Sunday, April 26, 2015

Very Important, Reading Is: Guest Post by Jen Wagner

I am so blessed to come from a family of writers. Here's my cousin-in-law, the INCREDIBLE Jen Wagner. She's a writer and freelancer and reader and mother-er.

Truth: I hated reading when I was a kid.

I would go to the library with my mom and older brother, and I would come out empty handed. My brother, however, would load up on Garfield comics and baseball trivia books. I had no clue what I enjoyed reading. Yet when I graduated from high school, I decided to major in English because I wanted to force myself to have to read. But even then, I still had no clue what genre was “mine.”

And then, one glorious day, I met Harry.

Harry Potter opened up a door—a little door underneath a staircase if you will—which then led me to Stephanie Perkins, Maggie Stiefvater, Becca Fitzpatrick, Lauren Kate, Colleen Houck and Veronica Roth. Young adult fiction was my thing.

I finally had a passion for reading and I couldn’t get enough. I still can’t. Thank you, Harry.

And perhaps I never discovered my passion because there wasn’t enough of it to choose from in the 90’s when I was a teen. YA consisted of works by Judy Blume, Ann M. Martin, and Lurlene McDaniel. While these books were good, there just wasn’t enough of it.
As an adult — one who loves teen angst and the quirky best friend — I have discovered how desperately I want to write my own YA book. In fact, my ideas have been brewing for five years now (quite the realization seeing that confession in print).

But, I know I’ve needed these five years to find my voice and uncover my style. I had to read books from several different YA authors in order to discover what I like and dislike in a YA novel.  

Books Are Like Dessert.

The options are endless. There are stories that are simple, and ones that are elegant. Others are quite time consuming because they transport you away from reality and into a completely different dimension, revealing each bit by bit.

Yet each book must be explored and analyzed to help determine what satisfies, what falls flat ... and in some instances, what disgusts.

Often, books will have similar characteristics and story-lines, just like desserts which have similar ingredients. For instance, consider author Nicolas Sparks.

In my opinion, Sparks is the king of stealing from his own work and incorporating the same “ingredients” over and again: boy and girl meet; one or both have a history or issues that need resolved (perhaps one has an abusive ex-lover, is widowed, or is a single parent); and someone (always!) dies in the end. The names change, the settings change, but the ideas are often the same. And women go crazy for this! The same goes for author James Patterson. Each of these men have discovered their personal “plug and play” when writing a book.

Read, and then Read Some More. Find YOUR Pattern.

Reading allows you to seek and find the pattern that works for you. Take an idea from one author you love and twist it into your own. This is not plagiarism. This is called inspiration. And if you aren’t reading, you can’t be inspired.

“Nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s words.” -Jeff Goins

So, you want to write a book? Well, I suggest you start reading. Peace.


  1. I think that's pretty amazing, that's how you learned you could like reading.

  2. I'm a bit of a book worm, I love books. Dropping in from a link on Diane Coto's blog

    Rosie Amber - Book reviewer. Campaigning to link more readers to writers.

  3. You're so right. I grew up in the 80s. I loved reading, but there wasn't the selection they have today. I think that's why my mind started creating my own stories! And yes, if you're not reading, you seriously can't be inspired.

  4. Hi there - It took me a while to get into the reading habit also.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

  5. Hi there - It took me a while to get into the reading habit also.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews