Reading Preferences: Format, Structure, + Length

I’ve been a reader for a long time—not as long as most readers I know (I wasn’t the child who stayed up all night reading, who devoured the Harry Potter books; I didn’t even really start reading heavily until I was twelve or thirteen, funnily enough far after I started writing) but I’ve considered myself to be a “reader” for a while. And though I’m a slower reader and haven’t read a ridiculous number of books, of them that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve come to notice a pattern.

I have a lot of personal preferences with books, ranging from genre to length (I love fantasy/sci-fi which tend to be long, but I prefer shorter reads). But what I’ve noticed recently is that the books I tend to enjoy reading more, the books I’m able to read quicker, and the books I “just can’t put down” are all similar in a few aspects.

One: Shorter, quicker reads.

I love me a long, dense fantasy book that keeps me in the story for a long period of time—especially a series. It helps with being totally immersed in the world, keeping my brain within that space even when I’m not reading. I tend to take a few weeks to even months reading a 500+ page fantasy. And while I love them, especially because it’s my favorite genre, I have started to realize that shorter books are more enjoyable to me. The accomplishment of reading a book in a shorter amount of time, being able to read more stories in a year by fitting two or three books in the time it would take me to read one, is way more appealing to me.

Two: Length of chapters and structure.

On the note of length, the most important element of a book that I prefer is shorter chapter lengths. There’s nothing worse for me than picking up a book to find it having 20-30 page long chapters. There’s nothing more soul-crushing. I’ve mentioned that I’m a slow reader, which isn’t technically true. I’m a fairly average reader when it comes to speed. I tend to read in shorter, infrequent bursts, so it takes me longer to read a book, not that it takes me longer than a minute per page or anything. So when I’m reading a book with long chapters, it’s difficult to a) read more than one chapter and b) find a place to pause. With short chapters, I could read two or three in one sitting no problem. In fact, I’m more likely to say “just one more chapter, it’s another short one” so I end up reading even more pages than with the long chapter books. It seems silly but it’s true! Long chapters with many page breaks/scenes are even better than one long chapter. And it’s not just about time with reading, it’s the pacing that makes the book more enjoyable. Shorter chapters tend to have a quicker pace, they tend to make me want to keep reading longer and I end up finishing much quicker.

Another aspect that is similar to chapter length, is a book broken up into parts. If a book as three to seven parts, I’m hooked. It’s another marker, a goal that I can keep reading to. “Just one more chapter” or “I’m almost done with part two, I might as well read the last two chapters.” The most structured and broken up the book is, the better. There’s nothing worse for me than having to trudge through a 400 page book with only twelve chapters, even if I like the story and end up loving the book.

Three: Format.

The format of what I’m reading is another, though less important, preference for me. I read printed books much more often than I read ebooks. However, I noticed that I read faster on my Kindle reading an ebook than I do a printed book. I don’t know the specifics of it, because I don’t read ebooks often, I just know that I read slightly faster. Maybe the screen? The ease of the buttons? No page numbers? I’m not sure. With printed books, however, I prefer paperback. With hardcover, I take the jacket off so it doesn’t get damaged and keep it in a drawer. There’s something about paperbacks, being able to see the cover throughout the reading process, that keeps me engaged more. It’s strange, but it does. I often buy books because of their covers, or buy certain editions because I love the cover, so to be able to see that and be reminded constantly makes me want to read it more often. There’s also something to be said about the comfortability of a paperback in the hands, or even just one hand, and it’s softer when holding.

The most important one for me, though, is chapter length. It’s such a part of my reading preference that I’ve adopted it into my own writing—I never write long, endlessly long chapters. They tend to meander and slow the pacing of the story. I prefer writing short, concise chapters that keeps the plot moving.

 

Most of these preferences aren’t really anything I look into when buying or going to read a book—I always start with the cover and whether or not it interests me, then I read the back of the book. I rarely won’t choose a book because of the above preferences, but they are a factor to whether or not I like a book or not—honestly, the process of reading and the enjoyment I get from doing it definitely alters my perception of the story. The time it takes me to read it, whether I’m comfortable—it all matters.

