The TGS Writers’ Book Club: Become Better Writers, One Book at a Time

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After unsuccessfully searching for an offline book club in my area that was comprised of writers, I decided to create the space online. This is entirely experimental, but I’ve tried to think things through and hopefully, this will be a useful tool for writers who are readers.

The main point of difference between a book club of readers and a book club of writers, is that reading is not only a hobby, but an intentional learning tool. How we read, what we read, and with what intent we read, influences how we write. The voices that captivate us are often the voices we wish to develop. The turns of phrase, the construction of a characters, the shape of our story arcs are all influenced by the writing we love.

It would be impossible to set this up without having my own philosophy and approach influence the book choices and the reader guidelines. I am a writer. I write blog posts, essays, short stories, and I have a novel in various stages of disarray, a dis-novel, if you will. I believe in reading anything that catches my interest, even some things that don’t. There are no limits to genre, gender, nationality, form, or content. If the writing is strong, if the subject is unknown, if there is anything I can learn, I will read it.

canstockphoto7169504That being said, it is sometimes a challenge to read outside one’s experience and genre. I know people who read only science fiction or only nonfiction or only fantasy romance novels. As writers, I feel it is incumbent upon us to read beyond our natural boundaries. This means that we must challenge ourselves or else our skills as writers do not grow. We begin to write in a circular world with the same techniques, phrases, and character types. To read widely is to give ourselves every possible advantage as writers.

My intention is to create an environment where we look at books with a writer’s eye. We’re interested in the mechanics of the writing, not just the content. We look for patterns and motifs and themes. Symbolism does not go unnoticed. Rhythm and pacing matter.

The site is also intended to be a writer’s haven – what challenges us and can we apply some of the techniques we read about? What speaks to us, what do we admire or dislike? It won’t be a place for book reviews. We live in a world that thumbs or stars everything. The only question we need to ask is what can we learn from the work?

It is reminiscent of lit classes without the tuition, unwieldy schedule, and you can do it in canstockphoto22562364your jammies while drinking large vats of wine or coffee. If you’ve already read the selected title or are going through a busy season or would rather stab yourself in the eye with a pen than read a particular selection, just skip the month. Best of all, there’s no signup sheet for treats, everybody else isn’t already besties, and the talker (there’s always one) doesn’t get to dominate with stories of their ingrown toenail surgery.

If you are interested, there is a link on the sidebar, which will take you to the site. Enjoy!

27 Comments on “The TGS Writers’ Book Club: Become Better Writers, One Book at a Time

      • Hey Michelle! Good news to share!
        I just got a flash piece put up at a major crime fiction site, and I got another going up next weekend on a different site
        They’ve even asked me to do a blog tour, but I need more eyes on my blog first!
        Any chance u might share the news and links?? My writing’s taking off but the blog’s still lagging…
        I’ve been a big fan of your site for a while now so maybe your readers might check me out too…
        Either way, thanks for the terrific reading. Huge fan!

        Like

  1. I’ve never thought about the difference between being a book reader and a writer who reads books. I’m the latter, of course. And have been since I majored in English in college. Suddenly I’m realizing why I found neighborhood book clubs so boring. Huh.

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    • I tend to be disgruntled in most social settings, but after my experience with a book club, I really had to think about what it was I wanted. It didn’t take long to realize I simply approached reading differently. I don’t know how the online option will work, but there’s nothing lost by trying.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve put a lot of thought into this Michelle.I am just beginning work on a large project and my time will be pretty much taken up. But I love the idea of being able to drop in and out and hope to be able to do just that. One of my issues with book clubs is the time commitment. I just can’t do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s why I’ve stretched the length of time to read a book to a month and a half or so. Of course, with someone like me, I won’t read it until the last week anyway!
      The other thing is that the reading selections will not always be full-length novels. Next month, it will be a collection of poetry. I hope that will give people more options time-wise.
      Good luck with your project!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am going to unashamedly pick and choose what I read of your suggestions, as I’m picky and hate trying new things. The idea of having a book club not just about books has me interested – I’ve never really tried poetry so I’m looking forward to that month.
    That ‘reading as a writer’ book someone else mentioned here sounds interesting. Do you think it might help in terms of writing in general (I write lots of essays for university at the moment)? I’m going to give it a go, regardless. Thanks for having such an interesting blog!

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    • I always assume that is what most people do – pick and choose the months they want to participate. The Francine Prose book is a good start to help you think about how things are written and writers’ choices. I am of the mind that learning how to critically (as in analytically) read a text is useful to writing. I have a couple of essay collections as choices for the upcoming year that might interest you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooooo, ooooo. I just read that next month is a collection of poetry, to which I have turned. This is the challenge of a book club of course, likely amplified among writers: We are all off with great zeal in our particular direction of the moment. But thank you for organizing this! I wonder if the occasional book about writing would be appealing to the greatest swath of us, as many such works transcend any particular genre. Seems like I always have one of those on my nightstand.

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    • I have an entire bookshelf of books on writing! I will be putting one in the rotation, depending on how things go – my favorite one right now is Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler. It’s one of those books you can pick up when you need a boost or an idea.

      The poetry selection for May is Afterland by Mai Der Vang. I’ve never been much of a poetry reader, but in my quest for better writing I’ve been reading more. Poetry teaches us how to use words wisely.

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  5. Oh, I Love this and want to read and comment. I write poetry, more private and public, and of course blog. I also have been working on a series of mysteries 10+ years .
    First, Dog Leader Mysteries, will publish this June.

    What Poets will we be reading?

    Best, Deborah

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    • For May, I picked a newer poet, Mai Der Vang with her relatively new book, Afterland. I’m not a poet, although I read poems for writing inspiration. Once things get up and running, I’ll ask for suggestions, so if there are poets you want to read, let me know. I’m doing a Fearless Friday post this week – can I add your publishing news and bio?

      Liked by 1 person

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