The Writer's Cookbook

Writing, productivity, publishing.

Category: Reading (Page 1 of 2)

Christmas Present Ideas for Writers

Like it or not, the holiday season is officially here.

I love giving and receiving presents, but the people around me are super difficult to buy for. People say they don’t want a present, but if they buy you something and you don’t buy them anything, things get awkward.

But what on earth do you buy a writer?

I’ve written a Christmas gift guide for writers before.

Since that post is a few years old, I’ve decided to do an updated version for 2017.

Scrivener 3

For the disorganised mind, Scrivener is the perfect tool.

Whether the writer in your life uses Scrivener or not, they’ll appreciate the latest version, which came out at the end of November.

There are lots of books and courses out there on how to use it, too, so if they’re new to one of the most versatile writing programs out there, they’ll have plenty of resources to help them get their head around it.

You can download Scrivener 3 from Literature and Latte’s website, or the App Store.

The latest version is only available for Mac OS X Sierra and High Sierra.

A new version for Windows will be out in 2018.

Tickets to a writing conference

In every career it’s as much about what you know as whom. Writing is no different. Why not buy the writer in your life tickets to a writing conference?

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Most 2018 dates will be out now, and most big cities/counties/states will have their own. There are conferences out there for most genres and forms of writing.

Don’t forget to factor in the costs of travel and hotels if it’s not in their hometown, though.

A simple search for ‘writing conference’ followed by the type of writing or genre in question should bring up local search results. If you’re looking for a different location to where you live, add in the nearest big city to where your writer friend lives, or search using Incognito mode to ensure that your previous search history/your location doesn’t influence the results.

Note-taking app

There are lots of note-taking apps out there. They all have different features and functionalities, so it’s worth researching what features your writing friend would benefit from the most before purchasing a subscription for them.

Evernote and Bear are two of the most versatile, and offer features such as multi-device sync, and calendar integration.

However, if they already use a note-taking app and have hundreds of notes to move across, it’s probably better to go for a different gift idea.

Janet Murray’s Media Diary

Janet Murray knows her stuff.

Her 2018 Media Diary will help the writer in your life to plan out their content for the whole of 2018. Janet has also put together a Media Diary Owners’ Club, and has courses on how best to use it.

Music streaming service subscription

Music can have a huge affect on our moods. Listening to music, therefore, can be hugely influential on the scenes a writer crafts.

Whether it’s a subscription to Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal, giving a writer access to millions of songs can kick-start their creativity much faster than a 15-track album.

They can also use the services to create playlists based on their works-in-progress, or the mood that they want to create, and share them with their audience.

Productivity for Writers

I wrote Productivity for Writers to help other writers escape the road blocks that I have so often faced.

If the writer in your life wants to write but struggles to find the time or the motivation, this is the perfect book for them.

Productivity for Writers is available on Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, and more.

View the full list of places to purchase Productivity for Writers.

Over to You

What are you buying the writer in your life for Christmas? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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Here's why the best readers make the best writers.

Why do the Best Readers Make the Best Writers?

So you want to write a book.

Or maybe you want to write some poetry, or even some copy.

You know what you need to do first?


Read More

Reading actively makes you a better writer faster. Here's how.

5 Tips to Help You Read More Actively

If writing is the weightlifting, then reading is the protein that builds the muscle.

The best writers are the most avid readers.

Reading for pleasure allows us to subconsciously pick up on the ingredients for a successful story.

When we read actively, though, we pick up on those ingredients faster and can therefore improve our writing faster too.

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How to Read Like a Writer

By far, the best writers I’ve ever met are the ones with English Literature degrees. This is no coincidence: these people read books like some of us drink coffee, or big cars guzzle fuel. They read fast, they read often, and they read actively.

Reading actively is the key to being a better writer.

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7 Life-Changing Books Every Writer Needs to Read

What I love the most about being a writer is that the journey is never over. There is always more to learn, and always things we can do to improve.