Shifting Gears…Again – Writing Update

About a year ago, I posted about needing to shift gears and abandon the novel I’d been working on for a long time and deciding to work on the book I like to call Book E. All of that is explained in the other post. However, one thing that I’ve been thinking about for the past year since making that decision: I’m worried about the genre.

Book E, like the original book I’d been writing, Book A, are both set in the same universe. They are connected. And I’d been working on them thinking it was the best option for me to focus on. The problem is, both Book A and E, while different in tone and style, have the same thing in common: superpowers. Book A is more fantasy, while Book E is a little more urban fantasy, but both have characters with the same superhero-like powers.

And what type of films/books/everything has there been a lot of lately? SUPERHEROES.

Media is over-saturated with superhero content right now. And I’ve learned that a lot of agents aren’t really looking for those right now because of it. I had a feeling that this was happening, but I was still in denial that I could make something original enough to stand out. But I couldn’t. I can’t. And honestly, I don’t want to. Because like many of us, I’m sick of superheroes, too.

I still love those books and I know that someday I might go back to them. I think sometimes that if I’d finished them years ago like planned, maybe they could’ve been published at the peak of this superhero obsession, which would’ve been great. But I know that Book A is not as strong or original as I thought when I first started writing it at the age of fifteen (it checked all four of the over-done tropes that one of my top picks for agents listed on their blog) and Book E is great, but also resembles some superpower-centered stories that are out there right now. So I know that now I’m going in the right direction.

So what will I be focusing on then, if not Books A or E?

Book C! The science fiction novel I wrote back in 2012 that I think is a much more original concept and has a much better chance of catching the eye of an agent to eventually be published. It had been my plan a long time ago to finish both Book A and Book C then decide which one was stronger to query with, but then Book E came along. Now that I want to change directions a bit, Book C is the perfect project to work on.

I’m extremely excited to get back to working on Book C (or Thoughtless, as that is its tentative title) though I know it’s going to be a ton and a half of work. The first draft was written when I was a much younger, less-skilled writer—boy, can six years make a difference (and with any luck, that constant growth will continue.) But because of that, I know it’s going to be difficult to turn this book into something good. I’ve already decided that an entire rewrite is necessary and a huge re-structuring of the plot is the first thing that needs to happen.

However, before that, one of my goals for January was to finish the draft of the book I’d written during NaNoWriMo’17. So that’s what I’m working on right now. After that, in February (which is the month I’m focusing on writing) I’ll be tackling Book C and starting again from scratch.

It’s a scary and exciting phase.

2018: New Year | New Goals

Well. 2017 was a YEAR. I’m not thrilled with the goals I accomplished last year. And it’s not that I didn’t focus or work hard enough for them, I realized I just set my goals too high and wasn’t able to reach them. So. This year, I’m doing things differently and I think I’m going to like it much better.

First thing, I’m setting my goals smaller. Because I have so many different categories of goals, I need to think smaller. Quality, not quantity—which is actually one of my new plans for this blog. Instead of once (ish) a week, I’m going to post once every two weeks. Focus on quality, not quantity.

Second, like last year—though I started this almost a third into 2017—I’ll be focusing on one goal more than the others each month. It’ll be my Monthly Focus that I prioritize over the rest.

