• Poll: Your Favorite Writing- and Reading-Related Things

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 24 comments

    TL;DR version: This week I thought it would be fun to get to know each other by sharing some of our favorite writing- and reading-related things. What is your favorite novel; piece of writing advice; movie about a writer? Find those and more questions at the bottom of the post, and then answer ’em in the comments below. And don’t be afraid to reply to other people’s comments! Do you and someone else have the same favorite novel? Ask him/her what else he/she reads.


    Thanks in large part to our helpful discussion last week, as well as a Monday deadline for my writing group, I have been hard at work this week on my novel.

    Which, by the way, is called… well, I don’t know what it’s called. Some people say you should have a title before you start a project. Name a thing and it becomes a thing. But I know plenty of writers who will create a title only after the work is done. And that title often comes from the text. What do you think: title first, title last, or who cares?

    Point is, I’ve been writing so much fiction this week that I didn’t have time to write my blog post, which was called “How to Write More Fiction Without Sacrificing Your Blogging Duties.” (Title first!)


    Book/Story Club?

    One thing I did think about was reviving our long-(long-)dormant book/story club.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been rereading my Stuart Dybek, and boy would I love to get into some discussions with you about a story like “Hot Ice.” Where we all read the same short story — like we did here — and then on the blog I share some stupid thoughts and maybe some discussion questions, and then we talk through the story until we’re blue in the face.

    I’ll stew some more on that. I like the idea. Do you? Or who cares?


    Do My Job for Me

    Anyway, what I want to do this week is crowd-source (ugh) some recommendations *and* get to know each other better in the process through some simple fill-in-the-blank.

    In other words, you do all the work for me!

    Let’s share with each other some of our favorite things, and maybe find some new favorite things for ourselves.

    Answer as few or as many of the following statements as you want. Provide further detail/explanation, if you want. Leave your responses in the comments below.

    And don’t be afraid to comment on someone else’s comment! Do you and another person here share the same favorite novel? Let him or her know! For this is how magical friendships begins.


    The Blanks: Fill ’em In!

    (Assume they all have an optional “because” at the end!)

    1. My favorite novel is _________.

    2. My favorite nonfiction book is _________.

    3. My favorite movie about a writer is ________.

    4. My favorite writing blog besides WriteByNight’s is _______.

    5. The best music to write to is ________.

    6. My favorite writing advice comes from ________, who said _________.

    7. My favorite writing- and/or reading-related podcast is ________.

    8. My favorite literary journal or other publication is ____________.

    9. The best place to buy books in person and/or online is _________.

    10. The idea of resurrecting the WriteByNight book/story club makes me feel ________.



    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Barbara Mealer

    1. My favorite novel is Hawaii by James Michener. I love his historically correct fiction. I want to do something similar. 2. My favorite nonfiction book is Once They Moved Like the Wind. I am actually reading it for research, but the information is given is a manner which is fun to read. 3. My favorite movie about a writer is Romancing the Stone. It was hilarious. 4. My favorite writing blog besides WriteByNight’s is Shannon Donnelly’s “Fresh Ink.” It is informative and contains good advice on writing. 5. The best music to write to is…It depends on what I’m… Read more »

    Beth B.

    I love Michener’s books too. It’s like reading interesting history books but with dialogue and scene-setting. Mexico is maybe my favorite. Texas is good too. But I swear it is unrelated to the fact that I live 8 miles from the texas/Mexico border!

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    I bet your enjoyment of those books was enhanced by being familiar with the locations Michener wrote about in the stories.

    Carol J Bro

    I too love Michener. He creates such unique, but realistic characters. My favorites are Chesapeake and Texas.

