When I was on vacation earlier this month, I read some e-books on writing. Even though these gems were inexpensive and quick, they provided me with some valuable lessons to apply to my writing craft.
Here they are:
Self-publishing a Book By Hank Quense
Quense has a great series on self-publishing and this is the second one I’ve read. He’s great about explaining why he does it the way he does, but let’s the reader know everyone needs to self-publish the way that is best for himself. Good advice on what publisher to use. I will be coming back to this book as a reference.
2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love By Rachel Aaron
I loved Aaron’s Eli Monpress series and I can’t wait to read more of her stuff. She gives advice on how to increase the amount of writing that gets done during a writing session by applying her triangle of knowledge, time and enthusiasm. Now, if that sounds vague, she does get specific about what they mean in this book.
Writing from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone In Between By James Scott Bell I love Kill Zone, a blog for which Bell contributes as part of a community of writers. This book provided a fascinating piece of advice about character development for novel writing: the “Mirror Moment.” Once again, it’s something I knew already, but didn’t know I knew. This quick read will change the way you plan your novel–and it’s easy to apply to a draft you’ve already started.
In Passingby JR Wirth
Since I designed the cover, I kind of want to read it. This paranormal novel just came out last week and it sounds interesting: two young people die tragically and are giving a second chance at life.
Queen of Pain by Michael D’Ambrosio
Technically, this isn’t out yet, but I want to read it because I read the first book in this series, Princess Pain. PP was pretty good, kind of rip-roaring, swash-buckling space opera. Queen of Pain (this may only be a working title), will be published by High Rock Press.
Wolves and the River of Stoneby Eric Asher
I’m torn about this one. I loved so much about the first book –the characters, the writing style– but I also had some issues with it. But I’m willing to give the second book a chance.
Every year I try and read a couple of books on the writing craft. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but, honestly, I love reading stuff on how to write fiction. Here is what I read in 2015:
Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir
by Hank Quense Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. What I want is something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over?
Structuring Your Novel
by K.M. Weiland Weiland shows how to make the most of using the three-act structure as you write your novel. She has become sort of an online tutor/mentor to me because books like this one answer my questions about writing fiction.
Your Guide to Scrivener by Nicole Dionisio Scrivener is a program to help writers organize their projects, both fiction and non-fiction. I can’t praise the software enough. There are dozens of books out there to show the writer how to use Scrivener, and I picked this by Nicole Dionisio. I admit I selected because it was the cheapest ebook on the subject I could find. But it’s all okay, because she did a great job and the book is short, so you can learn Scrivener quickly.
Here is my review of Hank Quense’s Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir as it appears in Goodreads and Amazon:
I’ve read many books on writing fiction and after a while I see the same theories and best practices over and over. This is not necessarily a bad thing because a reminder is always helpful. However, when I come across some new best practices for writing a novel, I feel like I’m getting the most out of my time and money spent.
In his Planning a Novel, Script or Memoir, which is part of his Fiction Writing Series, Quense offers practical tips on how he writes his novels. That’s what I want—something I haven’t heard before, and that’s what I got with this book. At the beginning, he suggests the reader to just take what he or she needs. Good advice. Not everyone thinks the same way, and, also, who wants to read the same thing over and over? Quense’s recommendation to use Scrivener, his practice of mind-mapping, and the idea of a plot cloud gave me some new techniques to incorporate into my writing disciplines. Of course, he also touches on fiction elements I’ve read elsewhere, but his succinct style on concepts like “character arc” proved to be a great review and motivator.
So if you are looking for some fresh ideas on writing fiction, I recommend this book. He includes lots of resources in the Appendices. The reader may or may not decide to use Quense’s ideas, especially if the person prefers to write without planning, but as he says about his mind-mapping technique, “Ultimately, you have to decide whether to use this method or not.”
I’m definitely going to check out his other books in the series.
In 2003, I started keeping lists of the books I read. I compiled these lists on Amazon.com, but that wasn’t enough. I discovered Goodreads and listed every book I have ever read, including before 2003. Whenever I remember a book I read that hasn’t been listed, say a book I read back in high school or middle school, I add it to the list. As if that wasn’t obsessive compulsive enough, I exported all my books from Goodreads as an Excel spreadsheet and uploaded it to LibraryThing.com. The great thing about LibraryThing.com is all the free book give-aways you can get–as if I needed more books.
Why do I do this? Because I’m weird.
