How To Read When You Hate Reading, Have Become Smartphone-Faced, or Just Don’t Have Time

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It’s hard to read printed words these days. Who wants to crack open a boring old book when you’ve got an infinite scroll of the latest Twitter hatefest, non-stop booty-shaking TikTok videos, and Pepe Frog memes to look at? Now with Web3 out there, or the Metaverse, or Zuck’s Uncanny Valley, or whatever the hell they’re calling it, the days of reading plain old black and white text on dead trees are surely numbered.

Just look around you. Everyone’s become “smartphone-faced.” That’s when you hold your phone so close to your face it practically is your face. Ancient Hindu swamis once warned the youth of their day not to stare too long into the River Ganges, or else it would absorb their soul, and they’d spend eternity trapped underwater. The same warning could be applied to everyone today and their O.C.D. (Obsessive Cellular Disorder).

(NOTE: I made up that part about the ancient Hindu swamis, but the lesson still stands).

As a word-munching kiddo I used to read until I fell asleep every night. No Berenstain Bear book was safe from my crayon-smeared fingers. My mom would know I’d conked out because she’d hear the books thump against the carpet as they fell from my hand.

I loved to read. Still do. But even as a novelist and online wordsmith, reading sometimes feels like a slog to get through. I get smartphone-faced, too. I find myself falling into slumps, distracted by the circus of social media, or the impulsive need to Google stuff. Or I just get bored or don’t have the time.

Then comes the awul guilt for not reading from my inner finger-wagger. A cardinal sin for writers.

To be fair, not everyone has the time to get absorbed into a book as they’d like. And to be even more fair, there are a lot of bad books out there not worth even looking at. The New York Times Bestsellers list is less a list of quality than a ranking of which sales team did the best marketing for their product.

If you’re struggling with staying focused on reading these days, it’s important first to get over any guilty feelings you may have. Reading is all about learning, and there are a ton of mediums you can use to do that. Not just books. Losing temporary interest in reading could just be your brain’s way of saying it wants to try other means of data extraction.

When I was in college, I remember a student submitted a thesis asserting that people can learn history or other topics just as well through gaming as they can through researching books, using immersive MMORPGs, and historical-themed games as examples. His case study revealed that both the gamer and the reader retained information about equally. Which is great news, as I can finally call myself an Oregon Trail historian like I’ve always wanted.

Here are a few ways that can help you “read” without reading.


Most everyone is aware of Amazon’s Audible program, which offers thousands of audiobooks on its platform. But there are also numerous audiobooks available for free on YouTube. Everything from classic books, to big name authors like Stephen King, to cult hits like Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. In addition, there are tons of nonfiction bestsellers on there, like The Richest Man in Babylon.

If you don’t have the time or energy to read a book the old fashioned way, just type in a title and enter “audiobook” afterward into YouTube’s search bar. Chances are it’s on there, and narrated by a professional.


Everyone and their grandmother has a podcast these days. Which is awesome, because it virtually guarantees there will be something out there you’ll be interested in, no matter how small the niche or audience. True crime stories are really popular. But you’ve also got scary/paranormal stories that are getting big.

One of my favorite types of podcasts are behind the scenes ones for shows I like. I used to listen to the Better Call Saul podcast after each episode until the series finale aired. If you’ve got a favorite TV show or movie, chances are either the cast or crew has started a supplementary podcast. Or fans are still talking about it. Even shows that have been off the air for years, like The Office, have ongoing podcasts run by some of the cast members, such as Office Ladies.

Another favorite podcast of mine is Inside of You by Michael Rosenbaum, the actor best known for playing Lex Luthor on Smallville. Rosenbaum mainly interviews actors and other celebrities in a kind of therapist-on-the-couch manner, focusing on the psychological impact of fame and the grind of Hollywood. He’s even interviewed his former Smallville co-star Tom Welling, aka Superman. Times are tough when Lex Luthor is counseling the Man of Steel.

YouTube/TikTok Book Summaries

Sort of the Cliff Notes version books. These channels are increasingly becoming more popular, as people are interested in learning about what’s out there, but may not have the time to get deeply invested in any particular topic.