Here are my goals for 2018:

Design & Illustration

Last year, I had lofty goals that I just wasn’t ready to accomplish. This year, I’m scaling back a bit but have more of a clear, solid plan in place for this year. I wanted to sketch daily, have a full illustration done a week. I just wasn’t going to achieve that. I also had wanted to start freelancing design work and open my online shop with things I designed, but just couldn’t start that up last year. This year, I’m going to do:

  • sketch 2-3 times a week
  • 2 full-color illustrations a month
  • start freelance work
  • open online shop


Writing

My writing goals last year changed so much last year because of a lot of issues (I wrote about them here) and really fell behind. But, fortunately, I redirected and reset my goals and achieved a lot. However, I’d love to go forward this year with more:

  • write 2 short stories
  • finish first draft of Book E
  • finish the draft from NaNoWriMo 2017 (very close to done)
  • complete NaNoWriMo 2018 (and outline in October)

Film

I wrote my second (first completed) short film last year and was so incredibly proud of it. I want to work on more film projects, but just couldn’t do it last year like I’d wanted. And, I’d wanted to see a lot more (new to me) films in the theater and at home. I saw none in the theater and only 21 at home. So, this year, I’m working a little harder on less projects:

  • watch 25 total (in theaters or not) films
  • film 1 experimental short film/video project
  • write a first draft of a feature-length film

Reading

This one is what I’m most upset about. I’ve consistently only been able to read around 20-25 books in a year. I’m not happy about it. I always set my goal to 50 or even just 30 and I never reach it. So, this year, I’m going to do three things: embrace that number, read less fantasy (which takes me longer to read because it’s so long), choose more short books, and, most importantly, stop trying to read the books I’ve had on my list for years that I never get around to. I keep rolling over the books I don’t get to and I’m way less excited to read them because of it. There are other books that have piqued my interest since and I’m tired of not getting to those. So, I’m doing this:

  • read 25 books
  • read less fantasy
  • read shorter books
  • abandon old reading lists

Exercise

Last year, I did fairly well with exercise and health, but I could’ve done better. This year, I’m going to really work at it and set my goals lower. With my monthly focuses, I’m starting off January by doing the Whole30 and walking every day. I’ll slow down for months I’m not focusing on it, but I really like my plan this year.

  • be more active, walk or bike
  • stick to work-out schedule better
  • do the Whole30 at least once
  • go to bed earlier/wake up earlier

Monthly Focus

I’m still working out which month I want to work on what, and I know there will be repeats, several months for writing or reading, but I just have the first six months set. Also, I don’t have anything with design involved with the monthly focuses because, well, it’s kind of my job so I need to focus on it all the time. These are just the side activities.

Jan: Health + Fitness (Whole30 + walking every day)
Feb: Writing (finish NaNo ’17 + short story + work on draft of Book E)
Mar: Reading (at least four or five books in the month)
Apr: Illustration (two or three full illustrations + daily sketching)
May: Writing (feature film)
Jun: Health + Fitness (Whole30??? + walking every day)

I’m very excited about the upcoming year. I have good feelings about it. Here’s to 2018!

2017 Goals: End of Year Wrap-Up

2017 was A Year and a Half™ and I’m glad it’s over, honestly. It was stressful on many levels and my lofty goals didn’t help. But, here we are, ready for the next year to start and glad this one is over.

Design & Illustration

So this entire past year, I’ve been struggling to work out what I want to do with my design career. I’ve known what I want to do, just haven’t yet been able to accomplish them. Though, the last month or two has been more productive. I’ve been redesigning book covers to put up on my upcoming portfolio—I posted about this here—to start doing freelance work and soon, I want to start designing and printing products to sell online (prints, screen printing on totes, cards, etc.) and do more illustration. That’s the goal for next year, and I’ve started putting the pieces together for that. Now, with illustration, while I started out the year fairy well with illustrating and sketching, I’ve fallen off a bit. But, I now know that trying to create a full color illustration once a week and daily sketching isn’t feasible for me right now. So I’ll be continuing on next year, just at a slower pace to keep working on my illustrating skills (I’m excited to start using the new art supplies I received this Christmas!) and updating here. I also worked a bit on hand-lettering, which went okay, but I definitely need to work more on my skills there.

Month of hand-lettering practice: CHECK.
Daily sketches: not daily, barely reached mid-year.
Full color illustrations: 13-14 finished out of 54.

