The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 22: Discussing “This Is Not a Writing Manual” by Kerri Majors)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 22

Aw, you came back! Excellent. Welcome to The Writer’s Bookshelf. Again!

This week’s book takes us into the mind of an author who wants to tell us about the writing life like it is. This is the reality check for anyone who dreams of writing for a living. Is it glamorous? Maybe. Is it profitable? Maybe! Is it rewarding on any level, intellectual or otherwise? Pending. Is it for those who think they can cut it without learning a thing? There’s only one way to find out.

This book of essays addresses some of these topics (and many others) while helping the aspiring author decide whether writing is a business he or she should aspire to (and why). In the tradition of Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Kerri Majors’s message to new writers in This Is Not a Writing Manual is simple: Learn what you’re getting yourself into before you jump in. Then jump in.

And why wait? Check it out now, if you’d like. Here’s the video that hypes it up! And here are the other vitals:

This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World

by Kerri Majors

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 208 pages

·  ISBN-10: 9781599636887

·  ISBN-13: 978-1599636887

·  Publisher: Kerri Majors (July 9, 2013)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 21: Discussing “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield)

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Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. It’s time for a new season of goodness with a new crop of even more written goodness. In this case, I’m referring to written goodness of the referential kind, and by referential goodness, I mean good things you can refer to if you want to improve your writing skills. And by improve your writing skills, what I really mean is…

Okay, after twenty episodes, you know how this works.

This season, we’ll be focusing primarily on the craft of writing. This means we’ll cover topics like characterization, settings, conflicts, and more.

But not today!

No, today’s book is basically a cult book for writers. It’s a book about productivity in a time when none of us wants to commit to our art. True, we all say that we want to create art (like writing novels, for example). And we might even believe it! But most of us say that as we slay a dragon on that videogame we’re playing or as we post yet another article on Facebook, trying to prove once and for all that we’re right about whatever it is we think we’re right about. Today’s book attempts to slay that dragon, the one called “resistance,” the thing that stops us from actually writing.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield gets to the heart of our resistance against creating art (even when we say we’re artists!) and spurs us on to get back to work. It’s like a 12-step for writers in written form. Or maybe a cult. You decide.

For more information, check out this week’s latest video.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

by Steven Pressfield

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 190 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1936891026

·  ISBN-13: 978-1936891023

·  Publisher: Black Irish Entertainment LLC; 47716th edition (January 11, 2012)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf, Season One: Recommended Reading Order

“The Writer’s Bookshelf: Season One Recap” Title Screen

Hi, and welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf. If you’ve been keeping up with this series for the last six months, then you’ll know that we’ve covered 20 books about improving your writing and storytelling game. But depending on your skill level and writing style, maybe the order was a bit lumpy for you.

If that’s the case, then here’s my recommended reading order for maximum educational experience, depending on your writing approach.

For Beginners:

1. On Writing, Stephen King

2. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

3. Just Write, James Scott Bell

4. The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler

5. How Not to Write a Novel, Mittlemark & Newman

6. The Elements of Style, Strunk & White

7. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss (optional)

For Planners (Outliners):

8. Story Engineering, Larry Brooks

9. Story Physics, Larry Brooks

For Pantsers (Organics):

8. Story Trumps Structure, Steven James

9. Story Physics, Larry Brooks

For Hybrids (Little bit of both):

8-9. Larry Brooks’s Books (as shown above)

10. Story Trumps Structure, Steven James

For Intermediates:

11. Hooked, Les Edgerton

12. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, Jessica Brody

13. Snowflake Books, Randy Ingermansen

For Advanced:

14. Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, Larry Brooks

15. Story Genius, Lisa Cron

16. Story, Robert McKee

For Editing & Revision:

17. Story Fix, Larry Brooks (Intermediate Class)

18. The Story Grid, Shawn Coyne (Master Class)

For Cleanup and Finalization:

19. The Best Punctuation Book, Period, June Casagrande

20. Author in Progress, Writer Unboxed

Please note that this list is based entirely on my Season One recommendations. Season Two, which begins April 16th, will present to you a new reading list with an even deeper dive into the craft of writing by focusing on the nuances of story development, beginning with mindset and continuing into character, conflict, and scene creation.

