How a Love of Reading Can Improve Your Writing.

Photo by Amy Velazquezon Unsplash

Reading like a writer is a valuable technique. Some of the most successful people in history have been voracious readers.

As a writer why would you not consult and study the work of others?

Recently I wrote a post — 5 Tips for Attracting More Readers with A Killer First Sentence. Since then I have become obsessed with studying first lines in everything I read. I even keep a notebook of first lines. Not just for those articles and books I love but, for the ones I have never finished.

I became addicted to reading at an early age. My earliest memories of my mum, involve her with a book in her hand. Whether she was reading to us or for her own pleasure, she always had a book. As children, we had monthly visits to the library and bookshops. These are some of my fondest memories.

In junior school, we had a visit from Nigel Hinton. He stated good authors see their books in their mind like a movie reel. I’m not strange, I thought, those movie’s running in my head are actually books fighting to get out. It was several years later when these actually made it onto paper.

Recently I have noticed that my reading styles have changed. I have become more analytical in everything I read. Here are my suggestions to help your reading improve your writing.

How to Read Like a Writer.

Increase your reading speed to devour more books.

  • To enable you to do this I would suggest you enjoy what you are reading. As you get better at reading you can tackle the classics with more skill.
  • Read using a medium that is comfortable for you. You can learn as much from reading a newspaper as you can from reading a novel. This is especially true if you want to be a journalist.
  • Read in a genre you are going to write. This has much more benefit than picking a book up because someone in a post told you to.
  • Practice, you will increase your reading speed.

Study Language

  • Look at how the author has built-in suspense.
  • How dialogue has been used to set a scene. I studied novels to work out how to lay out dialogue.
  • Look at how an article is started. In news how do the journalists ensure you have all the information you need in such a short word count. This is why it is essential to read in a genre you write.

Record Your Observations

  • The memory is a wonderful thing but, like a computer, it can only hold so much information. Read with a notebook beside you. I have a lovely softcover, moleskin notebook I carry with me everywhere.
  • Record phrases that moved you. Beautiful prose and of course first sentences. I have even on occasion recorded signs and menu’s that have inspired me.
  • Frequently I look back on these observations. Some may be the seed that starts an article or short story.

Finally

Reading has many benefits, a sense of escape and improving mental health are only two.

To a writer, reading should be your greatest resource.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things about all others: read a lot and write a lot. Stephen King

What books inspired you to write?

5 Tips for Attracting More Readers With a Killer First Sentence.

In a society, with a short attention span, it is essential to get it right from the start. How do you draw people in to read what you have written? It is simple, you write a killer first line.

“An open notebook on a wooden surface in front of a laptop” by Nick Morrisonon Unsplash

When writing an article I spend as much time on the first line as I do on the headline. Both are essential to pull readers in. My first line is not always the first line I write. Sometimes I get into the writing and then revisit the first line.

Here are a couple of killer first lines from famous books.

I’m pretty much fucked.

Andy Weir, The Martian

If you have read the book or seen the film you pretty much know this line sums up the story.

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeward that Truth is a better if imagination.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Now I have never read this book but after this first line, the book is on my wish list.

How do you write your killer first line?

  • If it fits in with the genre of your book, make your first line surprising and funny,

It was a pleasure to burn

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

  • Start in the middle of the action. Every event that happens from this point is the front story and should be in chronological order. Everything that happened before your first line is backstory and can be told in any order you want. Margaret Atwood’s, Handmaids Tale starts as the world is in turmoil. Everything that happened before this point is told as backstory.

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.

Stephen King, The Gunslinger

  • Start with dialogue that intrigues the reader. We do not need to know who the character is or even their name. If you start with witty quick dialogue the reader will want to find these things out and read on

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

  • Start with conflict, a situation where the reader does not know where the writing is going. How will the character get out of this situation? Where could this story be going?

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude

  • Start with a provocative line that will have more than half the readers arguing with you. Be careful not to make this line so provocative that people refuse to read on. Make the line provocative enough for people to want to read on.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice

Finally

Recently I have become somewhat obsessed with first lines. When I read I analyse the first lines to see what drew me in. I also analyse books I didn’t finish to see what I didn’t like about their first lines. I keep a journal of first lines from books.

