How to Think Deeper About Everything You Read

Are you an active or passive reader?

I have a confession to make.

I am a passive reader.

Sometimes I read a book, really enjoy the book, put it on my shelf, and don’t think about it again.

I don’t like that I do this. It’s something I’m trying to work on. Because I love books, I love words, and I want part of my reading experience to involve thinking deeper — thinking critically — about the things I’m learning from books.

If you’re feeling the same way — I really hope I’m not the only one — I want to share a few tricks I’ve started using to become a more active reader. They might help you, too.

Write about it

It feels like everyone is writing book reviews and starting book review blogs. Don’t listen to the “advice” that you shouldn’t do that because everyone else is, though. Forcing yourself to follow up a good read with a review not only refines your writing skills, but makes you pay attention to what you feel are the most important elements of whatever you’re reading — and important skill set for an aspiring writer.

You don’t have to write full book reviews to practice this. I’ve started (infrequently) doing micro-reviews on my Instagram. I much prefer writing two- or three-sentence blurbs about my experience as a reader, from the perspective of a fellow writer. It’s not much, but it does force me to reflect on what I’ve just read. That might be a fun way for you to start experimenting with more critical reading outlets.

Take snapshots — literally

Some people annotate. Some people dog-ear pages (!!!). You can highlight, sticky tab, bookmark any page in a book you want. But sometimes, I want to take a (literal) snapshot of a passage quickly, so I don’t have to stop reading for long, so I can store it in a place I won’t lose it and return to it later.

All you heathens with ereaders can pretty much do this automatically — it’s built into the software. If you need to hold and cherish a physical book like the rest of us, all you have to do is take a photo with your phone. Call me old-fashioned, but I know exactly where to find the quote I saved from Bill Nye’s new book this morning. Three finger taps on my phone, and I’m there.

(In case you weren’t sure, I love physical book hoarders and ereader junkies equally. You’re all lovely.)

Discuss it

I know, I know, you’re having English class flashbacks. But admit it — those [required] discussions were vital to your understanding of literature, whether you enjoyed them or not. Sometimes sharing your thoughts about a book — and hearing others share theirs — changes your perspective relating to a specific theme, character, or string of events. As a writer, meeting with others to discuss published books is just as valuable as meeting with other writers and discussing your unpublished work as a group.

Don’t want to venture out into the world and physically interact with other human beings? This is why the internet exists (well, sort of). Join a virtual book club! You can find them all over the place. Or you could start your own. I can guarantee you aren’t the only one who likes to read a specific genre and wants to discuss books with others on the web.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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Why Books Are the Best Gifts to Give

You never have to wonder what you’re going to give someone.

Mother’s Day and my dad’s birthday fell within a day of each other this year. So last week, I made a bold choice: I dared to dive deep into the abyss that is shopping for books online, knowing I could not, and would not, be getting anything for myself.

It was a much more rewarding experience than I expected. Shopping for books for other people doesn’t come with quite the same kind of excitement as getting something for yourself. You know what you like and what you want. But shopping for another person, you’re faced with dozens of books they might like, and you’re forced to decide which one they’ll love the most.

I find the best test of how well you know someone is to pick out a book for them. Because buying a book for someone can have a multitude of purposes. Is someone you know interested in learning more about something? Get them a book about it. Are they looking for a good mystery? Buy them a mystery novel. Are they dealing with something personal? Get them a book that tells stories of hope.

I don’t think it’s possible to disappoint someone with a book. Neither my dad nor my brother are huge readers, but they’ve never been disappointed opening up a book from me. A book says, “I know you might not read this, but I thought this story might interest you and got it for you because I care.” My book-hoarding friends love to get books they don’t have to pay for (books are expensive!). People who don’t love to read will still find joy in receiving a book about a subject they could talk about for hours on end.

Though I’m certainly not one of them, there are people out there who read a book once and then give it away. That’s almost even better — not only does one person get to enjoy a story, but then they get to pass it on to someone else who can experience it. And then they can pass it on … and so on.

A book isn’t just used once or for a short time and then thrown away. It’s an experience many people can benefit from, not just one. Books don’t become outdated — you don’t get rid of one book to replace it with a newer model. And, possibly my favorite thing about books: once you’re done reading them, if you don’t give them away, they become decorations. My bookshelves are not full of forgotten pages. They’re a display of all the places I’ve been, all the people I’ve met, all the adventures I’ve had. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way (give a shout-out!).

