It’s July 21st, and summertime is well underway. I generally try to kick my book-reading up a notch in the summer. It used to be that I had a great deal more free time to read in the summers. Not so much these days. It’s even harder to find time for reading, when I am focusing more and more of my time to writing my current work-in-progress. Still, I suppose it’s always a good idea to read within the genre you write, if only to remind yourself that you are not the first writer to have struggled to finish that first draft. The book you’re reading had to start somewhere too, right? Somehow it finally made its way into the published world, so yours can too.
That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
Beyond being a good source of motivation, reading within your genre (and, I would argue, occasionally reading outside of your genre too!) can be good research. Doing so gives valuable insight into what’s popular. In the romance world, stories by major authors like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel seem to transcend the market. What romantic tropes and styles are they using that continue to resonate with their readers?
Can you be a successful writer without having read a single book? So much can be learned about the craft of writing by reading great books. I suppose you don’t need to be a great writer to sell many books. I’m sure those of you reading this can think of at least one example of a “successful” author who would not have performed so well in English/Creative Writing 101. So, yeah, you may not need to be a great writer to sell your books, but it certainly helps!
Also, craft books! There are soooo many books out there written for the explicit purpose of helping writers to improve their craft. For someone who does not have a degree in creative writing, I’m hyper-aware that I am NOT a writing expert. Why wouldn’t I want to expand my knowledge by reading those pearls of wisdom from the actual experts and writing veterans?
So, here’s to summer reading and those authors who keep on gifting us literary entertainment and knowledge to help us make it through the hottest months of the year.
Make yourself an ice cold mojito, grab a pair of sunglasses and a bottle of sunscreen, and meet me poolside. Here is a list of books I’ve read and enjoyed or that I’m planning to read by summer’s end. In no particular order:
- The Georgian Series (Ask For It; Passion For the Game; A Passion For Him; Don’t Tempt Me) by Sylvia Day – If you’re a reader of romance and you haven’t yet heard of Sylvia Day, perhaps you’ve been living under a rock? Sylvia Day is a well-beloved author of contemporary and historical romance, generally with a romantic “heat level” worthy of the month of July. Day’s Georgian Series is a collection of four historical romance novels which all take place in the same world, though each novel centers on a different couple. Sylvia Day’s novels and novellas are some of my most frequently read. I felt this summer was a good time to pick up another historical romance, as my current work-in-progress is my very first historical romance novel. Who said you couldn’t enjoy writing research?
- Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes – This is one craft book that I have heard recommended time and time again by other romance authors on social media and podcasts. It is short, sweet, and to the point. Hayes provides a helpful method for writing a romance novel that, once you’ve read her book, you’ll be sure to say, as I did, “Well that makes so much sense!” Because, if you’ve read any good romance at all, you’ve probably picked up on the overarching sequence of events, time and again. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest from the trees without a skillful guiding hand.
- Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella – This is a fun little novel with plenty of romance, family drama, and hilariously awkward conflict. I dearly love Sophie Kinsella. She is a writer of romantic comedy, or maybe “chick lit” (I really can’t keep up with all of these ambiguous genres). She’s probably best known for her Confessions of a Shopaholic book series. I love her stand-alone novels. My two favorites (of those I’ve read so far) are: The Undomestic Goddess and Can You Keep a Secret?. If your novel can make me laugh out loud and also keep me up reading until 3 AM, you have a gift. Humor writing is especially hard, and I am so jealous of writers who do it so well. Just another example of summertime reading that is oh-so enjoyable, but also a good lesson in style.
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King – There are a handful of writing craft books that fellow writers recommend over and over, and this one is at the top of that list. Stephen King is THE prolific author of our time, isn’t he? Maybe if Danielle Steel also wrote a novel on writing craft we could say something similar for her. (See the Glamour article: How the Hell Has Danielle Steel Managed to Write 179 Books?) I’m hoping some of Stephen King’s inspiration and determination will rub off on me, and I’ll be spurred to finish this current work-in-progress, revise my first novel, and start making plans for and outlining another novel to also be completed by the end of the year. A girl can dream.
What books are on your reading list this summer? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear from you—feel free to leave me a comment below!
Music inspiring my writing this week: No words, just thunderstorms and ocean waves this week! Somedays I find myself distracted by everything while writing—including the lyrics in the songs I’m listening to. On these days, I’ve found it helpful to either abandon the background noise altogether or to listen to repetitive, relaxing nature sounds. And sometimes I want to listen to nature without having to sit outside and write for hours in the sweltering July heat. If you’d like some recommendations, readers, I’ve really loved “Beach Waves” by Sleep Recording Sounds and “A Walk in the Country” by Nature Sounds (both on Spotify).