Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

No Plot? No Problem! Chris Baty’s How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

Title: No Plot? No Problem! Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Nanowrimo Chris Baty Mywritingmentor

Author: Chris Baty

Publisher: Chronicle Books

National Novel Writing Month is coming up (November) and I like so many of my writing compadres are chomping at the bit to get started. We are dreaming up plot lines, characters, and all the scrapes they can get into along the way.  Those of us who have participated in years past know how exhilarating Nanowrimo can be but we also know what happens along about week two when all your friends are at all the cool kid activities and you are only 10,000 words into your 50,000 word requirement.

Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! is a solid study in how to not just survive the doldrums of middle month writing but how to conquer the roadblocks and distractions that jump out at you along the way. His no nonsense approach to putting words on paper make writing 50,000+ words in a month not only possible but accomplished by even the rawest of new novelists.  No Plot? No Problem! is not a step by step book on how to write a novel. It is a survivalists guide for how to meet your word count and keep your sanity all the while not losing all your friends and maybe getting carpal tunnel syndrome along the way.

Snarky, bossy, understanding, and spunky, Baty does a superb job of making the large project of Nanowrimo seem not only ‘doable’ but something to look forward to year after year. Part therapist, part drill sergeant, Chris Baty does an outstanding job of taking a large task and chunking it down to a series of efforts that all add up to one large volume in the end. No Plot? No Problem! Is a good read to get any writer back into the right mindset to embark on their 30 day trek to a raw novel.


How to Win a Chestnut Fight By Albert Dell’Apa

Title: How to Win a Chestnut Fight

Author: Albert Dell’Apa

Date: 2010

How to Win a Chestnut Fight is an adult ‘coming of age’ story  The Desanctis family is called together to be with their father the stalwart family patriarch suddenly facing his own mortality. Andy, the successful kid brother and his brother Rick return to face their own personal demons.

The small town ‘ghosts’ of their past are reminiscent of any small town childhood of Small Town, Anywhere.  Andy and his brother Rick’s childhood foibles and indiscretions haunt them into their adulthood. The shame and fear of the memories and the potential consequences have kept Andy away for many, many years. Now he is back and those memories hit him squarely between the eyes.

Dell’Apa has done a good job of making us sympathetic to the three DeSanctis siblings; however, much of the story is merely delivered to the reader. The author, while painting a clear picture of all the characters gives us much of the back story in lengthy passages where the reader would have preferred to have the story unfold through dialogue. The story is good, rich with details, and worthy of the read. The journey that Andy takes back to find “home” and to understand and embrace its true meaning is told poignantly and convincingly.  How to Win a Chestnut Fight is a solid first effort by Albert Dell’ Apa.

The ABC of Writing by Emma Tennant

Title: The ABC of WritingABC of Writing

Author: Emma Tennant

Publisher: Faber and Faber

This fun little book is not of any significance to the writing world. Snarky quotes from authors, nasty jabs from those who despise authors, and hilarious definitions of terms and phrases related to the righting craft.  Frost, Shakespeare, Twain are all well represented as are Johnson, Coleridge, and other less notorious but equally as illustrious authors.

Looking for something light? Want to giggle, chuckle, and guffaw outloud after a hard day of drafting, reworking, and editing? This is just the ticket! The ABC of Writing will have you flipping through its pages and shooting word noodles out your nostrils! I know I did!

Story Structure Architect – A Great Resource for Fiction Writing

Title: Story Structure Architect

Author: Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.

Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books

Date: 2005

Price: 19.99

As an author, writing mentor, and developmental editor this book is an invaluable resource. Story Structure  Architect is a handy reference guide to building drama into any work and for understanding the ins and out of creating compelling characters. Classically trained (ie: MFA’s, English Majors, etc) are taught how to identify classic story motifs but the weaving of them into original stories that move the plot along can elude the best of writers at times!

Schmidt’s book helps the novice and expert alike at moving their stories from plodding scenes to scenes that engage and motivate the reader to keep moving through page after page of a good book. Conflict, subplot development, and dramatic situation analysis and design are all covered in this handy writing reference. Easy to navigate, chock full of handy tips and help,  Story Structure Architect should be on every serious writer’s shelf. A great investment for your career, this book belongs right next to your laptop!

Doomsday Key – A Good James Rollins Book for the Beach

Title: The Doomsday Key – A Sigma Force Novel

Author: James Rollins

James Rollins

Publisher: Harper

Date: 2010

Cost: Paperback – $9.99

Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma force are on the case for ending an Apocalyptic plot by evil genetic manipulators. This rip-roaring adventure mixes history and science into a spell-binding story. Carefully researched, fast-paced, and well written.