So, make sure you come back as we begin a new mega-multi-week journey into The Writer’s Bookshelf.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it. You can also check out the video edition of this recap below.

The Writer’s Bookshelf Recap Episode on YouTube

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 20: Discussing “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” by June Casagrande)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 20

For our final bonus episode of The Writer’s Bookshelf, Season One, we cover one of the best punctuation books available, The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson. Basically, as the title implies, everyone who writes is included here. If you have a keyboard, typewriter, pen, pencil, or bleeding finger, then you have a need for this book and its contents of wisdom about not one, not two, not three, but four methods of tackling punctuation.

Yes, if you need an all-purpose book for teaching you how to properly use periods, commas, quotation marks, em dashes, colons, combinations of punctuation types, and even standards on spelling for publication (whether you’re writing for academics (MLA equivalent), science (APA equivalent), books (Chicago equivalent), or journalism (AP equivalent)), and you want your questions easily answered by chapter explanations or quick-reference charts, then this book is for you, and this video explains what you’re in for.

The only punctuation it doesn’t cover, as far as I remember, is the interrobang. Maybe if there’s ever a second edition!?

Next week, I’ll reiterate all 20 books from this season and its bonuses and give you a recommended reading order if you are still playing catch up. Then the following week, we’ll begin Season 2 with a classic from Steven Pressfield.

Make sure you come back.

The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

by June Casagrande

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 256 pages

·  ISBN-10: 9781607744931

·  ISBN-13: 978-1607744931

·  Publisher: Ten Speed Press; First Edition (April 15, 2014)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 19: Discussing “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 19

When was the last time an errant panda showed up at your door, ate your food, then shot you, then left? If your answer is anything other than “never,” then you’ve got problems and I’m pretty sure the word “2020” is somehow linked to your response. But if you’re in the top 99.infinity% of people who likely haven’t had that experience, then you’re probably grateful for the positioning of commas and other punctuation that avoids communicating a lie about pandas’ criminal behavior and instead clarifies what they actually do, which is to eat shoots and leaves (the green kind).

Welcome back to this month’s bonus episode of The Writer’s Bookshelf. This time we’re covering Lynne Truss’s comedic take on the ever-complicated comma, in a book that decomplicates commas and decriminalizes pandas, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

If you’ve never read it, then this video will explain why you should. Even if the thought of reading a book about commas bores you as much as actually reading a book about commas, then never fear. Lynne Truss has clearly mastered the art of making the mundane hilarious. So, you can read this book, get a hearty laugh, and still learn something about punctuation.

Just don’t let the pandas catch you reading it. They’re up to no good.

Next week, I’ll be posting a second bonus episode for March. Stay tuned.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

by Lynne Truss

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 240 pages

·  ISBN-10: 9781592402038

·  ISBN-13: 978-1592404889

·  Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (April 11, 2006)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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Book Ideas Generator: Getting Readers and Authors Talking to Each Other

Hey Readers: Do you have a book idea that you wish some author person would write but won’t because it’s “not marketable” or some-such?

Hey Authors: Do you wonder why nobody wants to read your “trending” vampire werewolf romance epic that you started writing in 2008 but couldn’t complete until now because you still had that boy magician YA series to finish (which you managed to write two and a half books for)?

Hey Readers and Authors: Is it possible that maybe you both actually want the same thing after all: a spy thriller about a supervillain poisoning the penguins and Antarctica’s one active spy being the only person able to stand in his way?

Hey Other Readers: Doesn’t that premise sound pretty cool?

Hey Editors: Did you even know that’s what readers want? Antarctic spy thrillers?*

If you all talked to each other more often, you might’ve figured that out by now.