TikTok’s “BookTok” community has actually become so large and influential that its creating New York Times Bestsellers. Madeline Miller’s book The Song of Achilles became a viral breakout hit this year. I wrote about BookTok in an article awhile back. It’s becoming the place to go to not only learn about new books, but get reviews and summaries for genres you might be interested in, and even market your own stuff. Sometimes the best part about “reading” isn’t the actual reading, but discussing what you’ve read with likeminded people.

Read Aloud Feature on Medium/MS Word

Automated, or “AI” voices have made some progress in mimicking human speech. Medium’s read aloud feature sounds close enough that it doesn’t throw you off that much.

MS Word also has a good AI voice under the “Review” tab. I find using that feature is a good way to proofread, or get a sense of the flow of a document. But if you’re a busy professional, let’s say, and you’ve got briefs and other docs to read, using the Review AI voice could be a good way to save time while you do other things around the house.

In addition, there’s been a growing number of YouTube channels that summarize the news or particular subject interests, creating condensed and quickly digestible pieces. Altcoin Daily, for instance, covers a wide swath of cryptocurrency news and distills it all into a nicely condensed daily video. Then you’ve got pop culture channels like YellowFlash2, that talk about current events, with some added colorful commentary.

Go Back to Favorites You’ve Loved

Of course, you don’t have to go the headphones-and-listen-electronically route. You can go right back to physical books, which still exist believe it or not.

If you’re in an anti-reading rut, or stuck in that bizarre fog where the very idea of reading seems impossible, it doesn’t hurt to go back to the books you once read and enjoyed before. The books that may have inspired you to get into reading in the first place. Many people credit the Harry Potter books with that. While I’ve moved on from the Berenstain books, I’ll always enjoy a good Stephen King or Ira Levin novel.

Try Another Medium of Writing

Such as screenplays. So many scripts of classic or popular films are available on the web. You can get scripts for The Terminator all the way up to the latest Best Picture winner. Every year a certain number of unproduced screenplays are chosen for the Black List, and they’re almost always available for download. The 2021 Black List selections are all available here, for instance. And if you’re reading this year’s unproduced scripts, you’ll be aware of new films coming out before anyone else.

It’s also really instructive to the creative process. Screenplays are basically blueprints. It can be really cool to see how a movie starts from the page and progresses through the filming process. You get to see earlier drafts of stories before they were changed for the screen. For instance, in the original Alien script by Dan O’Bannon, the entire crew was male, including Ripley.

You can also try fan fiction, which has become pretty huge. Fifty Shades of Grey started off as Twilight fan fiction, and that worked out well for everyone. Or not.

Join a Book Club (Online or In-Person)

This can be a good way to force some accountability into your regular reading habit, though it may be more time-intensive than the previous methods. There are many book clubs on Facebook, of course. But usually your local library will be the place to go for in-person clubs.

If there’s not one in your area, consider starting one yourself. It could not only be a great way to discover new books, but meet new people.

Hopefully, these seven methods will help restart your drive to read. The world’s unfortunately become filled with zombies addicted to glowing rectangles with vibrant flashing images. Time will tell the kind of damage that will do to the human brain on an evolutionary scale, though we already know attention spans have shrunk to microscopic levels for many.

Spending time deep in a book is an increasingly lost art. It helps strengthen focus, foster critical thinking, and can create an appreciation for language and imagination. Social media and video may provide a pleasurable jolt of dopamine, but the effect is superficial and temporary. Those forms of data distribution also tend to be passive. They deaden and hypnotize the thoughts and senses. Whereas a good book (fiction or non) can be like stoking a fire inside your mind. Massive movements, revolutions, whole empires, have sprung from written works like the Bible or The Communist Manifesto. I don’t see the booty shakers on TikTok inspiring a lot of meaningful social change.

Even if some of the above solutions aren’t technically “reading,” they may help to put you back on a better path toward active learning and data processing. And that’s something we could all use more of these days.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Work Ethic of These Best-Selling Writers is Insane

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That’s no hyperbole, either. Some of these writers have downright ludicrous levels of dedication and focus. They’re not even human, and quite possibly superhuman.

You think you’re a hard working writer because you banged out a few articles on Medium last week? Get the f*ck out of here. You’re nothing compared to these uber authors.

So let’s get started. Prepare to feel inadequate.

First up is, without a doubt, a name you’ve seen, because her books usually take up a half mile of shelf space at the library.