Not everyone loves to read every genre of books. But books are versatile — there’s something out there for every person. I never have to wonder what I’m going to get someone. I only have to consider which type of book, which individual story, I’m going to gift them this year.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

On World Book Day, Ask a Writer What She’s Reading

A writer who reads …

Most writers do not discover stories by writing them. They discover stories by absorbing them.

I don’t know which came first: my parents reading old fairytales to me or sitting me in front of their animated Disney adaptions.

But as soon as I could, I started telling my own stories. The older I got, the more I learned, the more I read. The more I read, the more I itched to write my own stories — until I learned to do that, too.

And then I did it. Over, and over, and over again.

I still do. Daily.

For a long time, I wondered why it was easier to discuss books than it was to discuss my own writing. Sharing my own ideas became a source of creative anxiety. Yet sitting down to do a book report in school hardly felt like homework.

I do not like when people ask me what I’m writing. I appreciate it — and I always try to ask other writers I meet what they’re working on.

But there’s a question I like much more than, “What are you writing?”

I would rather ask — and be asked — “What are you reading?”

It’s not that this question is harder to answer than its more common alternative. At least for me, it’s easy to name the book that’s currently sitting on my nightstand.

It’s just more interesting.

Writing, even in its later stages, is still an unfinished product of a writer’s ever-scattered mind. Even a simple elevator pitch is intriguing … but a conversation stopper.

I find that when I ask people what they’re reading, conversations erupt in joy and excitement. Because talking about books — finished, published, circulated — is where all writing starts. When I ask people what they’re writing, they tend to give generic, incomplete responses … because many times, their writing isn’t complete yet. Some people don’t want to talk about it (yet).

Asking a writer what’s on their nightstand gives them an opportunity to talk about someone else’s words and life and ideas. While it’s true most people love talking about themselves, talking about what you’re writing can feel like you’re sharing a secret you’re not ready to tell.

Yet talking about other writers brings out their raw obsession with an idea — which is much more interesting than pressuring them to get into the logistics of their latest project.

Ask a writer what they’re working on, and their words will spill out accompanied by nerves. Ask them what they’re reading about, and their eyes will light up. It’s amazing to watch.

Some writers still aren’t used to discussing their own work. But chances are, they’ve been discussing the work of other writers for decades.

There’s something magical about a writer who reads.

A writer who reads has a stronger voice.

Their mind is open to more ideas; possibilities; beliefs and worldviews.

A writer who reads is less afraid to explore uncharted territory. They understand that not all conversations are easy, and that stories are tools we can all use to persuade, to shame, to praise, to spread acceptance, to highlight facts, to break down barriers.

Today, don’t ask a writer what they’re writing about. Ask them what they are reading. Ask them their favorite books, their favorite authors. Start with who and what influences and interests them the most. That is where passion for words and ideas begins. Sometimes, putting into words what you haven’t finished writing yet is impossible. But where your ideas come from, where your latest project had its first spark — a writer can discuss that for hours on end.

Most of us, before we can write well, read. That is how we fall in love with stories. And it’s what inspires us to start telling, and then writing, our own.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

That Line in a Book That Speaks to Your Heart

There’s a reason it means so much to you.

I save book quotes. It’s more of a habit than an obsession at this point. There are notes on my phone, post-its on my computer monitor. Sometimes I take physical highlighters to paper, because I do it so sparingly that it still means something significant when I do.

Most often, I save the quotes that relate to me the most in that moment, if I happen to stumble across them. It’s sort of like how people pick verses out of a Bible when they need to be spoken to. Words are important to me. But most of all, they make me feel less alone.

Sometimes, even when I’m not reading something that’s going to speak directly to my life (e.g., Hit Makers), I search for quotes online. Random ones. Anything will do.

I never realized until tonight–searching for quotes about something to keep myself from posting a rant on Facebook, to be honest–why I do this. Why do I seek out random quotes, or pluck them out of books when they leave marks on my heart? Why is it so important?

In large part, it’s because I’m a writer. Literature was my first love. I don’t remember the first time a book’s words mirrored my life, my feelings, my fears–but I know it had to be amazing. If it weren’t, I might not have gone down the path I did. You know the one–the road paved with themes and motifs and characters you come to call friends, even if only imaginary.