Set in Washington DC and deep in Russia in and around the area of the Chernobyl accident, the dark prophecy of the book makes the reader stop and think ‘what if’ and then to dig a little deeper into what is being done to prevent a catastrophic nuclear – related event? Based in fact and heavy on supposition and suspended belief, this book is a frolicking good read.

The roller-coaster ride of this sixth delta force book by Rollins will keep you up late racing to read the end. A great bargain for any summer suspense/adventure reading list, The Doomsday Key was the most fun I have had on a motorcycle chase or a shoot out on a hot summer day in a long time!

How to Start Writing a Book

Circling in on the big idea is an important exercise for finding what you will write about over the next 6-12 months if you are serious about writing a book. If you are committing that much time to a project shouldn’t it be an idea you are passionate about and have a good working knowledge of the subject?

In order to write a book you need to have:

·         An understanding of the field/market

o   What exactly are you getting yourself into?

·         Perseverance

o   James Joyce’s “Ulysses” (a modern classic) was rejected 25X by publishers.

o   Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was rejected 122 times.

·         Organization skills

·         Belief in your work

·         A willingness to work hard and learn a few things along the way

·         Passion for your subject

·         Open eyes, ears and mind as you observe people and actions

Good writers seek inspiration for much of their writing. Some good places to find inspiration is through avid reading. Novels, non-fiction, biographies, poetry, the newspaper all help you open yourself to new ideas and information. It also helps you become a critic of writing and leads to a new awareness of ideas for lead-ins to segments of your writing.

Newspapers and magazines reveal what people are concerned about in the present and reveals trends possibly worthy of further exploration in your work. Fiction and non-fiction can be a great source of inspiration. The classics reveal themes of good versus evil and expose the emotional levels of certain eternal themes like love, devotion, and the conflicts of various human experiences.

So now you need to do a little brainstorming and circling to find your Big Idea and your sources of inspiration. It must be a topic that is interesting enough to devote a year of your life to develop into a book. The reader must be able to identify with the idea and it can be neither too broad nor too narrow. 

10 Writing Tips to Help You Achieve Writing Success in 2009

When working on your own writing for marketing and promotion purposes, it is important to read good writing. Go out and find examples of similar items that are done well.

NOTE: Avoid reading Hemingway, Faulkner, and any Russian writers! Yes…it is good writing and great literat ure to study…if you were a PhD candidate in Literature. I love them all but I must admit in today’s fast paced and hurried life, few take the time to read that stream of conciousness style anymore.

2.   Write Like You Speak

Write like you were talking to the person across the table from you. Follow George Orwell’s writing maxim, “Never use a long word when a short one will do.”  If you have a simple message, why make it complicated with technical jargon and fancy words found only in a thesaurus? Avoid passive voice…who actually talks that way?

Active Voice: “Eloise, the dog bit the boy.”

Passive Voice: “Eloise, that boy was bitten by the dog.”

3.   Just Get It Out of Your Head

Don’t worry that your first attempt is not perfect. You have to conceptualize your work and then edit brutally, revise and rewrite. It is called “the writing process” for a reason.

 4.   YOU! YOU! YOU!

Make it personal. Talk directly to your reader. Use “you” and “your” so your reader knows this information is for them personally.

5.   Have Something to Say

Have something to say that benefits others. Write something worth talking about in an interesting and different explanation. Say it in a way that it stands out and makes your reader laugh, smile, or get angry. Say what you have to say so it is memorable.

6.   Use Imagery

Add visual details to your writing so your reader can create mental pictures.

“Bad-Ass coffee has a kick to it!”

7.   Headlines with Sex Appeal

If 10 people glance at your writing only 2 will read past your headline. Ouch! How do you beat those kinds of statistics? Killer headlines are rich in keywords, short, and sassy.

Bad Example Headline:

Attention authors, speakers, entrepreneurs: Get The Shocking Truth On What You Must Do To Create a Sell Sheet by Following This Writing Formula And Stay Lite-Years Ahead Of The Marketing and Crowd!

 Good Example Headline:

5 Steps to Super Successful Sell Sheets

8.   KISS – Keep it Short, Sweetie!

Remember what your 9th grade English teacher told you about how many sentences go in a paragraph? She was wrong and you were right!  Avoid three syllable words. If you write a sentence with more than 15-17 words in it, you have said too much. A paragraph with more than 3-4 sentences also means you have said too much.  Writing today means saying it directly and concisely. We just don’t have time to dig for meaning.

9.   Call to Action

Do you want your reader to buy your product? Visit your website? Read your book? Tell your reader specifically what to do next. Give them precise directions on what they are to do next so they can take action.

10.       Sleep on it!

Once you have written your first draft and revised it once, put it aside for a day or so. Coming back with fresh eyes and a new perspective will expose many flaws, omissions, and glaring errors. You won’t believe what you missed!