(Pictured above: the TX-9000 Writernator emerging from its luxury tank to obliterate writer’s block).

Her name is Danielle “The Woman of” Steel. To date, this weapon of mass production has written 185 books, including 141 novels, over a career that’s spanned six decades, and sold over 800 million copies.

And the romance novel queen is still going strong. In the first half of this year alone, she’s pumped out three books, with four more planned for the rest of 2022, including one this June. She publishes seven books a year like clockwork.

Her secret? No sleep, apparently.

According to Glamour, she works practically non-stop, sometimes all 24 hours in a day if she’s pressed for a deadline. Says Steel, “Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work.”

For a true writing workaholic, you’d think Steel would have never had time for a personal life. But she actually has nine children. Nine! She’s also been married five times, including one marriage to a man who was an inmate at a prison when she met him for a journalism assignment.

Steel often juggles multiple projects at a time, outlining one, researching another, while writing and revising others, in order to maintain her prodigious output. She hardly eats, abstains from caffeine, scoffs at the very idea of burnout. She writes on a 1946 Olympia standard typewriter. A freaking typewriter. As in that thing Jack Torrance went mad click-clacking away at in The Shining.

Steel also has no concept of so-called writer’s block. Like every writer, she has tough days, sure. But this powerhouse offers this advice for the days when the muse is slow,

“I keep working. The more you shy away from the material, the worse it gets. You’re better off pushing through and ending up with 30 dead pages you can correct later than just sitting there with nothing.”

That’s easy for you to say, Ms. Steel, you’re a literal Terminator.

Up next is a guy some people get mixed up with Stephen King. And that’s because, like the horror master from Maine, he writes a lot of thrillers, some with supernatural elements.


(Pictured above: Dean Koontz, who actually wrote a whole book with his left hand on a hidden typewriter while this picture was taken).

But to be clear, Dean Koontz has a style all his own. He mixes and matches with different genres, often blending them together into his own special recipe.

Koontz is best known perhaps for the Odd Thomas series, which is about a short-order cook who can see dead people. But he’s been writing novels since the late 1960s.

He’s sold somewhere around 400 million copies of his books. The Wikipedia entry credits him with 91 books, but at this point it’s likely at least 130 plus. That’s another sign you’re a Robo Writer. Articles can’t even keep up with how many books you’ve actually written.

Don’t dare ask Dean Koontz if he’s working hard or hardly working. The Koontz Express is always rolling.

So, what is Mr. Koontz’s recipe for earning consideration as one of the hardest working writer’s today?

Koontz writes on the FAQ section of his website about his daily work habit:

“I work 10- and 11-hour days because in long sessions I fall away more completely into story and characters than I would in, say, a six-hour day.”

But lest you think that Koontz regards his phenomenally successful writing career just any old 9–5, the suspense master also mentions something special that keeps him motivated to churn out the pages:

“I am enchanted by the English language, by its beauty and flexibility, also by the power of storytelling to expand the mind and lift the heart.”

In addition, the writer stays motivated by his charity, the Dean and Gerda Koontz Foundation, which contributes to the severely disabled, critically ill children, and dogs.

Like his romance novelist counterpart Steel, Koontz exhibits profound focus, eschewing TV, the internet, email, and other distractions. After first starting out on a typewriter, he eventually bought an IBM Displaywriter, which he used to write for most of his career. Though recently, in 2020, he upgraded with a newer HP computer and Microsoft Word.

The type of writing tools Koontz uses may seem just seem like trivia, but it actually highlights a way he stays on task. Especially today with social media and texting, it’s easy for a writer to get distracted. But with a machine like a Displaywriter, or a typewriter, that can only perform a single operation at a time, all you have to be “distracted” by is the writing itself.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Koontz says:

By 6:30, I’m at my desk, then I work until dinner. I rarely have lunch, because if I eat, I get furry-minded. I do that six days a week or, if I’m at the end of a book, seven. If it’s the last quarter of a book, where the momentum is with me, I’ve been known to work 100-hour weeks.

In addition, he credits his wife Gerda, his wife of 56 years, who helps manage all the practical concerns of life (money and other domestic issues), allowing him to focus on the fiction side of things.