Writing

This has been the most up and down goal of mine this year. I struggled this summer—and posted about that here—and have recently reconciled with my love of writing. I finished the first draft of the novel I started in NaNoWriMo 2016 and completed the NaNoWriMo 2017 challenge of 50,000 words (haven’t finished the draft yet, planning on finishing the last few thousand words in January)! I’ve been working periodically on Book E and have taken December off from writing, just to help focus a bit—I don’t think I would’ve had time anyway, it was a busy month!

Finish NaNoWriMo 2016: CHECK.
NaNoWriMo 2017: CHECK.
First draft of Book E: SORT OF.

Reading

I’m done with trying to read more than 25 books. I didn’t even reach my back up goal of 25. I’ve read 22 books this year and I’m fine with it. I’m honestly tired of being stressed out. Next year, I’m going to set my goal to 25 and read shorter books and just do my best. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get to 50. Or even the 35 I set this year. But all the books I read, I loved—well, most of them—and here they are:

 

Read 35 books: 22. MEH.

Film: Import / Export

I’ve watched 21 new-to-me films this year. None in the theater. I wanted to have reached 25 total, but that’s okay. I’m fine with what I’ve achieved for now. I now know that I just have to stop having such lofty goals. I wrote my short film, Anya, and honestly I’m thrilled with that alone. I didn’t do any other film or video projects like I’d planned, but I’m good with that. I have plans for the future, it’s just not anything I need to focus on right now.

Exercise

I haven’t done that well with exercising. I did really well between February and July, I even lost some weight and felt great. Then, I sort of fell off the wagon. I’ve been able to keep up with my diet fairly well, so I’ve been able to maintain the weight I’ve lost for the most part—the holidays haven’t helped with that—but in January I’m going to try doing the Whole30 and I have a new exercise plan, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with it in the new year.

Instagram

I completed the challenge of posting once a day all year! It sucked. I’m never doing it again. It was mostly fun but stressful, too. I hated doing it. Though, towards the end, I started to enjoy it more with the holidays and being busy and having more things to post about, but those lulls where I did nothing for a week or two but work, I struggled getting enough photos to post. Overall, I don’t regret it. I think the quality of my posts have gone up since before this year, so that’s something. But there’s definitely some posts this past year that I don’t really like, so I’m glad I’m now able to curate my posts better and post just the photos that are top notch.

365 Posts on Instagram: CHECK.

So, that’s my 2017. Goals accomplished, goals failed. One year, hopefully next, I’ll learn to not have such lofty goals and actually be able to accomplish them. Here’s to 2018! Happy New Year!

Book Cover Design

Ever since I decided on going to school for graphic design, I’d always had the goal of designing book covers. It made perfect sense to me: as a writer and a reader, I’m surrounded by books. It’s something I’m passionate about. So it feel natural and exciting to start the process of designing books.

To start, I had a goal of marketing myself as a book cover designer to do freelance work. But I knew I needed some work to go into my portfolio to do so. This led me to the idea of redesigning the covers of books I love to bulk up my portfolio. But I didn’t want to just design books that had terrible covers, I wanted to redesign covers that were already good, maybe even one of my favorites, to challenge myself to make one as good—or better. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I’m dang proud of the ones that I’ve done so far.

I’ve been working one a few in the last few months in my spare time. Here are three that I really love:

These are just front covers that would work for e-books, but I’ll have a few full spreads in my portfolio for print hardcover jackets and paperbacks.

My goal for the very beginning of 2018 is to have a portfolio up online (other than the link above to just a WordPress page) and to put myself and my work out there to get jobs with self-published authors or small independent publishers.

If you happen to see this post before my portfolio is up and ready, like the covers above, and are in need of any design work (not just book covers!), feel free to message me through any social media outlet or here on WordPress. I’ll have a proper way of contact up soon!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Final Wrap-Up

I DID IT!!!!!!!!

With 40 minutes to spare, I completed my NaNoWriMo 2017 with 50,005 words. I could’ve written more, but I was VERY tired that night after writing over 4,000 words to finish.

