The 5 Stages of Deciding What to Read

Imagine this: you’ve just wrapped a long day at your job or school and feel the need to wind down. You mindlessly scroll through Netflix for a crazy amount of time before giving up, Then, an idea strikes. Reading! You hop off your favorite chair or spot on the couch and dash to your book storing location. But where to start? Now you find yourself in a difficult situation. How do you decide what to read? If you’re a reader, you know this challenge well. In the end, all readers go down this same path at some point when choosing a book.

  1. Consult your bookshelf for previously read books

Stage one: we go for the obvious. Do you even remember what books you do have? Maybe there’s a novel you want to reread? A reader’s first stop is always home base. After staring at your selection for a bit, you may find a book to read instantly. Well done! You’ve accomplished a difficult feat and are possibly a unicorn. You go you reading unicorn genius! If you stuck like most readers, it’s time for stage two.

  1. Stare for way too long at your “too read” pile

Time to consult the new books who are clamoring to be read. Do you want that new mystery you’ve been dying to start? Or the tongue-in-cheek autobiography? When they were purchased, you promised to read them right away. Let’s be honest, it’s been at least a week since you mentally filed it into the to-read section of your mind palace. Why not read the back of the books again and again to narrow down your options? It doesn’t matter how many to-read books you have, this inevitably happens. If you choose a book in this step, you deserve a high-five. Congratulations! Hop off this train and enjoy. If you are frustrated at your current disinterest in these books, never fear! That’s when it’s time to improvise. 

  1. Listen to the call of the new books that you need to read

If none of the books you have are calling your name, it’s time to consult your wishlist. If you have it written down or stored online somewhere, consult the list of books you want to read. They are currently not in your possession, which makes them oddly more appealing. After zipping through your list, a book may call your name. If you are blessed with an open library or money to purchase said book, you can answer the call immediately. Mission accomplished! Maybe you hit a roadblock that brings your quest for this new book to a grinding halt. Drat. Time to go back to your bookshelf.

  1. Read the back of some of your books to narrow down your pile…

It doesn’t matter if you did this in stage one and two. Inevitably, the backs of these books will be consulted until you have narrowed down your list to a few books. If you are lucky, this will be the end of the journey for you. You may find a book you love to reread, or remember one that you loved which you were meaning to revisit. You might have found a spark this round for one of your new books. Either way, you did it! No money spent, no book left unread. Sometimes this doesn’t work out. For some reason all the books in your house, in your electronic reader, and anywhere else you keep books don’t hold anything of interest. If you are truly at wits end, you may give up and grab a random book, or give up on the book search entirely. Other times, it’s time to do some quick mental math. You could skip a coffee or a Postmates order to appease your book hunger. You may scour your library’s website for books to rent online. Then, inspiration!

  1. Ignore all the books calling your name and get a new one! 

It’s time to appease the book hunger, and that book you found online won’t stop wiggling its way into your mind. Time to cave and purchase it! If you’re lucky, you can find it for a good price or free in the magical world of the internet. Ignore the disappointed sounds of the books you own and get them a friend to join their ranks. If you prefer the feeling of pages between your fingers, it may be a bit longer before you get your prize to enjoy. Either way, more often than not readers find themselves here. If you are like me, it’s a side effect of your increasing book addiction that drives your parents/you to invest in the glory of a library card. However, my library is closed. I can’t escape this pull to give money to Bezos for some instant gratification at 10 pm. This is a constant conflict for me as a book lover. Sure it’s fun to get a new book, but don’t forget about the ones on your shelf! They want to be read too after all. 

Do you find yourself going through these stages when deciding on a book to read? Or do you have a different strategy? Let me know in the comments below! I love learning about people’s different reading habits. I hope that this made you smile a bit, even if it’s a bit too relatable.  Now it’s time to start this process myself. Hopefully I’ll find a book that brings me as much joy as the below GIF of Matilda being relatable to readers everywhere. Happy reading everyone!

A Goodreads 2020 Update!