Never underestimate the importance of a good, supportive spouse. That’s true for writing. Or for any career, for that matter.

Man, Koontz and Steel are Warrior Writers, without a doubt. Who could possibly top them?

It’s time to talk about the gran jefa, the queso grande, the grand campeona herself.

The grand prize for Ridiculously Prolific Writer for the Ages has to go to Spanish romance author Corín Tellado.

(Pictured above: Corín Tellado. You can call her “Boss”).

I found Senora Tellado’s output mind blowing. So much, I had to whip out the old calculator to try to crunch the numbers, and see just how much this mad scribbling machine did over her career.

Yes, Ms. Tellado got me, an English major, to actually reach for the dreaded calculator and do maths. That’s like Moses parting the Red Sea.

Tellado wrote over 4,000 books in her lifetime. Mainly novelas, that ranged around 100–150 pages each. But even sticking with steamy shorter-length books, at an average 125 pages for each book, times 4,000, that comes out to roughly 500,000 pages.

A typical MS Word page might be anywhere around 500–750 words, depending on the font and type of content (description or dialogue). But even if we’re taking the lower estimate at 600 words per page on average, that means Senora Tellado wrote about 300,000,000 words in her lifetime.

Tellado lived until age 81, and was an active writer from when she sold her first novel at age 18, until her death in 2009. Broken down by days (22,995), that means the Spanish author averaged about 13,046 words PER DAY.

Simply astounding. Even if you cut that number in half to 6,523 it’s still incredibly impressive. That’s like six average-sized Medium articles a day. Every day. For 63 years. It’s fair to say Tellado would have smoked Tim Denning.

All in all, she sold over 400 million books, and remains the second most read Spanish writer of all time, after Miguel de Cervantes (the Don Quixote guy).

And there you have it. Three superhuman uber authors. Don’t dare mention the words “ghostwriter” or “coauthoring” to them. All their books came from their own keyboard-hardened fingertips.

While it may seem these writers scale the literary equivalent of Mt. Everest every year like it’s no big deal, their big secret to word mastery is actually very simple.

Good old fashioned hard work. Yep, that’s it.

They sit down and punch letters. No matter what. Every day. For as long as it takes. Until the job gets done.

A sign hangs in Ms. Steel’s office that sums it up best: “There are no miracles. There is only discipline.”

Two Crazy Self-Published Books I Found on Amazon, and What I Learned from Discovering Them

Troll: Special Edition, by Emma Clark

I first learned about this book courtesy of the YouTube algorithm, which one day randomly served up a video by popular nerd culture vlogger Jenny Nicholson. Jenny devotes over 23 minutes to discussing Troll in a vlog titled, “I Did it. I found the Worst Book.”

Now, call me an optimist, but if the supposedly “worst” book on Amazon can get someone talking about it for 23 minutes, then hey, there must be something special about it. It’s like what Jack Sparrow said when told he was the worst pirate anyone’s ever heard of. “Yeah, but you have heard of me.” 

Troll may very well be the worst book ever written if Jenny’s to be believed, but you (and many others, courtesy of her vlog) have heard of it. I mean, fifty percent of the struggle of being a writer is just getting read. There are tons of books on Amazon that don’t even have a single review, much less a sale. Emma Clark succeeded here, and not just due to the negative publicity from Jenny’s vlog. Even before Jenny’s video, Troll had reviews and some sales. Troll had fans who were fans before it was cool, baby.   

So, what’s Troll about anyway? From the author’s own book blurb:

Twenty-one-year-old Kyla Adkins frequents the Internet in search of her soul mate. While online, she meets hot and devilishly handsome Justin Brogan. Dangerous, arrogant and quite psychotic, Justin hacks into Kyla’s computer and soon he controls everything, including her heart and her life.

That’s not a bad concept, really. It’s topical, relevant, and hip for today’s internet savvy audiences. Who hasn’t secretly fantasized about a hot internet troll stalking them? Even though it was published in 2013, you could easily see Troll updated for the TikTok generation.   

Troll: Special Edition, is actually an omnibus containing three previously published novels in the, uh, Troll universe. There are four parts to the Troll saga, so you’ll want to buy each edition separately so that you don’t miss out on any in the series. 

