Thursday, June 2, 2022

So You Want to Write a Book

By Sparkle Abbey

Part 2: Old School Research

Welcome back to So You Want to Write a Book!

There’s a book in everyone, right? If you’ve decided that there’s a book in you and you’re ready to embark on that journey, we’re excited for you!

Last month we talked about where to start when writing a book for the first time. We asked you a lot of questions, such as:

  • Are you passionate about a particular storyline?
  • What type of book are you interested in writing?
  • What idea is constantly on your mind?

You may remember there was also an assignment. We hope you took our suggestion to write down ALL your ideas. If so, pull out that notebook where you jotted down them down, and let’s talk about what you wrote. (If you didn’t take that step, there’s still time. Just take that step today.)

By now you should have decided what you’re passionate about and what type of book you’re going to write. You should know if you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. A thriller or a memoir. Romance or a self-help book.  

Okay, are you ready for step two? Step two is what we call Old School Research. And we’re the first to admit, that not everyone agrees on this. We believe to write well in any genre or subject, you need to be well-read in that area. What is currently being written? What type of plot resonates with you? What characters speak to you? How do the best-selling stories unfold? What can you LEARN from books you love as well as books you put down after a few pages?

Back when we first started writing we read over 100 books in our genre. While we aren’t telling 
you to read 100 books before you start writing, we are telling you to read extensively in the genre or subject in which you’re going to write. There are some who disagree with this approach for various reasons. They may worry about copying another author’s work. Probably not. After 100 books, one thing you’ll notice is there’s really no new plot. And how you write your story is all about what you uniquely bring to the table. However, by reading deeply in your selected subject, you’ll have a better understanding of how to make your book stand out from the crowd. You’ll also begin to understand the importance of reader expectations. (More on that down the road!)

Well, what do you think? Are you onboard to read, read, read for the next few weeks while you’re thinking about your book? As you read, keep your notebook handy. Take notes on what you learn, how you’ll be different, what works, and what doesn’t.

If you’d like, share in the comments what you’ve decided to write and what you’ve learned from reading extensively in your subject, and how you’ll use that to write a book that stands out from the crowd. And as always, if you have questions, feel free to ask us.

Next month we’ll talk about knowing where you’re headed. Sound intriguing? 

Sparkle Abbey's latest story (written in first person) is a short but fun one. If you've not yet
checked out PROJECT DOGWAY, this is a great time to do that. 

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don't tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the website


  1. Excellent advice, Sparkle Abbey! I think I'm ready to take the next step ;)

  2. Your advice harked me back to writing my first mystery novel. At the time, I didn't want to read other mysteries for fear that I'd inadvertently borrow too much in my own writing. Thank goodness Book #1 did well and became the start of a series. Once I got published, I kept running into names of revered authors like Sara Paretsky, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and others, and realized I had a lot of catching up to do. I second your suggestion to research the greats of your genre if you're serious about becoming part of it. Good post!

  3. Fully agree with reading. The interesting thing is that the more one reads in a genre, the more one begins to recognize the really good books vs. those that dialed it in or that understandably failed.

  4. Two heads must really be better than one. You two are full of great advice. Can't wait for the next installment.


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