Read faster, write more

Let me start with a disclaimer: I’m not boasting, just hoping to show you how you can be as fast a writer as I am, too, if writing more content more quickly would be useful to you in your role as a creator or a creative professional.

So at the moment I’m writing about 6 to 9 articles a day at work. That’s about one an hour, including time spent researching the topic. To give you some perspective, I won’t tell you what my colleagues are averaging, but rest assured that I am fast.

How do I do it? What’s my secret? It’s simple, and you can do it, too.

I’m about to share with you one of my biggest secrets.

I read super fast.

Scarily fast.

So fast The Flash shivers when he hears me open a comic book, because he’s afraid he won’t be able to tell the story fast enough.

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

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Taste: Inspiring the senses for readers

Our amazing wedding cake was created by Allana Rowan and decorated by Kathryn Ryan, both very talented creators.

Our amazing wedding cake was created by Allana Rowan and decorated by Kathryn Ryan, both very talented creators.

Today’s post will make you drool. Be warned.

I was looking up recipes for a dairy-free, gluten-free cheesecake today and stumbled upon an idea. (The idea sounds ridiculous but the recipes I found look amazing and I simply cannot wait any longer! I have lived for three and a half years now without cheesecake and it is lame.)

But while I was looking at those recipes, I found a link to ‘best recipes in literature’. It brought back the best memories ever!

Taste is one of the most powerful memory-making senses. A good meal can make a day; a bad meal can break it. And when we read about meals in books, it brings us into the story in a powerful way.

Below are some of the most memorable food recipes I found in beloved storybooks, but first, here’s the writing tip for today.

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Book review: Devotions that start and finish my day

My life verse, decorated by me using old wrapping paper (I recycle!). Was stuck up on my wall at the office - now it's stuck on our wall at home, right next to the front door. Last thing I see when I'm heading out? God's reminder.

My life verse, decorated by me using old wrapping paper (I recycle!). Was stuck up on my wall at the office – now it’s stuck on our wall at home, right next to the front door. Last thing I see when I’m heading out? God’s reminder.

As you know, my faith is a big part of who I am. But what do I do when I am faced with a spiritual drought?

The Bible is filled with amazing stories, inspiring messages … but I don’t find it easy to read it every day. (I do read a bit of it every day, but that’s because of discipline, not because the book of Amos fills with me great joy.) But we still need to be filled with God’s truth, so where can we go to find that inspiration?

Devotional books – books filled with a Bible verse for each day followed by an observation on that verse or a practical application for it – have always been useful to me during those dry stretches.

Today I thought I’d review some of the devotionals that I’ve worked through over the past three years – especially since a bunch of them are on sale this week!

Each of these books were helpful, but definitely in different ways and for different seasons. I’ve never found a ‘one-spiritual-thought-fits-all’ devotional. I hope you see some in the list that might help you grow closer to God.

My NIV Couples' Devotional Bible and my favourite coffee mug

My NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible and my favourite coffee mug

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Australian shortlists for best children’s books released

CBCA logo

If you haven’t worked it out yet, I love children’s and YA books. So last week was a lot of fun, because the assorted Australian shortlists for the best children’s and YA books of the year came out, and I got to browse through endless pages of children’s books, daydreaming about which I would like to read, making my own shortlist from the shortlist, and then writing myself a monthly ‘book budget’ to make sure I didn’t buy the lot of them in one big splurge.

Such self-control!

Below are the links to the various shortlists, longlists, and notable book lists, and then I’ve given you my ultimate shortlist of books – the books from the award shortlists that I look forward to devouring (eventually) like a happy little bookworm. 🙂

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Reading aloud to your pets will help your kid learn to read faster

Binyam Gebremeskel, 9, reading aloud to Lucy, a toy poodle. Lucy seems very happy to hear about “Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot” at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library. (The Alexandria library offers the Paws to Read program.) Source: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

Binyam Gebremeskel, 9, reading aloud to Lucy, a toy poodle. Lucy seems very happy to hear about “Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot” at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library. (The Alexandria library offers the Paws to Read program.)
Source: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

According to Books+Publishing today (from a report in Government News),  Lake Macquarie City Library in regional NSW is signing up for more bark than bite.