But I also savor pieces of writing because I am a creative person. And everyone knows all ideas are born from very small fragments of things that already exist.

When I write, I need to make sure my writing is relatable somehow. I need my characters to think and feel things other people have thought and felt. I need them to experience things others have experienced. That’s how a reader and a character connect. They have something in common. They understand each other.

I don’t write fiction as often as I once did. But one of the reasons I’ll never be able to let it go is because I know what it’s like to be that person, feeling down, searching for a string of words that says all the things I can’t bring myself to say.

I know what it’s like to need to know someone, somewhere, gets me.

That’s why we have to write from our hearts. That’s why we have to write the truth–even when it’s hard and when it hurts. Because people read for many different reasons. And some of them do so because they’re hoping someone out there–even if they’re fictional–understands how they are feeling. Knows what they are thinking. Has the power within them to conquer their fears and earn their successes.

I don’t write to become quotable. But I do write in such a way that, if someone were to come to my words looking to fill a specific need, to calm a certain anxiety, to affirm a certain belief, maybe I could be of some kind of help somehow.

How cool is it, that we can do that–write something that speaks to the hearts of people we’ve never met?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

What Happened When I Read the Same Book as a Teenager, Then Again As an Adult

One book. Two completely different experiences.

After nearly 10 years, my favorite book is still Looking for Alaska by John Green.

I didn’t read it when it first came out, but after I accidentally discovered the Green brothers indirectly though NaNoWriMo, I jumped at the chance to read a book by an author I’d never heard of.

I loved LFA. It was a powerful story that captivated me from the very first page. But I felt no real-world connection to it. It was a good story – but even then, I tended to read a book, say how much I loved it, and then move on to the next one without many further thoughts.

I think it was my favorite book then because it felt different to me. I didn’t understand why then, but it did. I wasn’t a very adventurous reader at 15: I had a few favorite authors, and Meg Cabot’s long list of titles kept me busy the majority of my reading time.

When the 10th anniversary edition of the book came out a few years ago, I was excited enough to buy it, even though I already had a paperback copy. I’d been watching Vlogbrothers videos from start to finish for the first time, and felt very strongly about supporting John in, honestly, a kind of selfish (but still totally worth it) way.

There are only a select number of books I have ever read more than once. I’m one of those people who always says I’m going to reread something before the movie comes out, then never do.

With a new, shiny hardcover in my hands, I made the decision to read LFA a second time.

It was nothing like the first time I read it. Not even close.

The first time, I shed no tears. I related to the characters enough, but not on a deep, empathetic level. I liked the story, but it wasn’t life-changing.

But since I’d read LFA for the first time, I had grown up significantly, both in age and in spirit. I had also lost someone very close to me not long before. I had experienced grief in a number of unexpected ways in my young adulthood by that point. But I did not expect that to matter so much.

I spent what I can only estimate to be about 30 straight pages in tears. I understood it now. That scene in the gym where the MC tells the principal the assembly can’t start yet absolutely destroyed me. Because I had felt that feeling. I got it. It spoke to me.

Many people over many lifetimes have been touched by books. I know I’m not the only one. But first of all, it bothers me when people assume young adult books are only for teenagers. I’ve gotten more out of YA books as an adult than I ever did when I was still in high school.

Second of all – how amazing is it, that we can read the same book twice, years apart, and have a completely different experience the second time?

This is important for a writer to understand. You already know that not every person is going to relate on a deeply personal level to every story you write. It’s just not possible. It can be frustrating, because you want to reach everyone.

But just because someone isn’t changed by a story now, doesn’t mean they won’t be someday.

You’re reaching more people than you think. People with very different experiences and disappointments and dreams and failures and fears.

The audience you are writing for is very important. Your genre is important.

The depth of your story, how relatable your characters are, your theme – these are even more important. When you are writing fiction, you are saying to someone, “Here – let me tell you a story.” And you are hoping that at least some piece of it will speak to them. You are hoping that at least one paragraph, one page will be enough to motivate them to hold that book close to their heart. To love it. To need it.

Maybe someone won’t need it now. But they might need it eventually.

A good story isn’t about pleasing everyone. It is about meeting people where they are, about saying to them, “You are okay. You are understood, and you are loved.”

I don’t love books because they make me happy. I love them because they make me feel alive.

Write stories that make people feel. Books are not an escape. They are discoveries. To some readers, books are adventures. Take your readers on epic quests. Change their lives. Make them feel whole.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

On Reading Good Books, and Bad Books

Should we read both good books and bad ones?

