You have to read to write

I once read about an author who said they didn’t read other people’s books. It’s not that they didn’t read others in his genre or his style, they just didn’t read at all.

I couldn’t understand that. How can you be a writer and not read? I can understand not reading in your own genre, to avoid being influenced by others, but nothing? I believe they said their own stories were the only ones they were interested in, but what about reading for pleasure? Reading for inspiration? Reading for knowledge? Reading, I think, is as necessary as listening and watching. Reading shows us what works, what doesn’t, what other people think and feel and tells us what other people’s lives are like and is basically just wonderful.

Between you and me, this particular author (and it was about thirty years ago and they haven’t written lately) had one story and this was how wonderful they were and everyone fancied them, set in various different landscapes. Perhaps if they’d read a few books – any books – they might have found a different story to write.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad


Writing Description by Christine Duncan

It was a perfect autumn weekend, full of pumpkin picking, children in costumes both scary and sweet and a chill in the air. I’ve learned that much as I think I will remember all of these details, I need to write it down so I can use it as description in some book.
It is hard to remember just how the rising sun caught the leaves of the tree from behind and set the whole thing to an awesome golden glow. I want to believe I won’t forget the shine of pride in a four year old’s eyes, as he dons a plastic fire hat and goes to sit in the firetruck parked at the Halloween festival. But past experience tells me that if I want the description to be just right, I should write it down now.
I used to think I could just take a picture–it’s worth a thousand words, right? But pictures don’t always capture the feeling. Words do that.

Series or Standalone?

Whenever I write a book, I always plan it as a series. I think this is because of my love of television series – I love an ongoing story arc, I love flashbacks to a mysterious past, I love foreshadowing of an event, I love to see characters take years to grow and change.

But sometimes a story only needs one book – it’s not worse, or better, but it just needs that one space for a story to grow. The characters don’t need more than they are given.

It’s not a choice you always make when you sit down to write – but when it’s all finished and published and it’s the shop – do the characters still whisper in your ear? Does one them want to say a little more? Do you need to know what happened next? Do you dream about them? In that case, you may have written a series

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Quotes to Help You Write This Week by Christine Duncan

Don’t feel like it today? Wondering if you should even bother?
You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. Read what these successful writers had to say.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
— Richard Bach

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” Confucius.

One step at a time, right?

Not Alone

Talking to other authors is incredibly helpful. Get ten different authors in a room and you get ten different ways to plot, or beat writers block, or get ideas. And everyone is fascinated by everyone else’s ideas and what’s to try them.

Authors are also the only ones who understand the difficult moments. The urge to edit at 3am. Feeling like you’ll never write another word again. Not being sure what you’ve written is any good. Feeling like a fraud and that someone will find you out any day now. These are feelings are all authors are certain only they feel – and then they meet other authors and realise they all feel like that.

It’s a wonderful feeling when you go to an event for the first time as an author and not just an audience member and you get to talk to the others. Writing is such a solitary occupation but you are also, not alone.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Words by Christine Duncan

Words are a writer’s toolkit, so it is no surprise that so many of us are fascinated by them. We roll them around on our tongues, trying them out in our sentences, making sure to select the best.
This week though, I was at a loss for the right word, in more than one instance. It was the anniversary of the death of one of my son’s friends. But anniversary does not sound like the right word for that occasion. One does not celebrate such a time.
Someone suggested memorial but although the connotation is correct, it did not feel as though it told the time the way anniversary does. And yet, I couldn’t find an English word that did. Probably, I was looking so I didn’t have to really think about the real issue.
Another time this week, I was at a loss for words was over the season. It is that very beautiful brief pause where summer has not yet totally left but Fall is not here in full. The leaves are thinking about changing. The day’s high temperature is still in the summer range but it doesn’t stay as long. The day’s low temperature is in the fall range, but again, it doesn’t last. So the mornings are refreshing and the afternoons are warn. There should be a word for this time. Sum-fal, Aut-mer, I don’t know. But there should be something besides Indian summer, which really doesn’t cut it for me. I always thought that one came after you had some really cool fall weather.
Which ever season it is for you, have a good week.


I’ve been thinking about doing some videos for YouTube about writing and creativity. I really need to build a website. And of course I continue to do talks. All in the name of publicity.

Of course, artists are supposed to promote our work. Art for arts sake and all that. But artistic happiness alone does not pay the gas bill, and a writer who’s books do not sell will soon find themselves dropped. There was a time when publishers did the publicising, but now you’re lucky to get a poster of them. These days it’s up to the writer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy most of this. I love doing the talks and festivals and meeting people, I enjoy my online presence. If my only job was writing, it would be fine. But I have a day job and consequently only a few hours a day to devote to writing and sometimes when I want to write I have to work on publicity instead.

But be prepared to publicise your own books. I made the mistake of relying on a publisher to do it, and they just won’t these days. Create your own website, arrange your own visits to reading groups, book your own talks. I’m afraid it’s all down to you now…

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad