I’m going to write a whole post without using a certain 8 letter word describing something short people and aspiring writers can build and climb up on in order to be more visible. That’s not to downplay the value of other contributors’ recent posts about balancing your writing time with your visibility time, or the flurry of responses from the WU community. You folks obviously love to debate this particular issue and are mightily entertained when the monthly columnists start having a (light-hearted) go at one another.

I read the discussion and felt … tired. So much talk, so many quips, so many links! I didn’t click on a single one. But that wasn’t so surprising. I’ve only just emerged from an extremely intensive working period. On April 30 I submitted my YA novel (second book in the Shadowfell series) to my editors in Sydney and New York, and also returned the copy edit for my adult novel, Flame of Sevenwaters. I came up for breath to realise just how much I hadn’t been doing while consumed by deadline pressure. Over the last couple of days I’ve answered a lot of emails, posted off ARCs and bookplates, caught up with a small mountain of business paperwork and rendered the house slightly less like a hermit’s cave. I’ve been back to the gym after too long an absence. Of course, the dog routine remained constant during those months of immersive writing – the mini-pack made sure of that.

Once I’d restored a bit of order around me, what I wanted to do was read. I didn’t want to read blog posts about writing time vs visibility time, I wanted to immerse myself in a wonderful novel. Here’s my reading list.

Kerry Greenwood: Phryne Fisher novels – detective series set in 1920s Melbourne, currently showing on Australian television as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
I read several of these for light relief during that period of intensive work. They’re stylish and witty, with a magnificent feel for the period. Also, they’re completely unlike my own work, which I find essential for anything I read while in writing mode. How did I find out about them? Word of mouth: the books have been popular with my family and friends since long before the television series was conceived.

Jodi Picoult: Lone Wolf – new release from this internationally popular novelist
I’m a long-term reader of Picoult’s novels. With this author I know I’ll get good tight writing, interesting moral and ethical dilemmas and a fast-paced story. I especially liked Lone Wolf because, being something of a dog nut myself, I was fascinated by the passages on wolf behaviour. I’m sure the fabulously successful Ms Picoult has a website, a blog and numerous fan pages, but I’ve never looked for any of these. I just buy her books. How did I know there was a new release? Via an email newsletter from my local bricks and mortar bookshop.

Barbara O’Neal: The Garden of Happy Endings – new release from one of WU’s own
I’ve loved Barbara’s earlier novels and her wise and warm posts here, so chose this in anticipation of a rewarding and thoughtful story with memorable characters. How did I know there was a new release? Via Writer Unboxed. Do I visit Barbara’s website, forums etc? Yes, but more as fellow writer than fan – I have found her teaching materials valuable.

Iain Banks: Stonemouth – new release from this respected and versatile writer
Another personal favourite. Some of Banks’s novels are a bit too graphic for me, but he’s a fine writer – I love the Scottish settings, the wry, understated humour and the vividly realised characters. How did I know there was a new release? Recommendation via an online retailer. Have I lurked on Iain Banks’ website, online forums, Facebook page, whatever? No. I just buy his books.

I’m also reading a brand new ms for which I’ve promised a cover endorsement. It’s a first novel by someone whose short fiction I admire, to be mainstream published later this year. I’ve recently read another debut novel, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a stunning fairytale-based literary novel set in the Alaskan wilderness. I’ve been recommending this as widely as I can (example of my social media working on behalf of a fellow writer.) This was a serendipitous find at a local bricks and mortar bookshop. One paragraph was enough to hook me in.

What do all these books have in common? Good writing and great stories. Though effective marketing played a part in alerting me to the availability of some, my choice to purchase and read them was based entirely on the quality of the storytelling.

Don’t get lost in the noise, folks. Your first and foremost job is to write a well-crafted and compelling story, the kind of story that brings your readers faithfully back for more.

I’d love to know what you read when you’re writing, and when you’re taking a break from writing. Do you read mostly in your own genre? Far more broadly? Do you challenge yourself? How do you discover new writers?

Photo credit © Dennis Tokarzewski | Dreamstime.com

About Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier has written seventeen novels for adults and young adults as well as a collection of short fiction. Her works of historical fantasy have been published around the world, and have won numerous awards. Her latest release, Raven Flight, is the second book in her Shadowfell series, set in a magical version of ancient Scotland. Juliet has two new releases coming out in 2014: The Caller, third and final book in the Shadowfell series, and Dreamer's Pool, the first novel in a new adult fantasy series, Blackthorn & Grim.