Like many writers, I read. A lot. I’ll pretty much willingly give any book you hand me a chance, though I’ll still devour anything YA in a matter of days.

When you read an average of two books a week, you stumble upon some amazing reads. I’m 200 pages shy of finishing The Infinite In Between at the moment, and for reasons I can’t yet fully analyze, it’s wonderful.

You also come across plenty of books that just aren’t good. I don’t subscribe to the belief that a writer should only stick to reading books that are widely publicized and discussed. Every once in awhile I like finding titles no one else has heard of. There’s a chance they could be really good, and just underrated (like the Pendragon series). But there’s a pretty good chance they’re … eh. Just not well put together.

I try not to be over-critical – if a writer has a book out, and they’re not a total jerk about it, I’m happy for them. In publishing, if you have a good story that’s likely to sell, you have a pretty good chance of landing a deal. But I’ve read two kinds of ‘eh’ books – books that are fairly well written, but hollow, story-wise, and books that have intriguing stories with poor, hard-to-get-through writing.

I think it’s important that we read a mix of everything – good and bad. While the good, well-written stories are enjoyable, and sometimes even motivate us to go out and work at our own unfinished projects, less-than-impressive books help us refine our critiquing skills. We see mistakes we’ve made in the past, or things we still do. We notice weaknesses in different parts of the whole. We have that “I would have done this differently” thought – not at all a bad thought, as long as you don’t go tweeting the author directly about it (cringe).

Weirdly, I remember all of the bad books I’ve read over the past few years. They stick out to me in a different way than the really good ones do. It’s not that I don’t like them – I finish reading every single book I start, because I think every author deserves that from me. I just hold onto memories of stories I couldn’t wait to be finished with.

One of the markers of a good story is that it’s nearly impossible to put down. One of the markers of good writing is that it impresses you from start to finish – the kind of writing you pull quotes from because they amaze you so much. I suppose one definition of a good book is that it excels in both of these areas. But just because a book doesn’t, doesn’t mean it’s awful. It just might get only three stars from me on Goodreads (I somehow manage to avoid one- and two-star reviews) which for me means I just didn’t really enjoy it or wasn’t impressed by it.

Reading is essential for writers, in terms of improving skills and initiating a continuous flow of new ideas. Some people only read recommended books – the good ones. Maybe that’s the same mindset as “junk food isn’t good for me so I’m never going to eat it ever” as opposed to “every once in awhile is great.” What do you think?

What do you consider to be a good book? What makes a book “bad”? Do you think it’s a good idea to read both good and bad books, as a writer?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

The Gift Every Writer Needs This Year

HINT: It’s not books. (:

To the friends and family of the writer:

It’s too late now to go out and buy your loved one, the writer, a present (probably). Perhaps you’ve put it off so long because you simply don’t know what to get them. A new pen? A notebook? Food? What do writers like? Books? Books about writing? WHAT DO THEY WANT FROM YOU?

It’s not too late, it turns out, to get a writer the perfect gift.

A writer doesn’t need another tool, another device, another distraction (though, sure, all those things are nice, and they’ll still appreciate those things, don’t worry). And they don’t need a pat on the back, a reminder that they are doing a good job and that they are going to make a name for themselves someday.

What a writer needs is simple. Effortless, even.

A writer needs you to read something they’ve written. Just one thing. One short, painless thing.

Why? Because all year, they have been working really hard, trying to be better at doing something they really like to do. And they have kept you out of it, not because they do not like or trust you, but because they know that not everything they write is good, and they want nothing more than to show you the best of themselves, especially in their original work.

Offer. Ask them if you can take just a few minutes to read a little something of what they’ve been working on this year. You’ll be amazed at how much joy this will bring them. Because what they’re looking for isn’t criticism, or even an honest opinion. Just knowing you’re willing to take the time to acknowledge all the effort they have put into their craft this year, in a very meaningful way, is more than enough to make this whole year worth it.

To the writer:

As a writer, you, reading this right now, have hopefully learned how difficult it is to find people willing to read what you have written. This is because people are busy, and they do not have time to read every single word that comes out of your head. It isn’t because they don’t like or appreciate you. It’s because, honestly, some people would really love to sit down and really absorb something you’ve written … but they can’t. They don’t want to rush through it for the sake of reading something you wrote. It wouldn’t be fair to you. They know that.