The author has also written other erotic books, such as Boy Next Door, a sort of gritty Kmart version of 50 Shades of Grey, which contains “abusive themes such as captive scenarios and BDSM.” Hey, you could say the same thing about the Bible. 

According to the author’s website, her other books include Drawn to Darkness, a series, Sea Angels: An Erotic Short, and various other erotic/romance books. It seems the author’s productivity dropped off around 2016, as there isn’t anything listed after that year. Can we hope that Troll will return for a fifth installment this decade? I’d like to see Troll take on the Metaverse. People are getting groped in Zuckerberg’s digital Twilight Zone already. So, if you’re out there reading this, Ms./Mrs. Clark, you’ve got a lot of new material to work with for a new Troll book. Just saying. 

Most of Emma Clark’s books are short. Troll: Part I, for instance, is all of 18 pages, and boasts a respectable four out of five stars from six ratings. Troll: Special Edition, also known as Troll: First 3 Books, has 2.9 stars from 31 ratings. Though most of the reviews clearly derive from Jenny’s YouTube audience, many of whom sarcastically posted five-star and one-star reviews. Still, 2.9 is like a movie getting a 60% Rotten Tomatoes score. Sonic the Hedgehog got a 63% in its 2020 debut, and that movie did great at the box office, even after all that controversy about Sonic’s weird-ass creepy face

What I Learned from Discovering Troll: Put yourself out there, regardless of whether you think you’re talented, ready, or not. You never know what will connect with people. You also never know when some random vlogger may discover your stuff, and decide to post a review of your work. While Clark’s book obviously got roasted, there have been examples from the opposite extreme. Andy Weir and The Martian, for instance.  

Up next, I’d like to direct your eyes downward to:

Ass Culture: A Short History, by Martin Goldberg

This is another book I discovered via YouTube. Or rather, I discovered the author via YouTube. It goes to show that if you’re a writer trying to promote yourself and your books, YouTube is a great place to build a platform. TikTok, or more specifically, BookTok, is another good one, as I wrote about in this article

So, what’s Ass Culture about? Gee, I wonder. Actually, little is known about it, as Goldberg never posted a blurb or summary on the book’s Amazon page. However, it appears to be about, based on some preliminary reading in the Kindle sample, the portrayal of the female posterior down through history, and its questionable association with feminine value and fertility.

That, or just a celebration of the ass.  

The reason this is an important topic goes beyond the age-old debate of whether you are an “ass guy,” a “breast guy,” a “face guy,” or even a “legs guy.” It’s really about how you judge the opposite sex, and how by focusing on superficial physical qualities (such as a lady’s posterior) you can miss out on the qualities that do matter in a potential mate (character, values, etc.). Missing the forest for the ass, so to speak.

On an individual level, this may not be that important. We all have our kinks. On a culture-wide level, however, a preoccupation with ass can lead a whole civilization astray. Yeah, you thought Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” was just a fun pop hit? No, that was actually indicative of Western Civilization’s moral decay. And things aren’t getting any better, judging by Meghan Trainor’s 2014 hit “All About That Bass,” a decisively pro-booty song. Though if we’re going to point any fingers, let’s not forget Queen’s 1978 hit “Fat Bottomed Girls,” which may have gotten the party started. 

The message here is shocking: There is a clear conspiracy afoot to poison the minds of Western men with an ass fetish. The effects of this could be calamitous. Will men today, with so much of their precious mental real estate absorbed by “dat ass,” be able to match the feats of men from precious generations? Could the Greatest Generation have landed at Normandy if their minds were warped by visions of bouncing buttocks? Could the brilliant engineers at NASA put Armstrong on the moon, if the only “moon” they were concerned with was the kind stuffed inside bikini bottoms? I think not.

The author, Martin Goldberg, is a YouTuber with 48,000 subscribers, according to Social Blade. He sporadically updates his channel nowadays. In the past, he was much more active, and appeared on camera. He covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from politics, history, culture, the “red pill,” MGTOW (that’s Men Going Their Own Way, for those of you wondering), and book reviews. I first found his channel several years ago when he was updating more regularly. 

Goldberg has also written a bunch of other books, including Understanding and Overcoming the Black Pill, How to Suck at Business: A Case Study, and Total Invincibility: How to Crush Failure and Maximize Your Human Potential. Of note is that all of his books are, at minimum, rated four stars, with some five stars. And all with apparently little to no promotion, other than the small amount of notoriety from Goldberg’s YouTube channel.       

