Book Etiquette: Reading the Right Way

How does one read a book the right way? Are there certain practices and behaviors that are often disrespectful of a book or the author? I would say yes. This is all in a half-joking manner, but there are truly some things that I think we should remember when reading a book.

Judge Every Book by Its Cover Unless Given a Reason to Do Otherwise

There are enough people in this world practicing “don’t judge a book by its cover” that if they find a masterful book with an ugly cover, they’ll let you know, then you can read it. But there is no use subjecting yourself to some drab magenta book cover if you don’t really know if it will be a good book.

Stick with it until page number __.

This is a rule that lots of people have that I don’t. I’ve heard people say that they stick with a book for 100 pages, 140 pages, it really varies. My trick is that if I don’t like a book, I don’t keep reading. The end.

Give it your attention.

When you sit down to read a book, don’t jump up to do this and pull out your phone to take a picture and text your friend who is also reading a book and taking pictures. Just. Read. The. Book. Whoever wrote that book spent valuable time putting words together in an order that makes sense so that you can read it and enjoy the rhythm and flow. It wasn’t written to be grabbed in little half-paragraph bites. It was written to be chewed.

Be patient.

Newsflash! We have trouble with patience. I don’t want to sound like every social critic blogger, but I will say that the obsessive-compulsive use of social media has probably damaged our patience a lot. Instead of sitting in a doctor’s office and doing nothing (or looking at the fish or reading a book) we now scroll through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, et cetera. So, of course, when we do most anything else, we find ourselves bored very easily.

Sadly, this happens to me practically every time I read a book. Here, a short record of my thoughts when reading a book, for your listening pleasure.

Hmm, I am enjoying this book. Very nice. Oh, good choice of word there, nice imagery. Who is this author? Oh yes. Wow, that’s an awful photo. And that bio is written in third-person but obviously written by the person herself. [See what I did there? I’m being diverse.] Back to reading. I should see how many pages are left before the end of this chapter. Ope… Just about seven. How many pages have I read so far? Just about… one. That’s nice. I love this book so much, I think I’ll check to see how far I am again. I’d say… 1/9th. No… maybe 1/10th.

…And so on and so forth. I am rightfully disgusted with myself. So I have developed a rule that I try to practice as often as my brain will let me:

Don’t check to see how many pages are left before the end of the chapter. Ever.

But someone will say “how can you know if you can read the chapter before you have to go do something else?” Well, here’s the thing, if you have to leave in the middle of a chapter, you use something called a bookmark, and if you have to do a tiny bit of back-reading next time, that’s okay. It’s probably good for you.

Actually read books.

It’s horribly rude to leave unread materials sitting around your house. Sure, they make great decorations (this is coming from someone who once checked out a bagful of books from the library just to use as decorations – they were classics, no one checks those out anyway), but too long sitting as unused decorations and they won’t feel valued.

Read your books! And while you do, remember to:

  • Judge books by their cover.
  • Stick with it until a decided page number. (If you’re that kind of person.)
  • Give it your attention.
  • Be patient.

Happy reading!

P.S. This is the 150th blog post!

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How to Write Your First Novel (Continued!)

Note: It took me about a month to realize I wrote two blog posts with the same name and (pretty much) the same content. They even begin with the same sentence! So, I’m adding “continued” to this title because it came second, and I’m leaving them both up because they do say a few unique things. 🙂

I wrote a novel! It took me one year, three months, and twenty days, but that is honestly shorter than I really thought it would take. It ended up being just over 60,000 words, and, while it is not a grand work or anything, I’m really proud of it, and I hope to revise and publish someday.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be that great of a writer, and even if you’re not sure how great it will be, I think you should write a novel, and here’s how you’re going to do it.

Step #1: Buy a sketchbook & grab a pencil.

My first step was to outline and map and plan out how the novel would go. I also drew pictures with my really bad artistic ability. Some things you should put in this sketchbook:

  1. Outline of the plot. (Including character intros and plot twists.)
  2. Map of the area. (Maybe with certain trails highlighted or character houses circled.)
  3. Character bios.
  4. Brainstorm and inspiration.

Depending on the genre of your novel, there will be more things to add to this list. If your genre is fantasy, you may want to write about the world(s) the characters are in and such. If your genre is mystery, you’ll want to line up everything to be sure the mystery is hard to figure out, but does not contradict itself.

For me, the sketchbook helps the visual side of me to plan things out. Others might find a simple notebook or even a computer or iPhone a better tool for them.

Step #2: Begin writing.

This is my most dreaded part. I do enjoy writing, but it’s hard to work up the drive to want to sit and write out a storyline for an hour.

Do whatever will make it easier for you. Start three chapters in. Write the last chapter first. Only write in ten-minute increments until you’ve reached your stride.

Be sure to create an environment that is condusive to writing. It should be quiet, but maybe some background noise like music or birds singing outside. It should be tidy so you can focus. You might get a drink of water so you don’t need to leave your post half-way through. “Whatever works for you” is the motto of writing.

Another thing to note: Some people say to write, write, write, and edit later. I tend to edit as I write, going back a couple paragraphs every time I come to it. Again, figure out what works best for you.

Step #3: Finish it.

There’s a huge gap between #2 and #3, as you can see. But if you work hard and don’t give up, you’ll eventually come to a stopping place. Now is the time to read through it yourself once, just to check that the plot structure is stable and everything makes sense in the end. Then you’ll get to the nex step.

Step #4: Edit it.

For this step, I would reccomend uploading it to a Google Doc and sharing with any of your friends who would like to read it, since this is exactly what I’m doing with my novel now. Whenever edits are made, remember to go back and edit the original document so that you don’t have to redo them.

