How to climb out of a reading rut

Recently I’ve had trouble getting absorbed in the books I’m reading. I asked Twitter for advice, and compiled the suggestions here.

Recently I’ve been experiencing a reading rut. I used to find it easy to get absorbed in a book and forget the world around me, but lately I’ve been struggling to stay engaged when I read.

I tweeted about this a few days ago and discovered I wasn’t the only one. A lot of people chimed in with their troubles concentrating long enough to read and their inability to get sucked into books. (And who said Twitter was dead?)

A tweet by A.S. Akkalon that reads:

Recently I've been having trouble getting into the books I read. I can enjoy them, but they never transport me. I don't know if it's them or me. Has this happened to anyone else? Any ideas?

#WritingCommunity #books
The tweet that started it all.

I also got a lot of useful suggestions.

Here I compile the main theories for why reading ruts occur and a collection of suggestions on how to deal with a rut. If you’re struggling with your reading, I hope some of the advice helps.

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Fantasy novel trends not to follow

I read two years’ worth of Publishers Weekly fantasy novel reviews and noticed some trends. I also picked up some querying advice.

If you’ve ever queried a novel (tried to find a literary agent who’s excited enough about it to represent you), you’ve probably agonised over comp titles.

Now I can say “me too”.

What are comp titles?

Comp titles are books that are similar to your book in some way and are either supposed to tell agents the vibe of your book or tell editors how many copies they’ll be able to sell.

Depending on who you ask, comp titles should be books–or movies or TV series (or definitely not movies or TV series)–that:

* are less than five years old, less than two years old, less than ten years old, or not so new no one knows them

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Recapturing the joy of writing as a kid

Many adults have lost the joy they felt writing as children. Here are some suggestions on how to bring it back.

A lot of writers started writing as kids. We loved to read, so we decided to make our own stories.

Some of our stories were written and illustrated in crayon in stapled-together booklets. Some were written in stiffly adult cursive in pink lockable diaries. And some were typed in obsolete word processing programs in which documents could never be longer than 13 pages.

Writing when you’re six or ten or thirteen is a joyous activity. Characters and their magnificent struggles swirl through your head and every word that comes out is a diamond.

But at some point the magic fades.

You agonise, you doubt yourself. You pack away the crayons.

Grown-ups aren’t better at everything. So get your crayons back out and remember the fun you had writing (or might have had writing) as a kid.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

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How emotions can help with your editing or lead you astray

When I’m editing, I use an emotional Geiger counter to tell which parts of my story are working. It often helps. Here’s how it can go wrong.

This is not a post of writing advice, because I don’t do those. This is a post of writing observation. They’re different. Trust me.

I read books first and foremost for the emotions they evoke: wonder, awe, hope, joy, dismay, despair, and all the other good ones.

Similarly, I write with the intention of evoking such emotions in the reader. The hard question is how do I know when I’ve succeeded.

Writers with a lot of craft knowledge and experience probably just know. I expect they don’t need to read their draft to know how the reader will react emotionally at each point.

Me? I’m not quite there yet.

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Ten self-help books I read so you don’t have to

I read ten self-help books and took away various insights, some of which are helpful. I summarise the helpful ones and the others here.

At their best, self-helps books are amazing because they literally teach you how to help yourself, and inspire you to do so. Want to become a millionaire by sitting on your couch playing video games? There will be a self-help book for that.

However, some self-help books would have been better if they’d remained blog posts, and some should never have been written at all.

I forget most of what I read in most self-help books, maybe because it isn’t relevant to me, or maybe because I’m too busy trying to put Princess on a diet without starving Runs from Jeans.

A year later I might remember one main point, and I’m fine with that. It was probably the most important point.

Today I’m going to share some of these main points.

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