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Tuesday, January 14

Want to Get Published? Read This.

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: Writers write, but they also read. Laurence MacNaughton shares thoughts and tips on why reading is vital for writers. 

I’ve talked to dozens of best-selling authors about their early years, before they were published. And the similarities between them are striking.

On average, they wrote about half a dozen unpublished manuscripts before they sold a novel. (By the way, this is what I call the Myth of the First Novel. Because it's hardly ever the first novel they wrote. Just the first one to get published.)

Aside from cranking out thousands of pages of prose, there's one thing they all do furiously:

They read every day.

If you want to get published, you need to be an avid reader. Here's what you should read.

Read books about writing fiction.


Writing is a skill, and it can be learned. Nobody is born with “author” stamped on their birth certificate. Whatever you want to write, you can learn how.

Not sure where to begin? You're already here on Fiction University, so you're off to a good start.

Subscribe to a good writing magazine, such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer, or Writers’ Forum.

Then find some top-quality books you can study. Here are my personal recommendations of some of the best books for any aspiring novelist:


There are plenty more. But that’s a good start. Stack those books up beside your reading chair, and you'll give yourself a top-notch education in writing fiction.

Read both good and bad books.


Read everything you can get your hands on, both good and bad.

Obviously, reading good writing will inspire you to write better. But bad novels can be just as educational. Reading cheap, cheesy, overblown writing might just make you feel better about your own writing skills.

Plus, it’s a quick way to learn what not to do. That's valuable, too.

Read inside your genre.


First: yes, you must pick a genre for each book you write. No, you don’t have to stick to the same genre for the rest of your life.

Read to see what other people are doing in your genre, and how they’re doing it. Pay attention to what works, and what doesn’t. See what’s popular and what isn’t. See what’s been done to death, and look for a way to do something fresh and new.

Read widely.


Don’t just stick to your favorite subjects. Take a walk through the library or bookstore and pick up anything that catches your eye. Read random magazines. Read a good newspaper, like the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. You never know what you’ll discover.

In the last 24 hours alone, I’ve read about:

  • backpacking through a disaster area
  • the law regarding cursed objects in medieval England
  • how to convert a van into an RV
  • using radar to map ancient Incan cities, and
  • a guy chasing a car around LA because it had giant fiberglass chicken on the roof. I’m not making this up.

At least two of those things will end up in my next book. Maybe three. Overall, time spent reading is time well spent.

Soak up all the knowledge you can.


You never know when something you read today will come in handy for a story tomorrow. Every character, setting, and plot you write about has to come from somewhere.

Remember, your own personal experiences are only the starting point. Reading avidly multiplies that many times over.

The hidden bonuses of reading:


Studies have shown that both kids and adults who read fiction exhibit improved empathy and problem-solving skills.

Here’s another bonus: better sleep. The less time you spend watching a screen (especially at night), the quicker you’ll fall asleep. You’ll also enjoy a better quality of sleep. The trick is to read a paper book (or a Kindle Paperwhite), not a phone or tablet with a backlight.

So, if you can’t find anything good on Netflix tonight, just switch off the TV. Read a book. It will make you a better writer.

What are your favorite books about writing?

Leave me a comment below, or contact me on my author website at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. His work has been praised by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Colorado with his wife and too many old cars. Try his stories for free at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

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About Forever and a Doomsday

Crystal shop owner and quick-witted sorceress Dru Jasper is the guardian of the apocalypse scroll, an ancient instrument of destruction held in check by seven bloodred seals. All but one have been broken.

Now, a chilling cohort of soul-devouring wraiths has risen from the netherworld to crack open the final seal. If Dru and her misfit friends can’t stop them, the world will come to a fiery end. No pressure or anything.

These freakishly evil spirits can kill with a mere touch, making them impossible to fight by mortal means. To keep the apocalypse scroll out of their clutches, Dru must solve a 2,000-year-old magical mystery, find a city lost in the netherworld, and unearth a crystal older than the Earth itself.

Can she elude the forces of darkness long enough to save her friends and safeguard the scroll forever—before the undead break the seventh seal and bring on doomsday?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound Kobo

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