What I Learned from Discovering Ass Culture: A Short History: Don’t be afraid of exploring topics, however niche or weird they might seem, that are of interest to you. Look for ways to illustrate history from different, or unconventional ends.  And post a decent and intriguing blurb about your book on its Amazon page to get people interested. Even your biggest ass-enthusiasts are going to want to have at least some idea of what they’re in for in a book called Ass Culture.

Looking for Ways to Market Your Book? BookTok May Be the Answer

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For anyone who’s self-published a book, or even had one put out by a traditional publisher, you know that selling your book can prove challenging. Many would-be indie authors might even put off self-publishing to begin with due to not knowing how to successfully market their work.

If you’re an author who’s struggled with this problem, then Booktok might be your solution.

What is Booktok? It’s a very popular, very active, very trendy, and evidently very influential book-loving community within the massive ecosystem that is TikTok.

Booktokers post reviews and reactions to all kinds of books, ranging in length from a few seconds to several minutes.

According to Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold, who writes in the journal Cybersychology, Behavior, and Networking in her editorial, “Booktok Made Me Do It: The Evolution of Reading,” what makes Booktok particularly unique, as opposed to what you might find on Goodreads or YouTube (BookTube):

BookTok posts usually highlight the reader’s emotional reactions to the plot and characters, often featuring evocative imagery and dramatic soundtracks.

These types of micro reviews might at first appear superficial, silly, or inconsequential, especially to those outside the Gen-Z cohort. As an older Millennial/late Gen-Xer myself, I’ll admit I’ve kept TikTok off my radar until very recently. But as I explored BookTok after reading Wiederhold’s editorial, I found it was better to think of this particular social media not as a some refined mosaic of individualized editorial content, but more as a fluid, on-going conversation. Whereas YouTube rewards more structured and formalized mini-TED Talk-ish type content, Booktok is messier, unfiltered, but also more authentic and conversational.

Writes Wiederhold:

In a way, with its widely accessible, authentic, and entertaining content, TikTok in general — and BookTok in particular — brings storytelling full circle, back to its oral roots.

Okay, so people have found a new social media hangout to discuss their passion for reading, and they’re putting out all sorts of creative, funny videos.

Now for the big question:

Is the Booktok trend actually leading to higher sales?

Uh, yeah. Some publishers, like Bloomsbury, have seen a 220% rise in profits, which they report is due to BookTok. Many publishers also observed that many books on their bestsellers lists were not necessarily new releases, but older books experiencing renewed interests on TikTok’s virtual book club. This is a fascinating trend, as more often than not, a book tends to have its best success right at initial release, then generally fades away into obscurity barring something like a big shot movie deal or an uptick in ad spending.

Unsurprisingly, many of the books that have been elevated on BookTok are in the young adult and contemporary fiction categories. But the BookTok phenomenon has caused many publishers to rethink their marketing and promotional strategies for all kinds of genres.

For indie authors, BookTok could be a possible solution to generate organic interest in a new release, or maybe an old one that’s been sitting there collecting dust with a big ol’ goose egg sales count number that you’re trying to figure out how to put into reader’s hands. But it’s important to keep in mind that Booktok’s main currency is authenticity, not mindless shilling.

As Wiederhold says:

TikTok users tend to upvote honest, personal experiences.

And these experiences tend to be short and to the point. Whereas YouTube reviews usually require a lengthy time committment, BookTok is more like a good friend telling you about a cool thing they just read that you should go check out. TikTok’s overall algorithmic aesthetic seems designed to grease the skids of word-of-mouth advertising rather than the sit-down-and-consume model YouTube and other places seem to have.

So, what is the BookTok community like? I went to go check it out for myself, and actually signed up for a TikTok account for the first time ever. I’m also a fledgling indie author who’s struggled with the vexing problem of how to market my books, so this subject hit close to home.

