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Writing is hard and lonely work fraught with lingering doubts and hammering realities. For this reason, you owe yourself a few treats along the way, rewards for your endeavors to help keep you on track (it is so easy to fall off track).

Anything can celebrate the success of completing a new piece of writing, or perhaps discovering an idea to be cultivated into your next short story or novel. Treat yourself to a latte if so inclined, a trip to the movies, or dinner with a loved one is a nice reward for the labor. The important thing is to make the celebration of accomplishment unique, something outside your norm, and consciously acknowledge you are doing it as a reward for your writing effort.

I choose to reward myself with tools that help my writing.

I recently finished a new short story, which so happened to coincide with hurdling another birthday. When my wife asked me what I wanted for my “special” day, my answer came out immediate and emphatic: a book. Specifically, I wanted the first volume of Jim Butcher’s new Cinder Spires series, The Aeronaut’s Windlass. Great wife that she is, Linda bought me the steampunk novel. It now awaits my attention, and having read the back cover and comments about the book by other writers, I yearn to begin. First, though, I must complete this blog.

You recognize the dangling carrot, don’t you, the reward awaiting a completion? A little mind game I play with myself, kind of like being Pavlov and the dog.

Writers are readers, and as Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.”

I love to read about writing; much of the bookshelf space in my office is occupied by instruction books on the craft—I find there is nothing like advice from successful authors to launch my own creations.

With that in mind, and since I had reason for a double celebration (completing a new story and gaining another year on the calendar), I decided to purchase still more books about improving my writing skills.

Having recently finished reading and studying one of the Writer’s Digest books in the Write Great Fiction series—Character, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress (and having a dog-eared, much marked up copy of James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing)—I decided I must have the entire collection, and ordered the remaining three books.

I plan on reading the series in this order (the first two completed):

Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell
Character, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle

Not only will I read the series in this order, I will also reread in the same order. Why read Revision and Self-Editing first when it appears that should be the last book? I read it first because it was the first book of the series I owned, and looking back, wish I had read it before I started my novel—I may have avoided a couple key mistakes in the presentation of my story.

I will also read Revision and Self-Editing at the end; it is that valuable to me. Thanks, Mr. Bell.

The purpose of “the treat” is having something to look forward to when you complete a major challenge; don’t offer a treat when you write 500 words in a day—you should be doing that every day if you are a writer. Instead, choose a task that takes a while to accomplish, like finishing a story or novel, or when one of your creations is accepted. Having your writing accepted and published is certainly a reason to celebrate! I hope you will have many of those. But you can’t if you don’t produce, so go write and . . .

I’ll see you on the next page,