• Book Review: The Successful Novelist by David Morrell

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    David Morrell is a genius.

    There’s no getting around that fact. After reading this book, I am more than convinced that this man has more writing talent in his pinky than I do in my whole body.

    I digress.

    When I mentioned on Twitter that Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the most influential books about writing that I have ever read, someone suggested that I look up David Morrell’s book The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing.

    I’m delighted I did.

    This book, like King’s, provides a veritable treasure trove of knowledge regarding the craft and the business of writing. However, Morrell takes a much more practical approach, giving out advice for you to use in your daily writing sessions. King’s book is largely memoir with some practical bits sprinkled in. On the whole, Morrell seems so much more approachable.

    The Successful Novelist is suitable for writers of all skill levels. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been writing for ages, this book is for you.

    It’s also short, succinct, and easy to read and understand. What more could you want?

    Go out and pick up your copy today. This book will change your life.

    Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What book would you like to see me review next?

    P.S. Book Review: Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown.

  • In Defense of Rereading

    Photo Credit: Pestpruf on Flickr
    Photo Credit: Pestpruf on Flickr

    Recently I spoke to someone who doesn’t believe in rereading books. “It won’t be any different from the first time I read it,” she said. “The material is the same. I don’t get the purpose.”

    This sentiment, though shocking, is one I’ve heard echoed in previous conversations by a variety of people. The general consensus seems to be that once you’ve read a book, you shouldn’t read it again.

    This idea is nonsense.

    When I think about the stories I’ve experienced in my life, it amazes me how some of them have changed with the passage of time. One of my favorite books, for example, is George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. I shudder to think what might’ve happened had I only read it once.

    The first time I read the novel, I was thirteen. That’s too young to fully grasp most of what happens in the book, primarily the political overtones and the implications of the society Orwell has crafted. The sex scenes and manifesto went right over my head. What can I say? I was naive.

    Every time I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I notice something new. I’ve read this book at least a dozen times and still I learn more with each reading. The material isn’t changing (that much is obvious), but I certainly am. As I continue to change I’m sure I’ll continue to get different things out of the novel.

    If you’ve read something once, there’s no reason you shouldn’t sit down and reread it. If it’s a book like Nineteen Eighty-Four, it should withstand the test of time. Whether it’s The Great Gatsby, Harry Potter, or Crime and Punishment, there’s something new to discover when you dip back into the pages.

    Don’t believe me? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

    How do you feel about rereading books? What books have you enjoyed rereading?

  • Book Review: Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson

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    I’ve read and reviewed plenty of books in my time. Some of these books have been written by individuals that I have not known personally (the vast majority. in fact). However, some of these books have been written by friends or colleagues with whom I am well-acquainted. When reviewing these books, I have to be careful to stay objective. I usually pretend that the book I’m reviewing was written by someone else entirely, someone that I don’t know, in order to give the review the emotional distance it deserves.

    And if the book is bad (oh, God forbid it), then I lie. When my friend or neighbor or loved one asks me what I thought about the book, I spit half-truths through gritted teeth. This approach takes a great deal of energy and usually results in me feeling exhausted and unfulfilled by the conversation.

    When it comes to Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson, though, I’m happy to say that I do not have to lie. This book is fantastic. Let’s talk about it.

    Here’s the book description from Amazon.com: “Not all lives seem connected, but when a storm hits in St. Laurent’s, Alaska, the lives of many are thrown together. They find that their lives weren’t really so far apart to begin with, but quite the opposite.”

    Throughout the novel, the people of St. Laurent’s, Alaska interact and develop relationships with one another. Thompson handles their backstories with a masterful touch, revealing details only when they are relevant to the present action. Although the novel is short, it contains a great deal of emotional and psychological depth and character growth. The prose in and of itself is an absolute delight.

    Thompson’s latest novel is a treat. Oleanders in Alaska presents the struggles, triumphs, and journeys of the citizens of a small Alaskan town. It is a pleasure to read and even more so to review. If you love literary fiction, you should consider this novel your next must-read.

    Want me to review your book? Email me or leave a comment!

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  • Why You Should Do NaNoWriMo

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    November is infamous. It’s cold and dreary and easily one of the worst months of the year. Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, it’s almost forgettable. The only thing worth noting about November is that it’s National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo for short.