Here’s a few cool accounts I found, and some of he things I learned about in my brief BookTok experience:

abbys_library3,” 21-year old woman who works at a publisher, has almost 90,000 followers, and has been posting regularly since just July of last year. She’s posted reviews of all sorts of books, particularly in the romance and thriller genres. One thing I learned checking out her videos is the variety of different titles. It isn’t just all Harry Potter and Twilight fans on Booktok. Some of her videos also feature theme music that matches the genre being discussed. For instance, her video “NEW BOOK ALERT: When You Are Mine” has suspense music overlaid with the review.

charlielovesbooks” is a pretty new channel just started last November by a man based out of NYC. He’s done videos on popular fiction like The Godfather by Mario Puzo, memoirs like The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger, and other non-fiction like Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. Barely five months old, charlielovesbooks has over 4,000 followers, and most of the reviews are under two minutes long. His videos, some of which extend beyond just book reviews, have engagement, also. In his last upload, “My biggest pet peeve when reading,” has 148 comments since March 1st.

If you’re looking for an experience that’s more traditionally “Tiktokky,” check out “booktokbenny” who incorporates a lot of music and enthusiasm into his book reviews. He talks a lot about the adult high fantasy series A Court of Thorns and Roses, and has built up a following of 10,500 in just one month.

Overall, my Booktok plunge showed me that sometimes the places that can provide the best marketing opportunities are counter-intuitive. I never would have thought TikTok of all places would be thriving with book lovers. As an avenue for indie authors, it appears a worthwhile one to explore, that unlike much of Twitter and YouTube, hasn’t been swamped out yet with ruthless and spammy opportunists. It’s still the Wild West, in many ways. Just try to keep it real on there.

Five Reasons Why Editing a Novel Can Be a Struggle

Editing a novel, or screenplay, or even short story, hypothetically, should be easy.

I mean, most of the hard work is already done. You’ve created the world of the story. The main characters. The central conflict. The secondary threads. The theme. And likely had a hell of a time writing out some of the best scenes in the story.

But why is it that editing a story, trying to get it to the “next level,” can sometimes be so hard?

This is something I noticed when editing my “first” novel Nemesis.

Nemesis was not my first novel. Way back in 2007 I wrote a lengthy door stop of a novel. A thriller, of sorts. A kind of Chuck Pahlniuk-inspired messy tome about an office worker fed up with his bosses, who discovers he’s a part of a secretive organization that runs the world. Kind of like a half-assed Matrix. Or like a less sexy, less exciting version of the graphic novel Wanted.

It was a disaster, this first novel of mine. And not just because of a problematic narrative and witheringly boring characters. But because after I’d finished writing it, I sat back, and realized all I had on my hands was a giant compost heap of words with little connective tissue binding the Frankenstein thing together.

It demoralized me. So, I stuffed this embryonic mess into a plastic Kroger’s bag, all 500+ double-spaced pages of it, threw it into a big plastic bin, where it remains to this day. Sometimes I pull it out. Blow off the dust and cobwebs. Glance through the hastily typed sentences, only to stuff it back into its sarcophagus once my eyes begin to glaze over.

If your writing bores even yourself, you’re really in trouble. I mean, how the hell are you ever going to convince a random stranger to buy your book if you can’t even motivate yourself to read it?

My first novel was a failed experiment. But not a wasteful one. It taught me a lot about writing. About the importance of having a good outline (either written down or kept in your head). About staying focused. About keeping a steady pace, rather than trying to smash everything out in frenzied all-nighters. It was strange how obsessed I became writing it out. Imposing a completely unnecessary deadline for myself, as if believing I had to finish it before dropping dead.

I’m proud that I finished it. I suppose that was the real goal all along. Just write out something long and detailed. Like straining to lift a heavy weight at the gym to impress no one in particular. Maybe you throw your back out lifting it. But so what? You lifted a giant weight you never thought you could. That’s got to count for something, right?

Years later, having self-published my first “real” novel. At least, my first fully completed one. And now editing my “second,” I’ve found the rewriting/redrafting process slightly easier. At the least, I’ve gotten over the self-doubt and emotional immaturity that plagued me in my first attempt. I’m convinced all the struggles associated with writing are psychological, and can be mitigated by discipline and form. It’s a craft, after all. Not alchemy. Not magic. Though it feels like it is sometimes.

I think editing a novel can be a struggle for several reasons.