If you have read this far then I did OK with my first line. It is important to remember reading is subjective. What one person will love, another will hate. The only thing you can hope for is to appeal to more people than not.

Research your own favourite books and see what their first line is. Share with me through the comments some of your favourite first lines.

How to Increase Your Twitter Following


10 Methods That Added Genuine Followers to my Twitter.

Photo by Jakob Owenson Unsplash

Recently I decided that to increase my reader count, I needed to reach more people. My method of doing this was to increase my twitter followers.

I started searching for tried methods to increase twitter followers.

Not For Me

  • One of the common ways to increase followers is to buy them. You read that correctly, run a search on google and be amazed at how many companies offer to sell you, followers. The going rate seems to be approximately £10 for 500 followers.
  • Smaller companies will charge you as little as £1 to promote your profile for 12 hours. These are normally on a follow back basis. I will talk about the follow back system later.

Buying followers may be for you. It was not something I was prepared to do.

10 Methods That Worked

  1. Build an interactive profile that tells followers who you are. Use hashtags for relevant topics you tweet on.
  2. Use a profile picture, preferably a headshot. Do not use GIF’s and logo’s if you can help it.
  3. Search for hashtags on topic’s you write about. Comment, interact and follow through these hashtags. Much like other social media, you need to interact, to build a following.
  4. Tweet regularly on a range of subjects. I know its amazing, fancy saying you have to produce content for people to follow you. For times that you can’t tweet using a scheduling app.
  5. Always use hashtags in your tweets. Not too many I work on a system of two hashtags per tweet.
  6. Use images with your tweets. Tweets with pictures get more interaction and retweets than those without.
  7. Search popular hashtags and then write a post on them. At the time of writing this, it is World Refugee Day. This hashtag is trending very high so I wrote a couple of tweets on the subject.
  8. Comment on famous peoples posts, make your replies witty and entertaining.
  9. On articles and other social media include a link to your Twitter profile. This one is a bit cheeky because here I have included a link to my Twitter page.
  10. The last method is controversial and up to the individual. Operate a follow back system. If you do this you have to use the relevant tags and make public that you follow back. The disadvantage of this is you do not receive genuine followers. Your timeline can be filled up with content you are not interested in. With the new mute function on Twitter, you can mute their feeds from your timelines, but its time consuming.

Results

The results have not been instant and nowhere near as quick as buying followers. Over the last week, I have been following these methods and have seen an increase in my follower account of 100. It is also still rising every day.

Are there other methods that you have tried that worked? 

What would you recommend?


Getting Rejected From a Top Publication Was The Best Thing That Happened To Me.

Photo by G. Crescolion Unsplash

Now if you want dirt on what publication it was I’m not telling you. Editors do an incredible job on all outlets and I’m not here to slag them off.

Harry Potter was refused by more than 10 editors before being picked up.

All editors have their own taste, reading is subjective.

My Writing

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a flash fiction piece. I submitted it to a publication and they came back and wanted major changes to it. I will discuss these later.

I looked at their comments, reread the piece and thought, no I like what I have done I don’t think it needs the alterations.

I hit the publish button without the backing of a publication. One week on and it has some of the best stats for a fiction piece I have written. It started by receiving 30 claps in the first five minutes. One of the people that liked it was an author I admired. It was a great result.

Now before we go on I am going to give the opportunity to read the piece if you wish. We are about to embark on some major spoiler territory. So if you want to read it first, click away.

Swagger

What Happened

The comments I received wanted me to change the end and explain what had happened to the man. One called him a conman. Not what I intended at all. They also wanted me to explain the role of the waitress. I thought that was obvious when I wrote it.

All the stories I write end this way with a big reveal, that you don’t see coming. These are the stories I enjoy reading so these are the stories I write.

By adding to and explaining the end of it would have spoilt the story. I want my readers to go away and discuss the end. Even have a difference of opinion. It was clear from the editors’ comments, that they didn’t get it.

Finally

  • Go with your gut. You know your writing better than anyone. This is how you build confidence.
  • You are free to follow your own path, let your readers decide rather than editors and critics what is good or not.
  • If one editor hates your work keep going. Reading is subjective what one hates, another may love.
  • Whatever you write. Write something you are proud of.

 Success will follow.