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow we’ll be into month seven of 2020! To call this year a wild-ride would most likely be an understatement. Every week I have thought “I wonder what surprise occurrence will happen this time.” Like I said in my last post, I have been able to focus more on my hobbies to keep my spirits up. One of the small silver linings of this time is that I have more time to read. And since I’ve laid out a more challenging Goodreads goal this year, it’s a welcome opportunity.

When I discovered the Goodreads challenge a few years ago, I found it a way to make my reading feel productive. Recently, I’ve been procrastinating on doing some productive things by doing others. Instead of vacuuming, I’m watching a video about a historical figure. When I should be searching the internet for blog inspiration, I’m reading. It has been a great way to feel that I’ve accomplished something during this weird time vortex.

Thanks to the miracle of book tapes and intriguing storytelling, I’ve clocked myself in at 24 books as of the publication of this post. To my utter excitement, I’m 5 books ahead of schedule. According to the Goodreads site, that is. There’s hope that I’ll wrap up with 40 books, or maybe even more, by Jan 1, 2021!

While this is exciting, I haven’t challenged myself with a book recently. I’ve been diving into the glorious world of beach mysteries and fun rom-coms. These are lovely books to read, but I wanted to add some classics and “challenging” reads to my reading list. I want to learn, to grow as a person in this crazy world we live in. I also want to beef up my random fact repertoire, which I feel has been a bit stagnant since I graduated college. Either way, I’m looking forward to the new worlds and stories that are in my future

Do you have any book recommendations that you think I should add to my list? How is your Goodreads challenge going? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks so much for checking out my blog. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for around eight months! It makes me so happy that my words are interesting enough for you to return for new posts. I hope y’all have a great week, and happy reading!

3 Ways Reading Improves Your Writing Skills

If you talk to a writer in the throes of their writing process, you’ll hear a similar thought: “writing is hard”. This is especially true when you’re kind of new to writing, like me. If it’s a writer with the cursed writer’s block, the feeling is tenfold. There are many different ways to help improve your writing skills. Among this list of ideas is one that some writers stay away from like it’s the plague; reading. 

Reading, believe it or not, can be a huge asset to your writing skills. This is a fact that most writers know well, but some still shake their heads at the idea. Reading novels, especially ones in the same genre that you’re writing, is a great way to hone your craft. Think about a book that you love the most in the genre. What do you like about it?  Why do you return to the novel over and over again? Considering these questions can help you improve three aspects of your story. 

1. Stronger Characters

Oftentimes our favorite stories give us examples of how to improve our characters. Reread the novel and consider a few things as you read. What are the strengths of these characters? What are their weaknesses? Are there traits that make them especially likable? If it’s a villain/antagonist, how do they challenge the protagonist? Also, how do all the characters add to the plot progression?

Keep a notebook or laptop beside you and take notes. Consider some of the questions I asked and any others that you feel are important. After you’ve compiled a list of these traits, think about how you can apply them to your novel. Make sure you’re not copying and pasting these characters into your own story. They are inspiration, not parts of a story to recycle. If I recycled traits from Poirot and created a similar Belgian sleuth, it would be obvious. Instead, use general descriptions of the characters you admire and adapt them to your own. Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? Instead of creating a carbon copy of the sleuth, hone in on what makes you like him. If it’s his observation skills, use that to create a character with sharp skills in a different way. They could be a smart socialite who can read people from their years of training. Or, they could be a dedicated Doctor who spends hours studying their patients to be the best Doctor they can. 

In some genres it can be hard to take inspiration without people noticing, like the mystery genre. If you have an observant person solving a case, people are going to think of Holmes. Make sure you add other traits to your characters to make them more than a carbon copy.  

2. Honed Writing Style

Deciding on a writing style can be a tricky task. You have to consider the genre, the story, the characters, and what you want to say with your story. This is when consulting books in the same genre is a must. When reading them, pay attention to their style. Are they witty? Is the writing painting a vivid world, or one left up to the reader’s imagination? What kind of words and sentence structure do they use? Is it more light-hearted or serious?

