Write a poem about anything. Write about the struggle. Write about your childhood. Write about the first time you remember feeling angry, felt love, felt happiness. Write about the first time you experienced tears of joy. My first time was when I saw my brother graduate from basic training. Even though we had barely been brothers all our lives, seeing him go away into the army and actually losing a brother for a few months… Seeing him again made me feel like I had something I never had before. I’ll never forget it.

If you’re working on a short story and find it’s putting up a fight, don’t let the wall you just ran into stop you. Take a step to the side and walk around it. Pick a scene from a movie you love and write about it and make it your own. Picture the park bench scene in Good Will Hunting and rewrite it.

In the end, you either have a product you can say “This came from my hardest of efforts and look at what I made.” Hold it in your hand and be proud. Or you can say, “I tried to write, but it didn’t work.

No. It didn’t work, you gave up, just as I have done too many times. I’m finished with my own complacency, my novel-in-progress is now actually IN PROGRESS. Let’s write people, we’re all one big group of people sharing the struggle.

I’ll close with a picture that makes me laugh and inspires me from my favorite writer, Patrick Rothfuss.

Thanks for reading – Zac Zinn.