    David Duhr

    Thanks, Barbara. And respondents. Seems like Michener is a popular dude here. I read/enjoyed Caribbean, but then stopped there. For some reason. I seem to have forgotten that Romancing the Stone is about a writer. I’ll have to revisit that. Thanks for the excuse. Books-a-Million! That brings back memories. I used to work at one, in Virginia. Somehow my main job ended up being to keep the magazine section fresh. We had hundreds of magazines, and people bought, I would say, 8% of them. The rest of them we’d return to the publisher for (hopefully) recycling. For the book club,… Read more »

    Beth B.

    1. My favorite novel is _________. As I lay Dying, I think. It changes a lot. 2. My favorite nonfiction book is _________. Maybe in Cold Blood? Right now. Ask me next month and I’ll have a different answer. 3. My favorite movie about a writer is ________. I don’t know! That one on HBO about Hemingway with Nicole Kidman was okay. I can’t think of any others. I will look to see what other people say. Maybe I can find a good new movie! 4. My favorite writing blog besides WriteByNight’s is _______. I don’t really read them. 5.… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Thanks for stopping by, Beth. I read As I Lay Dying for high school. It was challenging, but I enjoyed the challenge. I’m glad you read our blog and no others! We’re working toward a writing-blog monopoly. We just have to run the 682,031 other ones out of business. Twain’s “Write what you know” is overused, good call. I drift back and forth on it. I find that usually I write what I know, but without intending to. So it’s not advice I keep in mind. You live in a place without a bookstore? This hurts my head. It reminds… Read more »

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    1. I have no favorite novel. Enjoyed many but not attached for life to any. 2. I have two: Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury; Dianne Stoler, Ph.D /1994[?], My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D 3. I have never viewed a movie about a writer, to my knowledge. 4. I hold no favorites. I enjoy reading articles which fit my need to know from anyone I choose at anytime. 5. The best music I have playing while I am writing is classical symphonies and concertos; Jazz before 1980’s. 6. My favorite writing advice comes from Carolyn Howard Johnson… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hi Eleanor. Thanks for sharing your favorites with us! Never seen a movie about a writer?! If I see a movie trailer and it’s about a writer, I’ll usually roll my eyes. But I’ve seen a couple of good ones. Maybe a few good ones, even. For example, the Shining just came to mind. Definitely not my favorite, but a well-done, and super creepy, movie. For our story club, I think what would happen is that every month we would all read the same short story. Ideally 5,000 words of fewer, so it doesn’t eat up more than an hour… Read more »

    Emily Martin

    1. (fiction) A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. 2. (non-fiction) Story Fix by Larry Brooks or anything by Donald Maas 3. (movie about writer) Stand By Me 4. (writing blog) Writers Helping Writers 5. (music) depends on the scene I’m writing–whatever enhances my emotions 6. (writing advice) favorite is Larry Brooks’ advice about concept versus premise and story structure absolutely changed my book and its pace. 7. (podcast) not listening to one currently–too many competing priorities! 8. (publication) Writer’s Digest 9. (buy books) Love B&N, but buying books for the kids at their school book fairs is so… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hey Emily. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. John irving. I read Garp. And I liked it. I think a lot, in fact. But then I never read anything else of his. Why does that happen? Re the podcasts, ugh, I know. There is so much I want to take in and only so much time to go around. And yet I find myself listening to the same episodes of the Dead Authors Podcast again and again. It’s just so fun. Yeah, stories would be the way to go for the club. Back five years or so ago, when we… Read more »

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    I received the same advice …#6in Barbara’s poll answers…from Carolyn H-Johnson. Haven’t mastered it yet, though.

    David Duhr

    It’s the “finished” part that can get so tricky, I think. What does finished even mean? I’ve published things that I still feel aren’t finished. As in, I could still do things to improve them. So is anything ever finished?

    But generally, I find that to be good advice. In essence, write first, revise later. But not even that. More like, write first and don’t even think about revision. Until you’re… well… finished.

    In other words, just get it out there.

    It’s kind of like Kurt Vonnegut’s swoopers & bashers. Maybe I should write a post about that?