Get that notebook or laptop out again and keep the notes flowing. Jot down some keywords to describe the writing styles you gravitate towards. Do this for stories within and outside the genre you’re writing. Use these words to find the commonalities. If you find the witty and punchy style of Terry Pratchett up your alley, think about why. How can you adapt it to help improve your style? I find it also helps to read the novel that inspires you right before writing. If you have the style and vibe fresh in your mind, it’s way easier to channel it in your own story. Make sure you’re not copying, instead use that style to pull a similar vibe out of your own writing skills. 

3.  Well-formed Plots

Plotting has always been the bane of my existence. I can jump around and write scenes, but putting them into a coherent plot is another story. When I’m lost I look to stories within the genre that I want to write. If you experience a similar situation, ask yourself a few questions while reading. What plot structure are they using? How do they build the story so that the end makes sense? If it’s a mystery, how are they dropping hints to the readers? What about the story structure makes the climax impactful? 

As you’ve suspected, it’s time to take notes. Think about some of the questions I’ve asked, as well as any others you find important to your story. Also, pay attention to how the plot impacts the characters. A good plot has to include character growth! If you can get your hands on a book on plot structure, it’s also a great help. I read Save the Cat Write a Novel by Jessica Brody. It was a real lifesaver! Once you have all your notes complied, try plotting out your own novel. Writing key plot points on notecards and placing them on a wall is a great way to organize. If you want to challenge yourself, try using this method to visualize the plot of the novel you studied. Once you have it in front of you, take notes or pictures of the sections of the plot that you want to put into your own story. With these ideas at hand you can get off to the races!

How does reading improve your writing skills? Is there a novel that inspired you to write? Let me know in the comments below! I hope that you can apply some of this advice to your own stories in the future. Good luck with your writing, and happy reading!

A Reader’s Burnout

Reading is always the thing that keeps me going. During hard times or uncomfortable days in middle school, books were an escape. When I needed to quiet my mind after a stressful day, I picked up a book and devoured it. I remember how my younger self relied on the worlds of fiction to keep the unpleasantness of life at bay. Blasting through a book in a single sitting was exhilarating. My entire body would be vibrating with excitement when I closed the final page. Books were my life.

As an adult, the opportunity to devour a book still makes me jittery. However, I feel like my present self lacks some of my younger self’s dedication. Yes, I’ve hit my Goodreads goals and have lists of books to read. It’s true that I’ve already planned what books to read this year. The problem is, I’ve gone weeks without picking up a book. When I was younger, I read almost every day. Now, I feel lackluster about the entire thing. 

I know that I’m among many people my age who’ve drifted a bit from books. Instead of burying our noses in novels, we’re reading works crafted online. There’s nothing wrong with that! I’ve read some amazing stories on the internet created by very talented writers. Many of these I would never be able to enjoy in a novel form. However, I can feel my internet deep dives shortening my attention span. With this shortened attention span, my brain sometimes struggles with novels. It leads to feelings of burnout for my favorite hobby. 

A week ago, I finished an interesting book that left my brain swimming. It led me on a Goodreads rabbit trail in search of more fascinating books to positively kick off my 2020 reading challenge. A day later I wanted to binge YouTube and forget all about my reading challenge. I set myself up for success, but I still felt early burnout. It’s frustrating to watch myself begin the cycle anew.

I know that tomorrow I might set down my phone and finally get to The ScrewTape Letters. Or, I could continue my procrastination. Either way, it’s okay to feel burned out by something. Even if it’s a dearly loved hobby. Sometimes, we must take a break from things we love to remember why we hold them in our hearts. If you’ve ever felt reader burnout, don’t let it keep you down. A book will come into your life and relight your spark for reading. Until then, be kind to yourself. Don’t forget that you’re not alone in this state. 

What are some ways that you’ve pulled yourself out of a reading burnout? Let me know in the comments below. If you want to recommend a book to help me out of this reading rut, you can fill out the survey here. You can check out my Goodreads for some inspiration here if you’re in the same boat. Who knows, you might some inspiration!