Tag Archives: writing book review

The Writer’s Bookshelf: Recommended References and Writing Resources (Episode 24: Discussing “A Writer’s Guide to Characterization” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 24

Did you check out last week’s 45 Master Characters and decided it just wasn’t enough information? You needed more power? Then this week, I’ve got great news.

Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s other book on character creation, A Writer’s Guide to Characterization, is this week’s subject of The Writer’s Bookshelf, and it’s one you should check out if you want to build your story around archetypal characters while figuring out how to place them. Who should be the protagonist? Who makes for a better side character? Should those two people really be lovers? This book will tell you if they’ll have a happily ever after or a battle of the flying frying pans.

It also talks about animal archetypes, you know, for completion’s sake.

Check out the video, then check out the book, then put it all to good use.

A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development

by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

Amazon Author Central Page

Note: Author’s website seems unavailable.

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 224 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1599635577

·  ISBN-13: 978-1599635576

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; 8.1.2012 edition (August 27, 2012)

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 23: Discussing “45 Master Characters” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 23

Have you ever dreamed up a character that seemed flat on the page? What about an ensemble of talking heads that seemed to talk to no one and everyone without a purpose or identity? Have you ever built a villain that looked too much like a hero (and vice versa)? Then maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Welcome to The Writer’s Bookshelf. This week, we focus on Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s answer to the Hero’s Journey by focusing on the mythic characters that populate it. 45 Master Characters is your new go-to for plotting when you want your characters to tell the story rather than set the dressing. Or something like that.

If you ever wanted to ensure your characters are varied yet compatible, then this is the book to read. Find out why in this week’s video.

45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters

by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

Amazon Author Central Page

Note: Author’s website seems unavailable.

Amazon Metadata:

·  Paperback: 288 pages

·  ISBN-10: 1599635348

·  ISBN-13: 978-1599635347

·  Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books; 2nd edition (January 1, 2012)

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 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)

Title Image for The Writer’s Bookshelf Episode 21

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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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.

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