The first has to do with the quality of the manuscript you’re working on. How much precision and clarity you’ve built into it from the beginning. The more knots you leave behind in the first draft, the harder it is to untangle them in subsequent drafts. It’s easy to be clipping along, and think, “I’ll deal with that incongruity later.” But what happens when the potholes become gaping sinkholes? Have you ever seen a construction crew just randomly throwing bricks together into a pile, with the intention to fix it later once the structure is complete? Ridiculous. They operate based on a blueprint. A set of plans. Even a committed Anti-Outliner has at least some kind of vision for his story.

This is where discipline comes in. It’s better to spend time getting 500 words mostly right then banging out 1,500 words of utter gibberish. Dean Koontz writes this way. He doesn’t move on until he gets a passage right, rewriting as he goes. Considering that he puts out about three to four (or more) books a year, that strategy must work pretty well. He’s a machine. Danielle Steele likely has a similar method, as she pumps out 7-8 books a year these days. You write until it’s right, then move onto the next passage.  

Secondly, rewriting, or editing, is more a passive experience than the actual writing is itself. When I write, I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat. I’m in control. I’m the ringleader directing the various acts in the circus. But when I edit, it almost feels like I’m just watching TV. Even though I’m reading, because it’s my writing, it’s like a switch gets turned in my head. Sit back. Take it easy. Go with the flow. It’s a conscious effort to break this urge, and tweak stuff on the page. Making matters worse, ironically, is spell check and grammar check. It can make the whole editing process feel rote and mechanical. Just click “fix” on each error. Then onto the next.

Thirdly, the work feels “written in stone.” It’s not always easy to determine whether a passage is where it needs to be. That takes a neutral third party. Someone not afraid to tell you, “Hey, this actually kind of sucks.” It’s much easier to just glide on by, assured in a chapter’s “greatness.” Is rewriting this scene really going to make much of a difference? Is it really worth my time to dig deeper into this character interaction? Nah. Besides, I cleaned up the grammar and misspellings. Good enough for government work.

Fourth, as hinted at above, you simply don’t know how something comes across to a reader other than yourself. A passage may feel perfectly logical to you, but is unintelligible to someone else. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. Or maybe a certain scene felt inspired and necessary to you, but confusing and boring to another reader.

Fifth, and by no means final, is perfectionism. You start rewriting one passage, which only leads to having to rewrite another one. And then maybe you realize it’d be really cool if you just added a little something here. A line of dialogue there. Before you know it, you’re taking the whole scene in another direction that will force you to rewrite everything else to fit this new “vision” you’ve just had.

So, what is a solution to avoiding some of these editing pitfalls? I’d say the best thing is to follow the Koontz-Steele Method: Put as much effort into the first draft to avoid complicated editing maneuvers later. This may require constructing a better outline.

But what if you don’t outline? Or what if you use a light outline, letting yourself freestyle as needed? Then understand the genre you’re writing in well enough to know the kinds of conventions and expectations. I think this is the secret to Koontz and Steele’s longevity and prodigious output. Koontz mostly writes thrillers, dovetailing into other sub-genres as he chooses. Steele has cornered the market on romance for decades now. Both writers know their genres inside and out, and know their audience. And because of that, it wouldn’t surprise me if when they write, a lot of the plot is already mapped out in their heads. I mean, in a romance, at some point the two lovers are going to meet, they’re going to break up, and they’re going to get back together. Not necessarily in that order. But the Love Triangle is almost certainly going to make its presence known. For thrillers, you generally open up with a crime, especially a murder. And it’s a given that someone close to the hero will betray him. There’s a high probability of a final showdown involving guns, or threats of death. The hero wins by the skin of his teeth. You get the idea here.

Does that make all writing just a structured process? For the most part, yes.

“But that doesn’t sound creative. That doesn’t sound fun.”

Actually, I disagree. It gives you a set of rules to play by. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Ever sat down to play Monopoly with three good friends or family members? How often does that become a boring event? Almost never. And Monopoly has plenty of rules.  

Think about the book The Shining by Stephen King. It’s basically a haunted house story. Nothing new there.  Richard Matheson did his own haunted house story with Hell House, another horror classic. The difference is that King took a familiar blueprint, and applied his own voice and style. As did Matheson. Editing should be less about the mechanics of writing itself. It should be more about making sure your voice is on the page. Your uniqueness.