Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

How to Plot by Example

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you a writer who can sit down and have dialogues and scenes stream onto the computer screen with little regard to structure?  If you are, and are happy with your results, you are one of the lucky writers with a gift.  Most writers need to craft the plot through scene summaries and outlines.

I am not so gifted.  I need to plot to make my stories come together in the end.  For many years I let my writing drift.  It was easier and fun, but always when I read it back, the only salvagable sections were description. 

One day a couple of years ago, I found a talented blogger, who writes about the technique of novel writing.  If you feel like a hamster running the wheel when you write, check this website out.  Currently, Larry Brooks is deconstructing the novel The Help.  He shows us how to plot by examining Kathryn Stockett’s plotting strategy and how this is a major factor that catapulted her novel into recognition.  (I read that she had many, many rejections in earlier drafts, but she did not give up.)

He has a book out called Story Engineering: 6 Core Competencies.  You can see a preview on his website.  You can get a better idea by rooting around in his blog archive, because Brooks does an excellent job describing the core competencies individually.

Okay, I took a hiatus from blogging.  You would think when I unexpectedly became unemployed I would have time to blog more.  Instead I used the time to figure out what to do.  I spent most of the day doing job search activities in a very dry market.  Blogging sounded interesting as a public journal on personal impressions when I first began the journey.  I had envisioned it more like the journal I wrote as a pre teen.  Months later, my thoughts have evolved.  My goal for this blog is to make it more content rich.  In the next few weeks, I will be examining the topic blogging for money.



Scenes, Sequels, and Chapters Commentary

May 27, 2009 Leave a comment

If you are new to writing fiction, one of the foundations of writing good fiction is understanding the relationship of how plots are set up.  Many new writers spend hours sifting through books to have this mystery unraveled.  I remember looking for the answer in the 70’s, and I came away more confused as ever.  (I hate to date myself, but there were no Internet resources at the time.) 

Today I read Randy Ingermanson’s blog on Scenes, Sequels and Chapters.  His breakdown and definition were so clear that it was hard not to get an Oprah “lightbulb moment.”   letters-in-book

 This topic generated lots of comments.  Most of them concur that renaming scene/sequel would make the concept easier to understand.  One popular suggestion is action/reaction.

If you are struggling with how to generate the optimum powerful emotional experience (Randy’s term for playing the scene for everything its worth without getting too melodramatic), then as a writer you have to master scene/sequel or whatever you choose to call it.

This is a must read for both the new writer and the seasoned writer:

Be sure to also check out Randy’s free lesson on How to Create the Perfect Scene.  You won’t regret taking the time to do this, even if you already know how innately. Bringing someone back to the fundamentals enhances powerful writing rather than detracts.

A Book in a Month

August 3, 2008 Leave a comment

As a panacea to my time management issues and my desire to focus on my writing, I purchased Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.  She claims it is a fool-proof system for writing a novel in 30 days.

Yes, this is what I want.  To knock out a rough draft in 30 days.  This goal I know would be much easier if I wasn’t working full time.  However, I am determined to give it a try.  I am tired of being the hamster in the wheel — expending energy, but not getting anywhere.  I may not progress fast enough for a 30 day book, but I commit to working steadily.

I read the first 50 pages, which covered goals and time management, fighting off your inner critic, and a chapter dedicated to resistance.  Geesh.  I thought I was unique.  Naw, it seems there are a whole lot of us writers out there wallowing in desire, but clueless in getting the work written.

I am encouraged by Schmidt’s analysis of the writer’s plight.  She comes with solid credentials.  I will keep you posted on my progress.  In the meantime, she has a website that might be of interest.  I haven’t visited it myself yet, but maybe you would be interested.  Schmidt claims it can be a motivator to keep writers focused.   Check it out if you have time. 

Also, if you haven’t already signed up to get an email notice when I post, please feel free to do so.  You will find a place to subscribe on the home page of this blog.  If anyone has also purchased this book, I would love to hear your thoughts on Schmidt’s strategy.

Books on Novel Writing Worth Reading

May 28, 2008 Leave a comment

I know I set four goals last week.  I haven’t been procrastinating.  The past couple of days have been filled with personal and professional demands.  I have been working on my second goal — the writing timeline, but have yet to commit it to the web.  And my fourth goal — not to make excuses any more starts here. 

So for today’s post, I thought I would share some of my favorite books on writing.  Here is the shortlist. 

1. Writing the Breakout Novel + Workbook by Donald Maas.  By far, this is one of my favorite books.  It is comprehensive by a man who has read thousands of manuscripts over the years.  He is a critic, a literary agent, a teacher.  His teachings are interactive and has a nice even hand with all the literary elements.  Retail cost: $36.98 for the two book set.

2.  Another very good writer and teacher of how to write a novel is Noah Lukeman.  Although I have only read articles he has written and bits and pieces of his books, I find his writing style very engaging and his knowledge on how to craft a story insightful.  Here are three of his books:

The Plot Thickens: Ways to Bring Fiction to Life – 2002 – 252 pages
The First Five Pages: A Writer’S Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile – 2000 – 208 pages
The Art of Punctuation – 2006 – 200 pages

3.  How to Tell A Story:  The Secrets of Writing Captivating Tales by Peter Rubie and Gary Provost had to be one of my all time favorite how to books.  I think you too will find it helpful in crafting your story line. Retail cost was about $18.

4.  Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman connects the dots for you.  It breaks down why novels such as Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, and The Thornbirds achieved popularity.  It also has a chapter on how to get your books on the Bestseller’s Lists.

5.  The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is inspirational in that it helps one get focused on writing by discovering and working with your own personality.  It is a must read, no matter what your occupation.   It will open up your creative self and work with your self doubts.  Retail cost: $16

There is one more book on the list that I perused at Barnes and Noble this past weekend.  Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt is very well organized, user friendly and perfect to carry with you while you are between tasks.  I am tempted to buy it because it could very well be the umpf to get my would-be novel onto paper.  I know what I should be doing, but is another prompt going to help me get there?  Good question. 

Let me know what books you found useful.  If you have read any of the books in this post, I would like to hear your thoughts.