Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Writer Series: Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to SuccessJ.K. Rowling spent years plotting out the Harry Potter series.  J.R.R. Tolkien had the curious habit of starting over whenever he hit a snag in his writing.  Earnest Hemingway had a noted love affair with the bottle which directly influenced his life and writing.  And at some point each of these acclaimed writers needed to sit down and take the story swimming around in their head and commit it to paper.  How they got through this part to the end of the publishing process with a fully fleshed out and dynamic novel only they can tell you.   But it is a universal step for all writers.  At some point, you as a writer, will have to figure out what process works best for you to transfer story idea from your mind to make an actual book, and in Outlining Your Novel Ms. K.M. Weiland  provides basic tools to create a road map for your story to follow.

As I sat down to read Outlining Your Novel I was ready to be told the virtues of outlining – as even the least discerning person could expect from the title.  I, of course, already thought I knew the merits of this process for story creation and frankly, as an outlining fan, all I really expected was a little ego stroking with the knowledge I have been doing – at least this part – right all along and the whole “pantsing” method (basically writing from the seat of your pants) was the doom of writers the world over.  Now, before you start getting all judgey, let me just say at times we all need to hang onto that one thing we got right to keep us moving forward and the fill-in-the-blank outlining process is mine.  After that everything else about my writing is kind of a crap shoot.  However, Ms. Weiland had more to say about outlining than I expected.  She showed me that it was more than dry Roman numerals, stark words and my usual methods.  Outlining was actually a very useful tool that could be shaped to fit your own style and taste.  With her suggestions even the most free-spirited writer could have focus, and we type A personalities could introduce a little more flexibility. 

The right method for the individual writer is not a one size fits all, and Ms. Weiland openly strives to help you find yours.  From detailed outlines to a short reference page, mind maps to post-its on a wall the right way to outline is what works best for you.  When you sit down to outline, the idea is to be focused, but to avoid rigid adherence to the outline.   Ms. Weiland advocates structure, but also makes allowances for changes and organic writing to be included.  The obvious benefits of preplanning include avoiding those nasty story holes, dead ends and other unsightly things that will take away, or ruin, your story.  The end goal of outlining is to have your story, characters and plot fully thought out and planned so the actual writing is the easy part.
This book is very manageable at less than 200 pages, a fairly quick and easy read, but still thorough.  Ms. Weiland is incredibly well organized - as to be expected- with a clear, concise and straightforward writing style.  I wouldn’t call this book dry or boring by any means, but just a warning: it is not written to entertain just inform.  I loved that the chapters were outlined in the table of contents.  She gives point-by-point explanation of different tools and approaches for customization, while providing a multitude of examples, especially from her own process as a writer.  She even mentions appropriate times for “pantsing” -  like when you get stuck.  The sections interviewing other published authors - such as Becky Levine, Aggie Villanueva and John Robinson on their process really helped me rethink what can be improved in my process and ways to develop the weaker areas.  She also mentions some writing programs and internet tools that were new to me, and I look forward to utilizing them.  

I have to say this wouldn’t be a great first how-to for writing.   Having a good grasp on story construction is fairly key, and some ideas about character construction along with an actual story idea are needed before diving into the outline.  I suggest giving this book a thorough reading before trying to apply it to a particular project.

K.M. Weiland is active as both a mentor to other authors and a published author.  She is the author of Structuring Your Novel and her website Helping Writers Become Authors and blog (, which are very nice accompaniments to this bookMs. Weiland also has an instructional CD called Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.  She is a writer of speculative and historical fiction.  Among her credits are A Man Called Outlaw, and Behold the Dawn and Dreamlander.

The creation process is a very individual thing.  What worked for J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and Earnest Hemingway probably won’t work for you - especially that whole love affair with the bottle thing.  But as a writer finding the right process for you is a crucial step to becoming an author.  This process is ever evolving over the life of your career and Outlining Your Novel will help give you new ideas and refine old ones so you can have the novel of your dreams.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty ★★★★☆

A Joyful reading experience.
Fiction – Adult - Urban Fantasy
361 pages
Publication Date:  2013
The Shambling Guides #1

Zoe is sure she can find the right job in New York City as a travel book editor, but when she thinks she may have found it one thing holds her back.  The fact that she is human.  Tenacious with a hardy helping of desperate Zoe finally convinces them she is the right girl for the job, now all she has to do is convince herself. 

The Shambling Guide to New York City (The Shambling Guides, #1)This was a fun and quirky story from page one, with a clever and snarky writing style that made me laugh out loud.  Lafferty creates an interesting world with a well-constructed back story and subcultures.  The lovely eccentric characters added texture and various view points, from John the incubus who is slightly obsessed with Zoe to Arthur the human who can understand Zoe, but is still way more of an outsider than Zoe. 