The number one thing we can do to improve is read. Reading not only teaches us what other writers in our genre are doing, but it also subconsciously improves our language and empathy skills. Reading puts us into the characters’ minds, allowing us to be as close to walking in another person’s footsteps as we can get without being telepathic.

There are lots of books for writers out there. Up until I started my MA, I’d read very few of them. When I started my MA, I made an effort to read more of them.

Since then, I’ve branched out into reading nonfiction in general. I’d never judged fiction by its genre in the past, so why did I just nonfiction so harshly?

I’d always assumed nonfiction meant boring.

It really, really, doesn’t.

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What Life is Like at a Small Publishing House

When I was 42, I was made redundant from my job as a middle manager at an IT company. I’d been ill for a few months, and wasn’t in a fit state to go back to work. As my redundancy money gave me a small financial cushion, I decided to go back to studying. I signed up for the University of Nottingham’s excellent (and now sadly defunct, but that’s a story for another time) Creative and Professional Writing degree. It wasn’t long before I realised that there was no anthology of student writing. The tutors said if I wanted to organise one, I’d be welcome to. I seized the opportunity.

I already had typesetting, project management, and team leadership skills from previous jobs. That, I thought, would surely be enough. All that’s involved in making a book, I thought, was gathering together the material, typesetting it, and sending it off to the printer.

As it turned out, there was a whole raft of additional skills I needed to acquire—editing, performing, planning, book layout and cover design, managing and working with volunteers, knowledge of the publishing process, fundraising, networking, and coaching.

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The Books I Read in 2015

I know it’s a bit late for one of these posts, but better late than never, right?

I read more books in 2015 than I think I have in any year my entire life. The majority of the books I read were part of series, but not always. The books that gripped me the most this year were part of a series, though, and one of them I can’t rate highly enough, but more on that in a minute.

Reading is a huge part of my life, and since committing to my novel I made a decision to read more, too. That and workshopping are the only ways my work will improve. This isn’t a complete list of everything I read this year — I have a reading journal but in the move it got lost for a few months — but it’s the ones that affected me the most.

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Interview With Ana Salote

Ana Salote is an author of children’s fiction whose debut novel, Oy Yew, is out now. It’s published by Mother’s Milk book. The first chapter of Oy Yew is available to read online. Ana regularly blogs on her website about creativity and writing.

Tell us a little bit about Oy Yew. What’s it about?

It’s set in Affland, a pseudo-Victorian world, where Master Jeopardine, the deranged bone-collecting waif-master, exploits children from neighbouring Poria.

The shy hero, Oy, lives in hiding behind a bakery. He doesn’t know who he is or where he comes from until one day he is caught and taken to work for the Master. Oy quickly finds himself at the heart of a mystery. It’s a search for identity, a tale of separated soulmates and a battle for survival.

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Interview With Cathy Bryant

Cathy Bryant worked as a life model, civil servant and childminder before becoming a professional writer. She has won fourteen literary awards, and her work has appeared in over 200 publications. Cathy has had two poetry collections published: Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature (Puppywolf, 2010) and Look at All the Women (Mother’s Milk, 2014). She co-edited Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1-3, and Cathy’s latest book is the novelPride and Regicide, (Crooked Cat, 2015). See more at see Cathy’s monthly listings for financially-challenged writers at She lives in Cheshire, UK.

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Books That Changed My Life

Like so many writers, as a child, I loved books, especially old ‘important-looking’ books by ‘important-sounding’ people like Shakespeare and Dickens and someone called ‘Encyclopedia.’ I loved the look of them, the feel of them, the smell of them. I just couldn’t read them. They were mysterious, alien hieroglyphics to me, because—unlike my clever elder siblings—I couldn’t read until relatively late, and was seen as the ‘backward’ one (my father’s term, not mine). I was a slow learner (still am, in many ways) and couldn’t read or write till I was seven or eight. This made reading and writing seem all the more strange, desirable, fascinating, like a secret code.

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