The BaRK literacy program (Building Reading Confidence for Kids) is all about reading books to dogs. The Library has asked pet owners and dogs in their region to come along for this incredibly successful eight-week program.

It’s all about improving reading skills and confidence for children with reading difficulties or speech impediments, by having them read aloud to a trained therapy dog. It works so well that they need more dogs for all the kids who have signed up!

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Adorkable literary proposals to read over Valentine’s Day, part 2

The Valentine’s Nebula, a gift from God to let you know you are loved by someone much bigger than you are!  Image source: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope

The Valentine’s Nebula, a gift from God to let you know you are loved by someone much bigger than you are!
Image source: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you – taken, searching, or happily single alike! You all have the same value and worth in God’s eyes; you are not defined by your marital status. Has to be said.

Now on to fun things – my favourite proposal stories! Most of them are in books, some of them are in real life, but I’ll just be sharing the literary ones today. 😉

  1. Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion by Jane Austen – the second, successful one

Secret confession – not actually a 100% Pride and Prejudice fangirl. My secret love is the best love story of all time – Persuasion!

We don’t usually get to hear the words in Jane Austen’s successful proposals. She delights in describing the unsuccessful proposals, the ones that get rejected so eloquently. But when the answer is going to be yes, then Austen only brings the scene to the point of “they both understand each other, at last!” or at least “they both realise their affection for the other” and then moves right along to “My father happily gave his consent and we were married in spring.”

The exception is here, in Persuasion. We get to read the full proposal because she gives us one of the most romantic letters of all time, which has since featured on coffee mugs, book bags and T-shirts, etc.

Written by Frank Wentworth to his beloved Anne Elliot, it describes his feelings in a way that is still expressed today, although in different words, by men everywhere who approach the woman they love unsure whether she’ll say yes or no:

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F. W.”

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Adorkable literary proposals to read over Valentine’s Day, part 1

Read this story today and had to share because it is just aDORKable!

Britt Burgeson, 26, met Daniel O’Duffy, 25, when they were both students at the University of Notre Dame. Image source: Krystie Yandoli, BuzzFeed

Britt Burgeson, 26, met Daniel O’Duffy, 25, when they were both students at the University of Notre Dame.
Image source: Krystie Yandoli, BuzzFeed

A proposal in a bookstore! Lovely! The ring was hidden in a book! ^

Read the full story here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/krystieyandoli/this-couples-bookstore-proposal-is-every-book-lovers-dream#.wu3dOzd92

I don’t usually approve of this sort of public proposal, because GOODNESS, what incredible peer pressure to say yes! I wouldn’t want to be forced to have such a humongous moment in front of a bunch of strangers.

On the other hand, if you’re going to do it in public, hopefully you’ve been together so long that you know each other well and have talked about the idea of marriage together already, so it wouldn’t be a shock.

Wait till tomorrow when I’ll share my faves from literary proposals in classic (and not so classic) books.

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan (C) 2015. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author of this text.

When the deed is done: How to run an effective writer’s critique group

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
      — Larry L. King, WD

Once the writing is done, you should definitely pop a champagne and celebrate.

But guess what happens next?

You can either have a sucky first draft of your novel forever, or you can get stuck into editing it.

Unfortunately, almost everyone is absolutely terrible at seeing the story issues or the misspellings in their own writing, so you need a writers’ critique group (a “crit group”).

So how do you find a good group? What should you be looking for when you need someone to really dig into your work (a critiquer or “critter”)?

What should you focus on when it’s your turn to crit someone else’s work?

And what should you be aiming for when you are the one running the crit group?

I ran the Dugong Writer’s Critique Group for two years as Facilitator and served as Secretary for two years before that while it was run by our founder, Grace Dugan, author of The Silver Road (ebook available from Penguin or on Kindle from Amazon). The group ran from 2007 through 2010 and we learned many valuable lessons from the experience.

Read on for tips not just from my group, but also from BWF presenters Vision Writers Group and memoir author Claire Dunne.