Zoe is smart, observant and tenacious.  She is affected by the monster world, but doesn’t let it completely overwhelm her, she is also just a vulnerable human, but not impotent in a world of super powers and monsters which is a very nice balance.  I loved the excerpt sections in between the chapters and the foreshadowing in them.  One thing wasn’t my favorite.  There is one very racy scene and I have to say if the whole book was like that I would have been really unhappy, but fortunately it was only a brief part sandwiched in between deliciously scrumptious other ones.

This book is a jewel; yep I have been reduced to a gushing fangirl over this book.  I have been thinking of giving my fangirl side a name since she seems to have her own personality.  Maybe something like Mildred, a sassy girl with a black Daria bob, thick glasses and enough curves to warrant a drive carefully sign.  I’ll have to think on it.  But I digress back to review.  I felt in the very core of my being that this book could be delightful and it was.  Of course I tend to be a sucker for quirky.  The closet feeling I can relate my excitement to while reading this story is bubbly.  This book made me feel bubbly - not a great descriptor, I know - but that is how it made me feel, bubbly with joy at the writing, the characters and the story possibilities.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Writer Series: The Word-Loss Diet by Rayne Hall

I am not afraid to admit that I am passionately and genuinely in love with words.  I enjoy looking at them and admiring the beauty in their shape.  I say them over and over again just hear them role off my tongue like musical notes.  I relish their various shades of meaning and stringing them together in my pursuit of perfectly conveying my ideas in a way I find pleasing - which admittedly is a more-or-less proposition as to degree of success.  So understandably my writing tends toward the wordy, which brought about my interest in The Word Loss Diet by Rayne Hall. 

Ms. Rayne Hall started The Word-Loss Diet as an online class, but eventually due to its popularity she turned it into a 70-page Kindle book where is has become a bestseller.   Ms. Hall’s practical, straightforward help for the self-editing process helps writers of many different levels tighten up their writing for maximum impact.  Her suggestions tend to be easy to apply, with great step-by-step directions and clear examples. 

This book is one of the most straightforward-writing books I have read in a long time.  And the fact that it is an amazingly quick, but useful, read is great.  Ms. Hall takes a lot of the guess work out of the editing process, and I am really excited to apply some of the techniques to my current and older projects.  Of course, use only the suggestions you need.  Apply the advice of the later chapters with discretion.  For example, my current manuscript is a very introspective book, which considerably affects my writing style.  Some of the recommendations to make everything quick and pithy, I feel, would really take away from the story. 

Another thing to consider is the eBook format.  This was the first writing book I have read on my iPad, so it took some getting used to.  I ended up with a lot of paper notes for quick reference.  If you are new to this format, like me, realize you may have to make some changes to your usual routine to accommodate it.  The ending pages tended to be advertisements for her other books.  Not really necessary, but you can easily ignore it if you want.  

Ms. Hall had plenty of experience at editing both her own and others’ works.  She earned a degree in publishing management and a master’s degree in creative writing.  Her books, totally over 40, are published word wide in a variety of genres, using an assortment of pen names.  She has also spent time as an editor for various projects during her long career.  Writing Fight Scenes, and Writing Scary Scenes are her other bestselling books on writing and can be found on Kindle.

Self-editing can be a painful process.  The love, time and care you devote to a project can make it heartbreaking to acknowledge the flaws, both small and large.  But as I have gained experience writing, I learned nothing is too precious to cut if it isn’t working.  I love my words, but as a writer having a real impact and getting my story across is more important.  The Word-Loss Diet helps with a quick clean up and makes suggestions for more depth changes, leaving a leaner, meaner project behind.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Nikki Powergloves- A Hero is Born by David Estes ★★★☆☆

Nikki Powergloves- A Hero is Born (Nikki Powergloves, #1)Even heroes make mistakes.
Fiction – Juvenile – Urban Fantasy
170 pages
Ages 7-10
Publication Date:  2012 

Nikki Powergloves #1

Nine-year-old Nikki Nickerson’s boring summer turns into the adventure of a lifetime when she is given gloves of power.  With her trusty dog, Mr. Miyagi, and best friend Spencer, she has to figure out to become a superhero in order to stop her very own villain, Jimmy.

This is the kind of adventure all kids dream about (okay probably not all kids, but they should).  Mr. Estes breezy writing sets the stage for fun escapes with Nikki from page one.  Nikki is imaginative, teachable, and could be a real nine-year-old kid.  She makes mistakes while getting a handle on her powers which leads to consequences that affect others, but she does take responsibility for them and tries to fix them.  I see this as the big difference between her and the villain Jimmy.  Life lesson for everyone to learn no matter their age.  Though Mr. Estes doesn’t leave Jimmy as a flat character; he provides the reader some understanding of how Jimmy came to be.  Mr. Estes also shows that even our best intentions can be misconstrued by others.

I loved the chapter titles and think Mr. Miyagi is the best dog’s name ever!  I really like Spencer – everyone needs a best friend that fits them – and everything he added to Nikki’s journey.  Also, this book is completely age appropriate – something as a mother I cherish.