So as a gift to you this year, you can ask them to do what is usually pointless and often almost selfish to do: ask them to take that time, the time they don’t normally have, to read just a page. Maybe two. Choose a short passage of something you have worked very hard to perfect, bring it to them and say, “For me, just this once, could you read something I’ve created?”

They don’t need to give you feedback. They don’t need to critique every single element of every single line. They just need to read it.

Why? Because it makes you feel good, and you know it. Approach something like this with no expectations, and you will find that people who love you will be more than happy to take a few minutes to dive into your world. This is what the holiday season is all about: celebrating each other. Appreciating each other. Being kind, and respectful. Giving, without expecting anything in return.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

My Favorite Sentences from Books I Read This Year (2016)

This is why we read.

Though I’m not going to meet my reading goal this year (siiiiigh), I did keep a running list of any quotes that made me stop and reread them a second time. I did this last year, and really wanted to make this an annual thing. So here’s a project I’ve basically been working on since January. Enjoy!

1. Shame


“Shame doesn’t listen to logic.” – Burn, p. 115

2. Water


“The water lapped softly across his chest, seeming almost remorseful … as if asking forgiveness for being the man’s ultimate killer … as if trying to cleanse the scalded wound that bore its name.” – Angels & Demons, p. 527

3. Stories


“People take what they need from the stories they hear.” – Shadow Spinner, p. 125

4. Phantom


“Perhaps her mind … would be betrayed and mocked by a phantom self as the amputee is by a phantom limb.” – The Crying of Lot 49, p. 133

5. Boba Fett


“Nobody knows what Fett feels or doesn’t feel.” – Bloodlines, p. 341

6. Loneliness


“The suburbs are one of the loneliest places on earth.” – He’s Gone, p. 16

7. Spinning


“It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening.” – The Secret Life of Bees, p. 279

8. Hope


“You get tired after awhile of just hanging around hoping somebody notices you’re there.” – Down Sand Mountain, p. 170

These are only from a handful of the books I devoured this year. Feel free to check out my entire 2016 reading list on Goodreads (minus the books I’m going to read next week while on vacation – WOO WOO!).

What were your top reads this year? Any quotes that really stood out to you? Share them below. :)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Readers: You Do Not Own Other Writers’ Stories

It’s not your story. It never has been.


I think there’s a big difference between reviewing a book – saying what you did and didn’t like about a story – and tearing apart a novel to highlight all the awful things about it. Criticizing a story is understandable. People do it all the time. It’s a story; it doesn’t have feelings. But when people turn to the writer of that story and start tearing them down for writing a story they did not like … I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with that.

As attached to her stories as a writer may become, a story does not tell you everything about its writer. They are still separate. I have a few words to share with readers who seem to think they know more about other writers’ stories than the writers themselves. Because as much as it might feel like it, a story that someone else has written is not your story. You do not own it. You cannot change it – not exactly.

Quality writing, rewriting and editing cannot be rushed.

I honestly don’t think enough readers realize how long it takes to write the first draft of a book. And the first draft is only the first draft. A writer will often scrap the majority of their first draft, gradually, during the revision process. And then there’s editing all those layers of revisions, refining and piecing together a book until there’s something there an author is proud of and mostly satisfied with.

I can think of a few writers on my radar who have gone at least a few years without publishing anything. Am I excited for new books, whenever those might come out? Of course. Am I constantly on Twitter nagging them about when they’re finally going to finish writing their books? Um, no. Don’t do that. Writers are already under enough pressure. Begging them to “write faster” pretty much makes them not want to write at all. They still do, because it’s their job and it takes time to write well, but your whining isn’t making it any easier or more enjoyable.

It’s not just about the readers.

Yes, as a business, writing has to cater to what readers want … to a point. First of all, a writer is not going to end a book or series of books a certain way because readers want them to. It’s their story, not yours. Second of all, complaining about how a book “should have ended” doesn’t actually change how the book ends. Once a writer publishes a book, that’s it. They’re done writing it. They aren’t going to – and they can’t – go back and change something because it displeases you.