Today’s post will be charmingly illustrated by the creative folk worldwide who put captions on photos of cats.

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Being a promiscuous reader: Brisbane Writers Festival

Stack of books with spines open

Image source: Resource Freak

“I’m a very promiscuous reader; I believe we should take all kinds of genres to bed with us.” ― Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes
(pronounced something like “Beeyohkes”)
Image source: The Audio Bookstore

Today I went to my first Brisbane Writers Festival session and thoroughly enjoyed it!  Lauren Beukes, South African author of science fiction and crime noir novels, says we should read everything we can get our hands on, no matter what genre we write for ourselves.  Here’s why…

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The power of the spoken word

Reading Aloud - from Douglas School PTO

Reading Aloud – from Douglas School PTO

The one piece of writing advice that’s been most useful to me over the years is very simple: Read it aloud first.

Whether it’s dialogue or description in a short story or novel, arguments in an essay, or jokes at the start of a speech, I’ve picked up many errors just by reading my own work aloud as I’m drafting it.  There’s no way to know if your dialogue is forced or unnatural unless you’re literally speaking out what your characters would be.  If your 5-year-old’s dialogue isn’t right, you’ll hear immediately if it sounds like a 12-year-old when you have to say it.

I can’t imagine a children’s book being written – to be read aloud by parents to kids, or vice versa – without being read aloud first.  Oh, the delight of alliteration, of rhyme!  I may wax lyrical.

Addy Vannasy reads to village children on Discovery Day in Laos

Volunteer Addy Vannasy reads to village children on Discovery Day in Laos

Research has shown that young kids who don’t learn to “sound it out” find it harder to learn to read (sob), to master our complicated English spelling, and to create coherent sentences themselves when reading or speaking.  (See Blevins, W. Phonemic Awareness Activities for Early Reading Success for more detail.)

I will always remember one of my primary school principals, Mr O’Brien, reading out some of Shakespeare’s G-rated sonnets and complaining that no one used the verb “impignorate” anymore (no, I don’t know which one).   I think this “out loud” advice first came to my ears from him, in fact, this poetic principal who roamed the halls teaching poetry and theatre classes instead of filling in his endless paperwork.  I don’t know how efficient it was, but he inspired hundreds of Tamagotchi-obsessed children to read difficult and beautiful poetry – no mean feat.

These days, when I’m proofreading, I often mutter the words under my breath.  It must look and sound weird, but I usually work from home, so nobody sees it anyway.  Reading aloud as I’m proofreading makes sure that I don’t miss anything.  Your brain is happy to fill in the gaps if you’ve [left] out a word, or if you’ve misspelled something improtant [sic], or if there’s no full-stop.  (I simply cannot force myself to do that, even just for an example, sorry.)  But reading aloud makes your brain sloooow down to the pace of your mouth.  And your mouth won’t fill in gaps.  Sometimes it even trips over words, forcing you to reconsider your use of a certain adjective.

On a deeper note, when I think about the most powerful conversations in my life – the most encouraging, and the most damaging – they have all been literal, spoken conversations.  I remember them word for word.  And that says a lot, because I’m a letter-writer, preferring to hand someone my written words than work up the courage to say things out loud.

The “out loud” principle is true in our faith practices, as well.  I was at a workshop this week about conquering sin for women, and one of the most powerful things we talked about – among many helpful tips – was declaring God’s truths (scripture) out loud, and refuting the power of sin out loud.

The spiritual battle we face is real, and odd as it sounds, the devil who’s trying to tempt us doesn’t know what we’re thinking; he can only see our actions in giving in to temptation or hear us when we proclaim Jesus’ victory over ourselves and resist temptation.  James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Drafting your novel?  Start drafting it out loud.  Thinking about telling someone they did an awesome job?  Don’t shoot them that five second email; have that five second conversation face-to-face if you can.  You’ll enjoy it more, and so will they.

 

Did I read this blog post aloud before I posted it?  You betcha.  And I definitely tripped over “impignorate”, but you can bet it’s staying!

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.