Enter the Book Ideas Generator.

Readers and authors no longer have to be strangers passing in the night. Thanks to a simple ideas board that I’ve wanted to create for a long time and finally got the chance to do this week, readers can actually post the types of books and ideas they want to read, and authors who are looking for their next great idea can scour the board for that gem that just “speaks to them” and get to writing. Alternatively, they can just take whatever’s hot (once upon a time, Hobbits were all the rage; I think astronauts were, too).

Some of the awesome ideas you might find in your journey for the next great read (after somebody writes it, which could take a while).

The way it works is that a reader will visit the ideas page and either add a new idea, or upvote an existing idea. If he or she is feeling ambitious, he can do both. Assuming the idea is sound (and not scandalous), I’ll tag it for the “Open Topics” card, which can be viewed from the site roadmap, and anyone who wants to view topics from within the card for ideas can check it out.

On the ideas page, click “Add Idea” and add your idea.
See an idea you like? Upvote it. The more votes an idea gets, the more likely an author will want to choose it for his next book. You can also click on the idea to see if anyone’s representing it (in the comments tab).

Once it’s on the list, authors will see the idea and decide whether to choose it for their next books. Authors who want to write about that topic will then send me an email (listed in the first updates announcement and on my official author site), and then I’ll write their names and websites in the comments tab for that idea and move it to the “Ideas in Production” card. From there, it’ll be up to the readers interested in that idea to follow that author’s progress.

Where authors can find their next great idea, or readers can submit their next great idea, or anyone can vote on the next great idea, or…
Just click on the tabs inside the selected card to view the ideas in that category.

And that’s all there is to it. I also have conditions for “Hot Topics,” “Authors’ Favorites,” and “Resultant Books,” which can lead to even more interesting results. But in the end, readers can tell authors what they want to read, and authors can give the readers what they want. Everyone wins! Except penguins.

If this sounds like your ideal discovery tool, then please check it out and let your reader and writer friends know about it. It’ll eventually find its permanent home on my author website, but for now you can access it directly from its native Productstash page.

And be sure to tell me what you think.

Oh, and I’ll eventually make one of these for gamers / developers and audiences / filmmakers. Stay tuned.

If you want more information, I’ve posted a YouTube video demonstrating how to add an idea. Check it out below.

* Antarctic spy thrillers aren’t actually trending, or even in demand. It’s just an example. But if it were in demand…

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 18: Discussing “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 18

Remember that time when a teacher and his student (one of them last name White) got together to teach us all a little about chemistry while delighting us with unforgettable storytelling?

No, I’m not referring to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman of Breaking Bad fame. No I’m talking about a different teacher-student duo who shows us a different type of chemistry—less science and more literary. I’m referring to Professor William Strunk, Jr. and student E. B. White, and their elements are of literary style, which allows for better communication and storytelling, not just words on paper.

Yes, for this month’s bonus episode of The Writer’s Bookshelf, we’re covering the evergreen 100-page style and grammar textbook, The Elements of Style, the one book that no writer of any stripe should be without. So, if you’re without it, then fix that discrepancy immediately.

You can also check out my video review about it to find out why that’s true.

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White

Wikipedia Page

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 105 pages

·  ISBN-10: 9780205309023

·  ISBN-13: 978-0205309023

·  Publisher: Pearson; 4th edition (July 23, 1999)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

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The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 17: Discussing “Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves” by Larry Brooks)

Title Image for The Writers Bookshelf Episode 17

So, remember last week when I said Author in Progress would end The Writer’s Bookshelf Season One? Well, I meant it.

But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t throw a few bonus episodes at you after the season finale!

From now until March, I’ll be posting one bonus episode per month about books that don’t fit neatly into a seasonal paradigm. Well, except for this month, which would’ve been perfect for the main season. But as I’m about to show you, there’s a good reason that I didn’t include it on the main list but kept it close enough to the main list that it may as well be the true season finale.