How to Change Your Writing and Gain Genuine Followers


I was a fiction writer who wrote non-fiction.  This is how I changed my writing journey.

“An open notebook on a wooden surface in front of a laptop” by Nick Morrisonon Unsplash

If people asked, I always said, I am a fiction writer.

I started on Medium in March 2018. Up until last month, I had only written non-fiction articles.

I have read all the articles on tips and tricks to increase your followers. None of them has worked. I now ignore them completely. I have already broken one of the golden rules ‘don’t write about yourself.’

So how do you improve your writing experience and gain followers?

“Close-up of a fountain pen writing in a notebook” by Aaron Burdenon Unsplash

Change Your Writing Overnight

So how did I gain a jump in followers? Overnight I started writing fiction again.

I found a publication called The Weekly Knob which posts weekly writing prompts. I am three writing prompts in and I love it. People have started responding to my posts. Claps and engagement have gone up.

My readers seem to know that I am enjoying my writing again.

Break the Rules

  1. So I have broken the golden rule and spoken about myself. If you have got this far then it isn’t that much of a golden rule.
  2. Write for yourself and not the audience. — Since writing fiction I have started enjoying my writing again. I write stories that I would enjoy reading. Genre’s I enjoy reading. This article is something I would click on to read.
  3. Don’t comment to gain followers — comment because you genuinely want to reach out to that author.
  4. Don’t follow people to gain followers back — If you follow this approach your timeline will be full of articles that don’t interest you. The reading community on medium will have lost a member. When I only wrote non-fiction a whole section of fiction articles were hidden from me. I now have a nice mix on my timeline.
Photo by rawpixelon Unsplash

Five Factors that Did Help

  1. Have a publication that suits the type of articles you write. It doesn’t have to have the most followers but, has to relate to your work. Once you find this publication become a writer and use it to your full advantage.
  2. Use your stats to work out what works on Medium. What is the ideal length of the post? What types of posts get the most views? Use your stats don’t obsess about them.
  3. Fiction writing has led me to a new freedom when writing my non-fiction articles. Whether this works or not I will let you know when I review this post.
  4. Make time and write all the types of writing that you enjoy. Doesn’t matter whether this is poetry, fiction or non-fiction

Finally

  • Since I have changed my mindset I have not stopped writing
  • Whatever you chose, enjoy your writing.
  • Make your writing for you and the followers and success will follow.
  • If you have any tips which have helped your writing please let me know?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. 

For an example of a FREE query letter, writing tips and much more please subscribe to my weekly email updates by clicking here: Email Subscription

How to Generate Book Sales for FREE

Market your new book into a bestseller.

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So you have written your novel.

Your cover is finished.

The editing is complete.

Now it is time to sell that book.

Being a good marketer is as essential as being a good writer.

There are five simple platforms you can use to advertise your books for free.

Advertising your books need not cost a fortune.

Use a Facebook Page or Group.

Facebook provides a great marketplace for not only advertising but selling your books. Spend the time to take good quality photos. Write a catchy synopsis and start advertising your book. Join groups for readers and writers that allow you to advertise your new publication. Interact with people. If every person you interact with tells one person you will soon have a bestseller on your hands.

Use Twitter

Comment and follow people who might be interested in your book. Use hashtags, learn to use effective, popular hashtags. I would be careful not to spam people though. Send direct messages to specific people for example book reviewers and bloggers.

Use Instagram

Put your photos on Instagram. Not just those of your final book but promotion shots of you reading your book to others. The first batch of books arriving. Post a shot a day which has something related to your book sales. Put some of your own personality on your Instagram, allow followers to get to know you.

Goodreads

Goodreads can be slower to gain recognition on but with time can prove just as useful as others. Ensure you log your book so others can find it. Ask your beta readers to post reviews for your book. Join groups and offer free books for reviews. Depending on your income give some books away on their giveaway pages. Again set up a presence and interact with your followers.

Email Subscription Lists

This takes some planning. Build an email subscription list within all your writing. Add a link to it on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. When your books are ready, build suspense and anticipation for your book. Encourage your followers to help you advertise your book. Post excepts that make people want to read more.

For all these ensure you include a clear link to where your books can be purchased.

Finally

Congratulations you have completed your book. Take time to reward yourself and revel in your achievement.

For up to date information on articles published please follow Twitter @samharnold