And phrases like, “I’m not going to finish the book if so-and-so dies” or “I’m going to be angry if so-and-so don’t get together” – why? Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and emotions, and if you don’t want to finish reading a book, that’s up to you. But not getting what you want out of a story, and throwing a public tantrum because of it, has never made sense to me. I don’t understand. Like the book or hate the book, it really makes no difference once you spend your money to purchase a copy. But don’t go telling all your friends, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read, don’t bother,” just because one thing happened that you didn’t like. Let them decide for themselves. Your negative opinion about a book does not automatically make it a bad book.

If you’re looking for a book that doesn’t exist, there’s a solution.

Write the book yourself. If you’re that upset about a book not turning out to your liking, and you’re tired of never being able to find a book that suits all your needs, then sit down and write the kind of story you want to read. Some of the best books ever written are good because they are written by people who had the courage and discipline to write the story they wished they could have read in a book.

Is writing hard? Yes. Time-consuming? Absolutely. If you can’t handle it, then don’t complain about other writers not being able to write a perfect book, because half the time, they can’t handle it either. They’re doing their best. For very little money, they are spending countless hours trying to write a book from start to finish. They then work with an editor that asks them to make changes, which can be even more draining. They’re just trying to tell a story. It’s not always going to be the fairytale ending you prefer. It’s not always going to be worthy of an award. But it’s still a book someone worked very hard on. Is that not enough for you? And if it isn’t – tell me – how’s your 80,000-word novel coming along?

The benefit to readers wanting to influence or change a book that has already been written is, regardless of how you “feel” about it, fanfiction. I love the idea of fanfiction because it encourages people to write, even if characters and settings aren’t necessarily their original ideas. I’m sure some great writers out there have started out writing fanfiction before moving on to creating their own stories. It’s a great way to practice character and plot development. I have nothing against it. If writers want to use fanfiction to develop their skills, I’m all for it.

But that doesn’t mean that an author’s original book is of any lesser value. It’s understandable that you aren’t going to like every single book you read. I’ve read plenty of books I didn’t particularly like. But it’s not my job to tell the author what he or she could have done to make the book better. And it’s not yours either. Book reviews are one thing, but think twice before you start critiquing a published work of fiction. Don’t criticize the writer for writing something you might not have been able to write yourself. And if you do want to write something yourself – focus on that, not on telling a writer how you would have done it if you’d been the one to complete the first draft. It’s not about you. It’s about the story. It’s OK not to like something. But be respectful and considerate.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

I Want to Go Back and Read Books I Read As a Kid

Just for a day, I want to travel back to my own personal literary era of American Girl books and innocent mystery chapter books.


I turned a year older last week. One year closer to an acceptable quarter-life crisis, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve already had three in the last six months. I’m not one of those people who minds getting older. Growing further and further away from my past, in some cases, is a very good thing.

Except when it comes to reading books.

I’m like many other writers in that books were what inspired me to start writing my own fiction. I don’t remember a time when I read something and didn’t feel curious about how the author came up with a story so amazing. I write a lot more often than I read now, and am struggling to keep up with my 2016 goal of reading 50 books, but I still read a little bit every day. Every once in awhile, I’ll read a book that changes my life. When I was younger, that used to happen with pretty much every single book I ever read.

Where did that go? And can I have that feeling back please?

This is not to say books have gotten any better or worse as time goes on; there’s no way anyone could make a reasonable comparison between literature of different time periods. Add to that the fact that I really haven’t had a reason to stay up to date on children’s literature since I read books in that genre on the regular, and it’s safe to say I’m no expert. I just miss the books I used to read; rather, I want to remember, to feel, things I experienced while reading them for the first time.

I remember only bits and pieces of Ramona’s life, and things that happened in Narnia, and random titles of books I wish I still had on my shelves. Just for a day, I want to travel back to my own personal literary era of American Girl books and innocent mystery chapter books and Goosebumps stories, the ones where you got to pick what happened next. I want to go back to my middle school library and read all those books I returned without ever finishing. But more than anything, I want to travel back to that point in my life where reading was my escape and my pleasure and not just something I feel obligated to do, because I’m a writer and I’m supposed to read.

Call me sappy or whatever, but I want to fall in love with reading again. I’ve been reading a book for almost 2 months that I was supposed to read in college but never did. It’s annoying and I don’t like it. If you have any suggestions for good page-turners or books that have inspired you to sit down and write your own stuff, send them my way (comment below!). Also, favorite children’s book series – GO!

Reading inspires me to write, and I’m really in need of some inspiration right now. And ’90s cartoons. And Ramona.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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