For this month, I wanted to highlight a book that I wasn’t expecting to review. The reason is quite simple. When I started this series and ended it with last week’s book, I didn’t have a copy of the book I’m reviewing today. In fact, the only reason I have a copy of the book now is because the author gifted it to me as a thank you for reviewing his other three books on writing earlier in the season.

And this was after I’d assumed no one would watch these videos or read these articles as they went live.

How wrong I was.

That said, I think the book is worth a review. So, as we take one more dip into the Writers Bookshelf to end 2020 once and for all (such a relief) and usher in 2021 (hopefully a relief), we’ll check out Larry Brooks’s best book yet, Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves: Criteria-Driven Strategies for More Effective Fiction.

Be sure to watch the video (link below) because that’s where the meat lies.

But if you want the quick and snappy version, my basic take on this book is that if Story Engineering, Story Physics, and Story Fix are the beginner courses, then Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves is the advanced course. It covers many of the same ideas that Brooks’s previous books and pretty much every other structure-based writing book covers, but it goes beyond the usual, and even reframes the usual in a format that sticks better in the reader’s mind while also making a quick reference to these ideas much easier.

In short, it’s a must-read if you care about writing.

Like most of the books I cover in this series.

Which is why I cover them.

But this one presents the advanced instruction in a tangible and easy-to-access form. As I advise in the video (which you should watch now), the most effective strategy is to read the first two Story Engineering books, then read this one, then go back and read Story Fix. I think that’s a great strategy for getting and remembering the tools without becoming saturated with instruction.

But I’ll probably post a more extensive ordered list with all the featured books so far just before Season 2 goes live.

Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves: Criteria-Driven Strategies for More Effective Fiction

by Larry Brooks

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 256 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1440300852

·  ISBN-13: 978-1440300851

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; Illustrated edition (November 5, 2019)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 16: Discussing “Author in Progress” by Writer Unboxed)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 16

Welcome back to The Writer’s Bookshelf, the Season One finale! In this episode, we cover a compilation of essays from the Writer Unboxed Community in a book called Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published.

In my companion video, which you should watch as soon as you get to the end of this article, I talk about its merits as a worthy addition to your writer’s bookshelf. Yes, I do that for all the books in this series, but I do it for this one, too, because it’s one of the few books that covers everything about the writing industry (or, at least for books) that you’d deem essential information, and does so from the voice of experts in their respective fields.

Then, when you’re done watching the video, make sure you come back here and subscribe for updates on when Season 2 will debut (and that’ll depend on demand, unfortunately, so make sure you like each video from this season to let me know you want more), then leave me a comment about which books you’d like to see me talk about for the next season, provided I have it on my bookshelf (or decide to put it on my bookshelf). Please note that I want to tailor my Season 2 focus on scene-setting and character development, with a touch of extras from other pots, as much as possible. If there’s a third and fourth season, I’ll likely steer those into publishing and marketing respectively.

And with that, thanks again for watching this season’s videos and hopefully you’ve gotten something out of it. Sorry again for the crappy video quality. One of these days, I hope to invest in a decent camera. But as a writer, I need to invest in my writing career over my YouTube interests first, so a better camera will come when the writing career shows more success than it has so far. You can help with that by supporting my work (as seen in the book cover images down the right-hand panel) and telling your friends and family about it (but only if you like what I write and you think they will, too).

Since this post will go live on December 25th (even though I’m writing it in mid-September), I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to come. Give three cheers to 2020 coming to an end! Hopefully 2021 will be a bit more merciful.

Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published

From the Writer Unboxed Community

Edited by Therese Walsh

Website

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 342 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1440346712

·  ISBN-13: 978-1440346712

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (November 1, 2016)

Check out other entries in the Writer’s Bookshelf series here.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, and do all of the things that convince me you like this kind of information and want more like it.