Actually, I’ve discovered that when I look at one of my booklists, I can remember what was happening in my life when I was reading a certain. It’s sort of a diary by way of literature.
So, on this tenth anniversary of keeping obsessive lists of the books I read, I present what I read in 2013. Who knows? You may find something that piques your reading taste buds.
Contemporary Fiction Publishing companies marketed these books as main stream fiction, event though some of them could fall into other genres.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Laarson
This is the third and concluding volume of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. I would not recommend reading this unless you have read the others first. Laarson was a master at weaving a thousand details into a story that led to a final conclusion, but to be honest this third volume has so many characters, sometimes I found it hard to keep track of who was who. Overall, a suspenseful series. Unfortunately, the author died at a young age right after completing this series, so, unfortunately, we won’t be seeing any more novels by him.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
I wanted to read something by this author because a co-worker said her grandson was named after him. Hmm. Although marketed as mainline fiction, it has an post-apocalypse setting, so it kind of also falls under science fiction. A father and son travel on foot through the west coast of the charred remains of the United States. Along the way, they face dangerous obstacles that threaten their relationship of the past, present and future.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Charlie, the wallflower, goes way beyond typical teen angst as he deals with some serious issues in his early years of high school. Set in 1991, this novel is roughly based on some personal experiences of the author who also directed the movie by the same name. A side note: Charlie reads through his high school book list and fans of the book and movie have compiled it: Charlie’s Reading List. I started reading the books on the list–some of which are mentioned elsewhere in this blog entry.
The Abstinence Teacher, Tom Perrotta
High expectations were set by the author of this book who received high accolades for his previous novel, Little Children. Well, I haven’t read Little Children but judging from the Amazon reviews of The Abstinence Teacher, the latter was a let down. I can see why. I was hoping for an intelligent story about the controversy of teaching sex education in high school, but instead I got cliches of how this author thinks conservative Christians act. He also had a few cliches about Liberals as well and that’s why I just couldn’t take this book seriously.
Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk
If you’ve heard of or seen the movie Fight Club, then you should know that it was based on a novel by Palahniuk. This is the third book I’ve read by him, and he has definitely got some demons he his dealing with. I would have to say that this is a story of dark satire. It’s wicked and violent, but I found it entertaining. Palahniuk is not for everyone.
Non-fiction I know, I know. I need to read more non-fiction.
Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon
This author discusses ten things nobody told us about being creative. It’s one of those books I wish more people would read, because even though the title implies Steal Like an Artist is for creative types–like painters, musicians and such–the principles in this book are for everyone. A quick read.
I Used to Know That, Caroline Taggart
In my continual attempt to be a renaissance man, I read this book to brush up on the basics of high school education . . . you know, literature, science, math and all that. I’d like to reread this every few years.
When Love Has Gone, Coping With Obsession, Paul Thorn
I had been dealing with some obsessive thoughts so I found this book. It kind of helped. Strange thing: when I tried to find more about the author to see if he had written anything else, I found nothing. This book and its author are hidden away in the web pages of Amazon.com.
Even though I enjoy it, I read little poetry. It requires a deliberate sit-down-and-relax attitude which has become a victim of our fast-paced world.
Help! I’m the Leader of a Small Group, Laurie Polich
I started helping with a small group of high school boys at my church, so I checked out this book. I read it through and found it helpful. It’s also handy as a reference tool for ideas.
Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton
I read this for work. If you enjoyed reading When Helping Hurts by Stephen Corbett, then you’d probably be interested in this book. Lupton examines new models for churches to follow for charity and mission trips. I found the book eye-opening and insightful, but some may argue that the author focuses too much on economic suggestions and doesn’t address other ways on which mission needs to focus such as in education and advocacy. Nevertheless, I recommend this book to the head of any mission committee of a church, but be warned: it may say some things today’s churches don’t want to acknowledge.
The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennon Manning
Manning died this year and several of my friends on Facebook mentioned how this book spoke to them. While Manning had a difficult life and struggled with addiction, he reminds us in this book of how God does not expect us to be perfect and can use us to minister to others even with our messy existence.
Classics Must read more classics as well, but hey I got some in for this year’s reading.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Yes, I read this book once again because of the much hyped film that came out this year . . . you know, the millionth time The Great Gatsby has been turned into a movie, this time starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby. I like this story. It’s a quick read and my hometown, Louisville, plays a part in it. Part of Charlie’s reading list.
