Keep on reading, if you want to write

Hello everyone! I’ve just returned from our family Summer holiday and it was a big one – 13 family members all under one roof to celebrate a 50th and a 16th birthday! It’s been four years since it was my mum’s 70th and we all went away for that, so it’s been a while. I’m more used to the relative quiet of a family of 4 so it took a little adjustment to get used to the noise level and different generations!

However, there was also lots of singing, drinking, dancing, eating, swimming, and screaming laughter at the various competitions and races – the lilo one especially, don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time!!

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Last night pool party lilo pile-on!!

The villa itself was stunning, only a few years old, stylish and modern, yet quiet and nestled in farmland in-between Inca, San Pablo and Alcúdia in Mallorca, with a lovely outside eating area, large pool with a jacuzzi corner, football and volleyball pitch and most important for me, a hammock – now that was pure luxury for me!

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Eden Son Frare, our gorgeous villa in Inca and chilling in the hammock!

As you know, a big part of holidays for me is reading, the joyous hours and hours of it whilst baking in the sun, only pausing for the odd ice-pop or Desperado (finally found a beer I like!), and oh yeah lunch, although I could easily forget that when I’m in so deep.

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I could get used to this!

Usually my summer holiday coincides perfectly with one of my favourite author’s release date of their new book, and this year was no exception, Lisa Jewell’s new book, The Family Upstairs came out on the 8th of August and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

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The book of the Summer for me, just brilliant!

Lisa is a gem of an experienced author, has been writing since 1999 following her debut of Ralph’s Party and now has 17 books under her belt. She’s one of the few authors that changed track from her original women’s fiction books to what she’s now better known for, writing psychological thrillers.

I loved her books before, but the change to this style even more so and what has always been central to her success, in my view, is her rich, fulfilling characters that draw you into her books, because you can’t help but care about them or want to know more about what makes them tick – even the bad / evil ones.

As a writer myself, I not only enjoy her books as a ‘normal’ reader, and I get addicted to the story becoming fully immersed just like other readers but for me it’s also like an invaluable, free lesson in how to write amazing books and create intriguing personalities, with real true depth.

So, this is what I want to talk about this week; how keeping up with reading can inspire your writing and why it is so important in you quest to become a writer, whether that be published or not – I’ve yet to find a writer how doesn’t want to produce their ‘best’ work and reading can really help.

So, here are my reasons of why I find it so important and a much-valued assistant to my writing;

1. Seeing books on shelves, new titles popping up on my kindle and that anticipation of one of my favourite author’s book coming out, re-kindles my love of reading, other than writing and art, nothing switches my mind off more than getting stuck deep into a story and quite frankly it’s the only thing that gets me to sleep.

Being passionate for a new story is what it’s all about for us as writers, it’s what           makes us give chase in the first place.

2. Reading offers up that the dream is possible, yes of course not everyone gets published, and not everyone wants to be, but for us chasing that dream, there is proof that it is possible, in the palm of our hands, amongst the pages, because others have done it.

As writers, most of us are too scared to even call ourselves that, so we need every extra dose of self-belief we can get, others have gone before us and climbed that ‘route to published author’ mountain, maybe we can too.

3. It opens you up to a huge array of style, vocabulary, ideas, plotting, genres….to name but a few and the best way to learn this is by soaking it up in a story that you are much more likely to remember than in a ‘how to write’ book.

What you read is a great lesson and as a writer you are more likely to read it as one, taking note without even realising as you go along of what works, what jars a little, what delights and surprises you and ultimately keeps you turning the pages.

4. It give’s you a great insight into characterisation and the techniques authors use to make you feel a certain way about them, and that might not always be good versus bad, it’s the little personality traits, or quirks that helps us to identify with characters, warm to them and makes us care what happens in their journey. It’s an incredible skill to have and one worth learning about to help you create the many levels, back-stories, and mannerisms characters can have.

5. It teaches you about story arcs, where the drama happens, which parts are helpful, quieter back-stories or hints of what’s to come – how do they build the crescendo to keep you hungry for more?

For me a major part is the ending – it doesn’t have to be what I expect but it needs to be realistic and plausible, otherwise it can quickly descend from an amazing book, to an ok book, and who wants to be just ok?

6. It can give you good audience insight, especially if you are part of a book club or social media community talking about it. Did others feel the same way as you did about the story? What other things did they enjoy different to you? Who were their favourite characters?

How readers react emotionally to stories is a powerful thing, if people love the book, they are likely to shout from the rooftops about it – I certainly do, and then they soon become an army of fans, passionate about the story and the experience it’s given them, and wanting to read future titles.

7. This can go one step further – learning how authors build their reader communities is also an important lesson to understand in this new era of how books are promoted. These days you can easily communicate with authors, via social media or at signing events and talks. These can be invaluable for writers, to understand how authors got to where they are now, (clue – it rarely just magically happensnot many have an easy route, they work hard and persevere just like we are doing now).

Again, their stories are inspirational, and many are incredibly forthcoming and helpful in response to questions or just chatting via social media, because they were once where we are now.

Authors often ask questions of readers for research too or ask you to choose a name of a character as part of a competition, or sign you up to emails so you are the first to know of any events they are doing – make sure you take these opportunities to give you an understanding of how all this works so that you are then prepared for this part of the process when you reach that point.

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An example of a an Instagram post from Clare Mackintosh who is very engaging on social media

8. Finally, reading can help just relax you from a hard days writing, or you may even find the solution to a problem in your writing via the story you are reading – how the author tackled a certain aspect that could be useful to you. It could even be as simple as just an alternative word that describes something better that you could use too.

Plus, if you’re anything like me that finds it hard to stop your brain whirring with more ideas, it might just help you get a better night’s sleep, so what’s not to love? The key of course is finding those great books that will keep you coming back for more and with billions of titles to choose from, that is probably the hardest part.

Many writing advisories suggest reading widely, stretching the genres you normally go for, I’m not very good at that part, I tend to go for what I know I will love, but I do occasionally try alternatives and it does make me appreciate different styles when I do.

On that note, here is my list of what I’ve read this year (I’m not a mega speedy reader by the way!), in preference order, just in-case you are looking for some reading inspiration – but remember the genre I generally go for are psychological thrillers, although not all of these are.

1.The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewel

2.Where the Forest Meets the stars – Glendy Vanderah

3.Ordinary people – Diana Evans

4.After the end – Clare Mackintosh

5.The Rumour – Lesley Kara

6.Before I let you go – Kelly Rimmer

7.Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

8.Do not disturb – Claire Douglas

9.The last thing she told me – Linda Green

10.Then she vanishes – Claire Douglas (not quite finished yet)

The next book I want to read is The Holiday by T.M Logan as it’s about 3 families staying in a villa with a twist, kind of like we just did! Sounds right up my street!

I hope this helps you with your writing journey. After reading Lisa’s book, I’m certainly back on a mission with my own and as always, I have that new term feeling for September…but first we’re having a weeks’ trip to North Wales with the dog before we all have to get back into the school/swim routine.

Hopefully I’ll be able to write a blog post for next week, unless I get stuck up Snowdon or lost in the underground caves! Something tells me this holiday will not involve me lounging around in a hammock!

So, happy reading and do let me know how reading helps your writing and your favourites this year, I’m always on the look-out for great books!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

P.s Don’t forget to share your summer adventures via #mycurioussummer on Instagram and also follow my Instagram page @mycuriouscreativeclub for frequent tips about creativity or things I think you’ll find useful of interesting

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