What to read between writing projects

Matthew Arnold Stern
4 min readJan 4, 2024
My dog evalutates my TBR pile.

Writers write, but we also read. And periods between writing projects are great times to catch up with reading. The four books I chose are all outside my typical genres, and that’s why I wanted to read them. Here’s why I chose each of these books and what I got from them.

Bulletproof: What works for screenplays also works for novels

I’ve tried writing screenplays a few times, but they didn’t go anywhere. I’ve stuck with novels ever since. I still found David Diamond and David Weissman’s guide useful. Bulletproof: Writing Scripts that Don’t Get Shot Down covers the creation of a screenplay from forming a marketable idea through story development to pitching and securing a deal.

The same principles for creating a successful screenplay also apply to a novel. It starts with an idea that has a strong concept, characters, and context. Characters are the most important, and each of them should have story arcs that build the concept and fit into the context of the story. From there, you can build an outline and flesh out the story. But remember: Don’t lose the reader. While your goal is to find an agent who will advocate for you and a producer who will make the film, your primary target is the audience. Create a script an audience will want to see, and you will find the people who can bring your vision to that audience.

Whatever you’re writing, whether it is a novel or screenplay, you need to connect with your audience and keep them engaged with your story. That is how you create bulletproof writing.

Writing to Persuade and Talking Across the Divide: Connect at a personal level

If we’re in a post-fact world, how do you persuade people? You can’t do it by barraging them with facts that show them why they’re wrong. Trish Hall, former editor of the New York Times op-ed page offers a solution in Writing to Persuade: How to Bring People Over to Your Side. Part of persuading others is to understand them. What are their values? What are their hopes? What are their fears? Instead of confrontation and shaming, recognize their points and use them to introduce them to your ideas. Make your ideas clear, focused, and jargon-free. Facts still do matter, so make…

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Matthew Arnold Stern

A novelist and award-winning public speaker and technical writer. My novels Amiga and The Remainders are available now.