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MBM: Sharon Belknap For the Love of Reading

(marching–last day)

Today is the last day of March Book Madness. I feel very lucky to have had such great people chat with us on everything writing. I’ve learned so much. If you’ve missed the previous posts, check them out here: 

          Lynn Wiese Sneyd: Thurs, March 8, Querying

          Tobi Summers: Tues, March 13, Plotting vs. Plodding

          JoLynne Lyon: Thurs, March 15, Marketing

          Cassie Mae: Tues, March 20, Editing

          Jessica Khoury: Thurs, March 22, Editing

          Tricia Pease: Tues, March 27th, Reading

          Sharon Belknap: Thurs, March 29, Reading

  (if it’s blue, you can click on it to go to that post)

Today I have Sharon Belknap here, a good friend of mine who has not only read my early manuscripts and given me great feedback, but she’s also allowed me to read hers, which was really good (and I’m waiting for the sequel, fyi). She also writes music, so she and I share many passions. Plus, she’s just a really, really nice person. So here’s what she has to say about reading. 

Sharon: Thank you, Rebecca for giving me the opportunity to talk about one of my passions: reading. You are such an inspiration to me and I appreciate your example and encouragement. You rock!

So you’ve found yourself with nothing to do one afternoon (yes, I live in a world of fantasy!) and you decide that you’d like to dive into a book. There are millions of books out there, so exactly how do you select which book you’d like to read? A book is an investment. It’s more than just a passing acquaintance. A book takes time. And a book can, if the two of you are compatible, become a lifelong friend. You may even find, if you’re lucky, that book that was made just for you, that book that gives you goose bumps, that book that makes you feel like no other book can. You know it’s out there. You may have even thought that you’ve found him, I mean it. But you find your mind wandering, wondering if just maybe there is a book that you can understand so completely that your soul is touched in a way that it changes you, that if the two of you…

Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. But really, reading a book is a different experience than watching a movie or television program. A book can be much more intimate because you can climb inside the minds and thoughts of the characters involved. Most often, characters on the screen must rely on their expressions, words and actions to portray their thoughts and feelings. But a character in a book can tell you specifically from moment to moment exactly what thoughts play on the stage of his mind and how those views grow and progress. If that character is developed well enough, he might even be able to convince you of the validity of his thoughts and open your mind to new avenues of thinking.

For this reason, character development is essential to me when I choose the books I will read. I don’t really want to spend time with the book. It’s just some paper and glue. I want to spend time with the characters.I want to get to know them. I want to understand what motivates each action they take. I want to see how they interact with each other. I want them to inspire me. I also want them to confuse me, to leave me guessing. Some, I want to love them despite their flaws, but I do want them to be flawed (but not stupid like Tricia pointed out Tuesday). Some, I want to loathe. I want them to overcome, to make the wrong choices and learn from them, to learn something about myself. One of the best things about a book is that I don’t have to solve any of the characters’ problems. That has already been done. I simply go along for the ride and hope it takes me to a favorite destination or, better yet, takes me somewhere I’ve not been before.

So how do you find that perfect book? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a website that could find out my interests and match me up with a book I’d be most compatible with? One that recorded characteristics I’m looking for in a future mate, I mean book, and match me with one that I’d be well-suited for? They could call it E-book Harmony or something. I think I’m onto something here! What do you mean, there is already a website that does just that?

Yes, yes there is. It’s called Goodreads. No, I’m not an employee of Goodreads paid to write a plug for them. But, as I wrote earlier, a book is an investment of time and energy, and we are all busy enough these days that I don’t suppose any of us want to squander our time. There has been more than one occasion when I have closed a book with furrowed brow, frustrated that I have wasted those precious commodities on something so useless. For that reason, I always do a little research before making any sort of commitment to a book. Think of it as doing a background check on a guy you might be interested in dating.

I found Goodreads to be a useful source when it comes to selecting my next book. I look at the recommendations the website offers based on my previous reading experiences. Many times I can find a good match here. But I always, always look at the synopsis and ratings before I spend time looking for that book on the shelves of a store, purchasing it on the internet or borrowing it from the library. I usually don’t give it consideration unless it is rated four stars or above. If a blurb about a book interests me enough, I will go through several reviews, both positive and negative, to see what objections or approvals it has earned.

Sometimes, I look through the books that my friends on Goodreads have read and make a selection from that. Again, I look at the ratings and reviews before making a commitment to reading. Occasionally, I look at all recent activity on Goodreads and simply look for books that rate above 4 stars. Then I’ll click on the book and see if the synopsis hooks me. If not, it’s back to searching. Often times, I’ll ask friends if they have read anything interesting. If they offer me any recommendations, I will again consult with Goodreads to check the ratings and reviews.

Sometimes, I impulsively find myself at the library, scanning the shelves. What do I look for? Because I’m searching the spines at a glance, the title is the first hook. I don’t bother with book written in a script that I can’t make out while looking at it sideways. I am usually drawn to titles that are short and concise. You only have a phrase to sell your entire plot. As an author of a book in the querying stages, it scares me to think of the importance of that simple word or phrase. If I find an intriguing title, I pull the book off the shelf. The cover serves as the next hook for me. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so that picture on the front of your book is potentially your most powerful hook. I’m sure that different images appeal to different people, but the old adage “you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression” definitely applies here. Next, I’ll glance at the blurb on the back and then flip to the synopsis on the inside of the cover. If I’m still intrigued, I’ll check the book out. I usually come home with five or six books that have piqued my interest. When I get home, I go right to my computer and again pull up Goodreads. I’m usually left with two or three good prospects.

I hope this information can help you either as a reader in search of that perfect book, one that you can love and adore, or as a writer in an attempt to tell an intriguing, compelling, and enticing story, one worthy of that affection and appreciation. Either way, the search is a great adventure and I wish you all happy trails!

Bio: Sharon Belknap is an avid reader and aspiring writer. She enjoys listening to and composing music, decorating, photography, Pinterest, and anything crafty. But most of all she enjoys her full-time job as a wife and mother to eight children. 

Rebecca: I love how Sharon describes reading. It really can be a love affair with a great story, moving characters, and beautiful words. Reading to me is curling up on the couch with a blanket and being transported into another time and place. It’s everything I love about writing minus the uncomfortable computer chair. 🙂  I know Sharon reads a ton and I love seeing what she has read because she and I like the same types of books: a good, clean romance with a strong plot. (The book she just finished writing is exactly that. It’s awesome!!!).    I have been on goodreads for a few years now and I’ll second everything she said about it. I love seeing what I’ve read through the years almost as much as I love seeing what my friends are reading. In fact, another cool feature is it lets you compare your reading tastes with your friends. For example, Sharon and I are 82% similar for the books we’ve rated, which is higher than most my other friends. That way you know which friends have similar interests before you explore their bookshelves. 

I also love that goodreads lets me set reading goals, which for 2012 my goal is to read 24 books. I’ve already read 9 so far. (If you want to check out some of my favorites, check out the sidebar to the left or find me on goodreads here.)  And no, I’m not being paid to advertise for goodreads either. 🙂 To prove it, there are other websites out there that are similar, like shelfari If you’re not a reader (like I used to not be), it’s probably because you haven’t found the right kind of book yet. There are literally millions to choose from, but don’t let that scare you off. Like Sharon said, there are plenty of ways to find the perfect match for you.  Thanks again to Sharon for taking time to share your thoughts on reading. And thanks again to all my other guest posters for MARCH BOOK MADNESS! I loved it.  Have a great day and go read a book!  What about you: Do you love to read? Do you lose yourself in the pages? Do you use goodreads or another website? How do you choose what you read? 


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