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I had read The Great Gatsby several times over the years and I really wanted to read something else by Fitzgerald. This novel is about Amory Blaine, a somewhat narcisstic, spoiled young man who lived in the years following the first world war and learns some lessons the hard way. Part of Charlie’s reading list.
Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction & Fantasy) Okay, as you can see, I spend most of my time reading science fiction and fantasy. I always say it’s my guilty pleasure.
Proven Guilty, Jim Butcher
This is book eight of The Dresden Files, a series I’ve been reading for the past few years. This time, succubus-type creatures attack a horror film convention and Harry Dresden, modern day wizard, must stop the madness. Butcher continues to define and set the standard of the sub-genre called urban fantasy.
White Knight, Jim Butcher
Book number nine in Butcher’s Harry Dresdon series. Dresden’s half-brother, a vampire, is accused of some horrendous deeds.
Falstaff’s Big Gamble, Hank Quense
Quense took characters from classic mythology and Shakespearian drama to create a brand new story with much hilarity thrown in. Lots of fun to read.
Bearer of the Black Staff, Terry Brooks
In 1977, Brook’s The Sword of Shanarra was published which placed the fantasy genre on the map. Since that year, Brooks has written about a dozen prequals to TSOS and I started reading them in the story’s chronological order. I started about four or five years ago. I have to admit, I always end up liking this authors books as I get into them. For a list to read the books in the correct order, go here.
The Measure of Magic, Terry Brooks
This one finishes the story that Bearer of the Black Staff started.
First King of Shannara, Terry Brooks
The last prequal before Brook’s The Sword of Shannara. With this book, I’ve finished all the prequals after five year
Chasm City, Alastair Reynolds
This is the second book in Reynold’s Revelation Space series, but this book stands alone. It’s part detective novel, part space opera. While it’s heavily plot driven, it’s still fun to read because the author is great at world-building.
Dilemma, Hank Quense
In this retelling of the Rhinegold myth, Quense mixes Norse mythology with science fiction elements. Another fun read.
Regarding Mikhail, Tom Robson
Can’t remember how I came across this story, but it’s available only as an ebook. The story has similar elements to the movie Total Recall in which a member of the navy of the near future fights rebels on Mars and ends up realizing his memories have been altered by the government.
The Spirit Thief, Rachel Aaron
The first book in the series called The Legend of Eli Monpress in which a young thief with wizard-like powers tries to up the bounty on himself for his own mysterious purposes.
The Spirit Rebellion, Rachel Aaron
The second book in Aaron’s series. I really like these characters. Definitely going to continue reading through her Eli Monpress stories.
The Spirit Eater, Rachel Aaron
Aaron continues her series about Eli Monpress, wizard theif, and reveals a big secret in this story. The author has at least two more books published in this series and I plan to read them in 2014.
Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey
Earth has colonized the solar system and, as with typical of the human race, divided into factions of people-groups who don’t like each other. The delicate relationship is aggrivated when a mysterious virus from a distant galaxy is harvested by a for-profit company that doesn’t care who is affected by its horrendous mutations. The character of Jim Holden and his ragtag crew of the spacecraft Rocinante are introduced in this trilogy of unabashed space opera.
Calaban’s War, James S.A. Corey
The middle of Corey’s Expanse trilogy.
Abaddon’s Gate, James S.A. Corey
The final part of the Expanse trilogy. I recommend this series if you are a space opera fan.
Forbidden, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee
First in Dekker’s Mortal trilogy, Forbidden sets everything up for the following two book. This is Christian speculative fiction.
Mortal, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee
Second in the trilogy, Mortal is a step up from the first book. The story really takes off in this book.
Sovereign, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee
The story wraps up with a few surprises. Highly recommended if you are a fan of books like This Present Darkness.
Least Favorite Book of 2013: I would have to say I least enjoyed The Abstinence Teacher. I actually finished the book, and just because I have labeled it my least favorite of the year doesn’t mean it’s not worth a reader’s consideration. I guess I was disappointed because I was expecting something else. I also could not take the characters seriously.
Favorite Series of 2013: I read a lot of novels that are part of a series this past year. I would have to say I most enjoyed The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. Ted Dekker’s Mortal series and Rachel Aaron’s Legend of Eli Monpress series receive honorable mentions.
Favorite Book of 2013: This surprised myself, but I would have to say my favorite stand alone book I read in 2013 was The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I feel Chbosky captured teen angst in a realistic way, and I didn’t feel like I was reading a book marketed to young adults. Great read for anyone of any age.