In case you forgot to check the video:

The Free Period is Coming to an End

Just wanted to make a quick e-book announcement to my readers while I’m thinking about it.

With the construction of my new website underway, I’ll be relaunching my author career soon, and with the relaunch will come a change to my e-book pricing and availability.

In short, many of my existing titles will be going into the archives, and those that remain will be getting price tags attached.

What does that mean exactly? It means that starting in 2021 (maybe on January 1st, maybe a few weeks in–I haven’t decided yet), I’ll be removing many of my books from every retailer but Smashwords, and those that remain will no longer be free.*

This means that if you wanted to get one of my older books from someplace other than Smashwords, now is the time. Likewise, if you want any of my books for free, now is the time to get them. I can no longer sustain my author career on freebies, and I can no longer support myself by attracting readers who will only read for free. Beginning in 2021, if you want to read my books, you’ll have to pay for them.

With exceptions.

*Okay, so here are the exceptions:

Shell Out, Eleven Miles from Home (original and remastered), Amusement, and Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge will still be available on every platform, while also being free to read here and on my author site. Eleven Miles from Home (and maybe Amusement) will remain free at the retailers, while the others will be priced at $0.99 to give readers the ability to “tip” me for a good read. But you’ll still be able to read them for free on both of my websites (but only there).

Gutter Child and Lightstorm will remain at all of the retailers for $2.99 and $0.99 respectively, but for how long will depend on what I do with my planned expansions for them. Once I expand them, I’ll make a new plan. Gutter Child will likely remain available even after it’s expanded (under a new title) just because it’s getting five-star reviews and I’d hate to lose them (and because the expansion will change its genre). We’ll see what happens in time.

When Cellphones Make Us Crazy is still under review. For now, it’ll remain at all the sites for its existing price, but I may remove it and rerelease it with new content later in the year. I’m pretty sure I want to expand it more.

The Fountain of Truth will remain at all of the existing sites for $0.99 until I finalize the McCray Parables expansion, in which case I’ll repackage and rerelease it for $2.99 between September and Christmas 2021. In other words, one day it’ll be available, and the next day it won’t. I can’t say for sure when this will happen. But the Smashwords edition will remain available even when it comes off the other storefronts.

Cannonball City and Superheroes Anonymous will likely stay online until I finish rebranding them. Again, I don’t know when I’ll finish this process, but you can probably continue to buy them everywhere but Amazon for at least another year. Then they’ll be archived.

The Computer Nerd will stay online at all the existing retailers, but it will be given a subtitle, 2015 Edition, to classify its difference from the Rebooted Edition coming soon. Its paperback edition will also remain for now. I may eventually archive it if it proves too confusing for buyers when the updated edition is released, but I’d rather test this than simply assume this behavior.

Zippywings 2015: A Short Story Collection will remain online for now, only because it has a paperback edition, but it will be recognized as an archived book, no longer to receive updates.

When Cellphones Go Crazy, The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, Cards in the Cloak, and The Fallen Footwear will all be archived in early 2021. This means they’ll be deleted from every storefront but Smashwords, and they’ll cost $0.99 to read there. But I’ll likely keep them free on my author site (well, the short stories, not Cards in the Cloak).

Also remember that The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky is getting turned into a novel, so it’ll be back soon. Likewise, Cards in the Cloak is getting an expansion and new title, Norman Jensen Cheats Death, so it’ll also be back soon.

The Fallen Footwear will be rewritten as a novel eventually, but I don’t know when. It’ll be archived for now regardless.

When Cellphones Go Crazy is going to the archives and staying there. It’s already been expanded and repackaged as When Cellphones Make Us Crazy, so there’s no reason to keep it out in the open.

I believe that covers everything for now. Hopefully you got whichever books you want, or will before the New Year.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Oh, and here’s the cover for my NaNoWriMo 2020 story, if you’re interested:

Cover Image: Pixabay

The stuff that keeps me awake at night.