    1.My favorite novel is Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. It is out of print I believe. Copyright 1944. It was the first adult novel I read and I reveled in how I could travel, cry and live outside my “real” life which I was trying to escape. 2. My favorite nonfiction book is Beryl Markham’s memoir from 1935 West with the Night. She recounts her childhood brought up in Africa and her adventures as a woman pilot during the infancy of flight. 3. My favorite movie about a writer is the 1977 Jane Fonda/Vanessa Redgrave flick called Julia about… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hi Cecilia. Thanks for sharing your favorite things with us!

    I had not even heard of Elizabeth Goudge, but just her Wikipedia page alone is fascinating. Someone plagiarized one of her novels and then later committed suicide by eating rat poison? Goudge was a big influence on J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series?!

    I love The Write Practice too. And not just because Justine wrote for them!

    I will have to try this Writing Challenges podcast. Thanks for the tip!


    thanks for reading each and every reply to your questions, researching and then commenting back. I did not know that about E. Goudge. thank you

    Carol J Bro

    1. My favorite novel is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Any book that moves me to read the entire ‘big book’ series (over 120,000 word count each/seven books so far) four times has got to qualify as my favorite! 2. My favorite nonfiction book is either Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture or Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. 3. My favorite movie about a writer is Marley and Me. It’s not just a funny dog story. It follows the writer’s growth and struggles to succeed, his changing life as he becomes a husband and father, and his wife’s post-partum depression.… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hi Carol. Thanks for sharing. I haven’t read any Diana Gabaldon, but I always see her big bricks in featured spots at bookstores. I just read a bit about this series; it sounds like something I should try. Although it also sounds daunting. Like I’d have to devote the rest of my 2017 reading to it! Do they go by quickly? (But in a good way?) Also, both of those nonfiction books look worth a read. I didn’t see Marley & Me, nor did I read the book. Did you read the book? The movie was better? We did an… Read more »

    John Liebling

    1. Five Books Of Rachel by Joel Gross. Hundreds of years of Jewish historical fiction. Would have made a great mini-series. 2. Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandberg. From the age of seven I was reading about the life of Abraham Lincoln. Interest side note. When I was seven in 1965 I visited my 107 year old cousin. She had only one leg and passed away soon after I visited her in Chicago – my dad’s home town. She was born before the American Civil War started. And when the Suffrage movement was only 10 years old. 3. I’ll list two… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hiya, John. Thanks for sharing your faves with us. The first review I found for this Joel Gross book begins, “Yet another commercial exploitation of atrocities visited upon the spirit and bodies of Jews.” Haha! Someone doesn’t like this one. And it ends, “For all the diamonds in the plot, it’s zircon through and through–but, like many artificial gems aimed at a mass market, this shinily phony paste job will no doubt sell well in costume-jeweled circles.” I’ve written some negative review, but that’s brutal! I imagine you disagree… That’s crazy, meeting a cousin who was alive during the Civil… Read more »

    John Liebling

    One story a month – we can all handle that. Looks to be fun. In regards to the Joel Gross book: I give it 5 out of 5 stars. A+ for plot. A+ for writing style. A+ for character development. As we know reading any positive or negative book review or analysis of any political platform – must be taken with a grain of hemlock. Truth and reality – on line are very subjective. Truth can get lost in any person’s particular motivation to bolster or tear town. All I can say is The Five Books Of Rachel fits my… Read more »

    John Liebling

    He had an exceptional voice as a pre-teen able to sing C above high C. Very few can hit that note. And then his voice changed. And over night be transitioned from exception to very good. We’ve had many conversations, so you know what my dad use to sound like. My speaking voice and his speaking voice are identical. Not singing. I have a very average singing voice. Opera was going to be his career until WWII. In fact he was getting ready for a show when DC went dark Dec 8 1941 – the day after pearl harbor was… Read more »

    […] couple of weeks ago, when I asked to hear about your favorite books and favorite movies about writers and such, I also extended the idea of reviving the years-dormant WBN Book Club, resurrecting it as a short […]

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