This year, I found it was easier than last year! I still struggled and fell behind, but not as much. In 2016, I had to write 13,000 the final day to finish and this year I had to write a third of that. Maybe next year I’ll be finished EARLY? Maybe!

Here’s the breakdown of the month:

Words Written:

November 1st – 2,267
November 2nd – 1,830
November 3rd – 1,530
November 4th – 2,130
November 5th – 1,080
November 6th – 1,670
November 7th – 1,232
November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0
November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819
November 23rd – 2,336
November 24th – 1,901
November 25th – 2,684
November 26th – 2,450
November 27th – 1,672
November 28th – 0
November 29th – 770
November 30th – 4,219

The first draft of this novel is close to being DONE done. I think a few more thousand should complete the first draft (my first drafts are rarely over 70,000, usually sitting around the 65k mark) and then it’s off to the next project—finishing Book E!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Four

Thanksgiving Weekend was a SUCCESS! I caught up completely, was doing really well, and then…Tuesday happened and Wednesday (today) happened. And honestly? I don’t even care. They were Rough Days and I didn’t have the energy to write, especially after writing so much over the weekend.

HOWEVER! I have one day left. I have 4,214 words to write. That will be the most I’ll have written in one day during NaNoWriMo this year (but definitely not the most ever; last year I wrote 13,000 words on the last day just to complete it). So I’m not THAT worried, I’m just a little worried. My plan is to write a third of that in the morning, a third in the afternoon, and the last third before midnight!

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 23rd – 2,336
November 24th – 1,901
November 25th – 2,684
November 26th – 2,450
November 27th – 1,672
November 28th – 0
November 29th – 770

Total Weekly Words: 11,813

Where I Should Be: 48,343
Running Total: 45,786
Up/Down By: -2,557

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Three

Another tough week! I ended last week with 0 words on the 15th and had only a few hundred the next day and then ANOTHER 0 word day. Not a great start to the week, but I picked it back up and did some strong days of over 2,000 a day. For the week, I stayed the 2,000 or so behind I was last week and added only a few hundred more to my negative words. But that’s not too terrible. I know I’ll be able to pick it back up.

Most of all, I was in a real tough spot in the story and was struggling to get going. But now, I’m in the most exciting parts of the book that I’m real excited about, so I foresee me being able to blast through those words and catch back up in no time—especially with the four days I have off of work coming up for Thanksgiving!

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 16th – 751
November 17th – 0
November 18th – 3,027
November 19th – 2,019
November 20th – 2,093
November 21st – 1,668
November 22nd – 1,819

Total Weekly Words: 11,377

Where I Should Be: 36,674
Running Total: 33,974
Up/Down By: -2,700

Still in the race, but definitely behind. Hoping this weekend turns out to be really productive!!!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week Two

OH NO. I’VE HAD MY FIRST WITH LESS THAN 1,000 WORDS AND MY FIRST DAY WITH ZERO. But everything is okay because, fortunately, I had a few hundred words saved away and am not TOO FAR behind. Only a little behind.

Honestly, I’m not worried. Today (being the ZERO WORDS DAY) needed to be that way because it has been A Day. So I’m good. Rested and ready to tackle more words this weekend! I’m hoping to get a real nice buffer going this weekend so that Thanksgiving weekend, I don’t have to do too much writing if I don’t have to. I want to eat turkey and watch movies in peace without stress.

SO TO RECAP THE WEEK,

Words Written:

November 8th – 1,750
November 9th – 84
November 10th – 1,708
November 11th – 2,330
November 12th – 3,000
November 13th – 1,311
November 14th – 675
November 15th – 0

Total Weekly Words: 10,858

Where I Should Be: 25,005
Running Total: 22,597
Up/Down By: -2,408

NOT TERRIBLE. I’m doing GREAT compared to last year. Off to write—actually, sleep, but TOMORROW, we write!!!