One more tip: Read it out loud. Somehow your brain is able to pick up on way more mistakes when you read it out loud. Even if it’s just to yourself, I have no doubt you’ll find this incredibly helpful.

Step #5: Recruit first readers.

Now is a fun part. Print out a couple copies (yes, it may be expensive, depending on how large your novel is), put them in binders, and give them to people who you trust. As they read it, they can point out errors they find and compliment you on your storyline. Then, hopefully they’ll give the binders back, and you can send them out again to be read through.

Step #6: Actually finish it.

If everything has been done correctly, there should be minimal errors, and now would be the time to send it off to a publisher or self-publish it. But the sad thing is that novels are rarely ever really done. Even if it’s publised, grammar brats like me out there in the world will find mistakes and write letters or emails, and there will be more things to fix.

If I were cliché, I would say “but that’s the beautiful part of it,” but I’m not going to lie.

If you need advice or you would like to read my novel, email me using this contact form.

Madeleine L’Engle – beauty in children’s literature

Madeleine L’Engle, who lived from 1918 to 2007, was anything but common. In A Wrinkle in Time, the first and most popular book of The Time Quintet, L’Engle’s fanciful nature cannot be missed. She believed that “you have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Her heart for young people is clear to see in this quote. Through imagery, tone, and development of characters, her works for youth continue to inspire people of all ages.

In A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle’s masterful imagery paints a picture with the words “It was a shadow, nothing but a shadow. It was not even as tangible as a cloud. Was it cast by something? Or was it a Thing itself?” She is describing an evil taking over the universe, slowly enveloping planets. Further into the book, Meg must battle an entity only called “IT.” She faces the words of her own brother who has been, in some way, possessed by this being. Understandably, this brings on a dark, depressing tone. Each of her books are permeated with darkness, but there is always a glint of hopeful light. While the books are for children, they certainly contain a lot of evil.

This is not to say that the books are not quaint or fanciful. To counteract the looming shadow, L’Engle maintains a whimsical tone. This is seen particularly in the dialogue of L’Engle’s instructing side characters. In A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle writes the words of a motherly, helping character, Mrs. Which. “Llett Mrs. Whatsitt expllainn. Shee isss yyoungg annd thee llanguage of worrds iss eeasierr fforr hherr thann itt iss fforr Mrs. Whoo andd mee.” Simply by adding letters, she lets the reader hear the character in his head. A quote from the second book in the Time Quintet, A Wind in the Door, adds to this beautifully eccentric feeling. A cherubim named Proginoskes explains why not every human can see him, saying “I’m real, and most earthlings can bear very little reality.” This is how Madeline L’Engle saw the world. A Teacher called Blajeny instructs in A Wind in the Door, “Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.” Instead of looking for logical answers to everything, L’Engle created fantastical theories for what she saw (supplemented by scientific theories of others in her time) and wrote them into her books.

L’Engle’s characters are perhaps the most endearing part of every book. Meg, of course, was quite ordinary, but gave a lesson nevertheless. In the words of the author, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” Meg was certainly fragile at the beginning, but she grew through her adventures to be strong. When her feelings are described, readers feel as though they have been placed directly into her brain and body; every thought or sensation faintly tugs at them. As Meg is taken into another world, L’Engle writes “She screamed out, ‘Charles!’ …The word was flung back down her throat and she choked on it.” The second main character in A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door is Charles Wallace. This young genius has the unnerving ability of practically reading the minds of almost anyone he cares for. He always knows when his older sister is hungry, tired, or needs someone to talk to, and he did not speak at all until he was almost four years old, when he began speaking in complete sentences. Whenever the rest of the cast is in worrisome trouble, Charles Wallace is kind, quiet, and calm. While other fantasy authors seek to astound readers with their world building, L’Engle uses the simple method of deep, thoughtful characters.

Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s books are treasure troves for the thoughtful, the fearful, and the hopeful. By beautiful taste in words, ability to cast an image in the reader’s head, rich development of characters, and whimsical, yet wise tone, she will be remembered as a great author of fantasy.

(Note: this is ANOTHER one of my writing class papers. Hope you enjoyed it!)

My Favorite Authors

I love so many authors, so I wanted to share a few with you today. Listing favorite books is nice, but a list of favorite authors includes so much more. So here is a list of my favorite authors.

CS Lewis

This one is beginning to sound is really cliché, but very true. I have read Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, and The Magician’s Nephew. I know what you’re thinking: You haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia? Yeah… I’ve listened to the audio drama and seen the current movies. But yes, it’s on my list to read soon. 🙂

Lucy Maud Montgomery

The beloved authoress of Anne of Green Gables and so many other books. I’ve only had to read the first half of Anne to know I love LM Montgomery. She creates the best characters and endears you to each of them in the most delightful ways.

Madeleine L’Engle

This author is a lot less popular than the others, but she deserves to be famous and I am sure her books will be seen as classics before too long. She wrote mostly sci-fi and is most famous for (the only novel I have read of hers) A Wrinkle in Time. It is… awesome. Truly. I wrote of it in my short record of reading the book, “this could be the flagship for whimsy.” True whimsy, not foolishness, but a whimsical spirit that is delightfully enchanting and utterly magnificent. L’Engle is a part too liberal in her beliefs for me, but I believe she is a Christian. She died on September 6th, 2007.

Timothy Keller

This is a more recent author, but I was running out of ideas. His books (all non-fiction) are captivating and interesting. One book that I think is especially great is The Reason for God. My dad likes The Prodigal God.

Who are your favorite authors?