    NaNoWriMo is terrifying. Some of the most stressful moments of my life can be traced back to NaNoWriMo. Of course, when you’re trying to put down 50,000 words in the span of thirty days, a certain amount of hardship is to be expected. The benefits must outweigh the costs. After all, I keep coming back to it every year.

    What is it about NaNoWriMo that is so appealing? It’s not the frantic sprint of fingers on keys in an effort to make word count. It’s not the caffeine burning hot through your veins. It’s not the blood, sweat, and tears. So come on, what is it? Why do so many people want to participate in this madness?

    Because it’s amazing. NaNoWriMo just might be the biggest thrill of your life. When you force yourself to write a novel in a month, you’ll learn so many new things about yourself. You’ll grow in ways you never anticipated. You’ll achieve something you never thought possible.

    I won’t lie to you – it’s hard to write a novel. Starting is easy, but finishing is tough. There will be moments when you’ll want to throw in the towel. Let them pass. You can do it, I promise. And when you come out swinging at the end, you’ll be so proud of yourself you won’t know what to do.

    You should most definitely do NaNoWrimo.

    For more information, visit this website. Also, please let me know if you plan to participate. I’d love to buddy up with you. We all might need to encourage each other!

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  • How to Write a Novel in a Month (The Easy Way!)

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    Today I stumbled across this interesting article by Maya Rodale with The Huffington Post. Written in honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), this articles gives some tips and tricks for cranking out a novel in close to thirty days. This method is the one I’ve been using for my novels, so I thought I’d share. Here’s what it says:

    November is National Novel Writing Month and in honor of that, I thought I’d share my system (developed over the course of writing 10-plus books) for quickly producing a good novel without a ton of angst and anguish.
    If cutting yourself off from the world (and Internet) at a five-star hotel with excellent room service is not an option, try the following:

    Know your characters. A novel won’t work without fully developed, compelling characters. Take the time to know the hero and heroines story before you start plotting or writing. You may never explicitly use this information in the text, but it will enhance your story.

    An outline is totally worth your time. I know, you want to start immediately and see where the muse leads you. Well, the muse is a trickster and may lead you down a dead end path. Or perhaps she’s using Apple Maps. With an outline, you know where you’re heading and have an idea of the route you’re going to take, which makes for a smoother journey. You can always take side trips.

    Draft #1: Focus on dialogue.
    Estimate word count: 40,000
    The first draft of my novels is entirely dialogue. This is the most direct way to make sure your characters are telling the story and moving it forward. Unless it’s a multicharacter scene, I won’t even include tags like “he said” or “she said.” If you can’t tell when your hero or heroine is talking without identifying it, then it’s a sign you need to go back and work on their character and voice.

    Draft #2: Crank out everything else.
    Estimated word count: 65,000
    This is another FAST draft full of description and everything else. It’s full of really awkward sentences and misplaced punctuation marks. I add lots of “TKs” (wherever something is “to come”) when I’m not sure of a word but just want to keep going.

    >Print, read, make notes. Print out a copy and read it with a pen in hand. You’re not just looking for typos or ways to tighten your sentences, but also trying to figure out how the story hangs together before you write so many words that it’s a nightmare to relocate scenes. Likewise, it’s far easier on the soul to cut fluffy, useless scenes when you haven’t invested much time in them.

    Draft 3: Craft.
    Word count: 80,000
    This is where it starts to get good. You’ve cut the rubbish scenes, sketched out some new ones. I go over each scene, line by line, really crafting my sentences by cutting useless words and selecting the very best ones to use. This is slow going, but it’s where the magic happens.

    Draft 4: Give it to someone to read and do something else.
    Find someone willing to read your manuscript with fresh eyes while you allow your eyes to rest by working on something else entirely. I like to get a few people to read it, if I can. And then I do not revise until I’ve gotten everyone’s feedback. If three out of three people say your first chapter is weak, it is. If one person says your heroine is vapid, one person loves her, and another commented on something else…well, that’s a muddle to sort though and it’s up to you.

    Revise. Again.

    Revise. Again.

    Send it off into the world. After spending years in the writing world, I suspect that this is the step where most authors fail. This is what separates the published from the unpublished. I think there are many excellent books tucked under beds…but you’re not competing with those. You’re competing with the ones composed by brave authors.

    So that, more or less, is the process for writing a novel in a short amount of time with limited stress and anxiety. All it comes down to is prewriting, outlining, and blood, sweat, and tears poured onto your paper or over your keyboard.

    What do you think? How do you write a novel?