Bookish Recap (November)

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November was wild. Not only was I doing NaNoWriMo but work became very hectic. On top of that, the school year is winding down which means a bit of a heavier work load. Needless to say I didn’t read much. Well, I did read, I just didn’t finish anything. Part of that is because I “lost” a book for a week, and found it in the backseat of my car…underneath a folder…that I use for writing. That’s the nice thing about e-books. Unless you lose your computer or your e-reader, you literally can’t lose a book. But I digress!

I did review two books in one post (No Plot, No Problem and On Writing), although I didn’t read them this month. Maybe I cheated a little there. But if you missed it, feel free to check it out! I encourage anyone who’s interested in writing to check out these books.

I “won” NaNoWriMo and really do think it was my best year yet. There’s a couple of things I’ll keep in mind for the future (such as doing all posts in advanced and queuing them for the month), but overall getting together with other writers and having that support really was fantastic. Usually I sit out the write-ins, but this year I went to quite a few and loved it.

As for December, I’m trying to finish out some of the books I started as well as participate in #readthemargin. Poetess Amanda Lovelace (author of the poetry collection “The Princess Saves Herself in This One”) has put this reading challenge together. The idea is that participants read books by marginalized authors (to quote Amanda: “marginalized people are those who have been pushed to the margins and forgotten because they do not meet the status quo. this includes groups like women, the queer community, people of color, disabled people, Muslim and Jewish people, etc.”).

I’ve been wanting to diversify my bookshelf for quite some time, and I think this is not only a fantastic way to end the year, but also start off the new one as well.

Either way, expect a lot of book reviews this month!

Book Review: On Writing, and No Plot? No Problem!

Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m reviewing two books in one go. There are certain books that are more difficult to give a longer review to. I find that books on writing are among these.  On Writing by Stephen King is one of my favorite non-fiction books, and it just doesn’t seem right to not review No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, during November. So while these reviews are shorter, the books are still wonderful writing resources and lovely reads!

On Writing

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Author: Stephen King

Genre: Memoir, reference

Summary: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Opinion: While I don’t agree with everything in this book, Stephen King is a brilliant teacher. I really do love this book and will gladly give it five stars.

The first part of the book is mostly dedicated to King’s writing journey, how he started writing and how he got to where he is today. This is filled with humor and interesting life and writing advice. The second half is more focused on exactly what it takes to be a writer. For example, you must be a reader. You must have an interest in writing in the first place. King goes on to set up the writer’s tool-box. Here he covers everything from tricky grammar rules to how to make the most out of descriptions while staying true to your voice. All the while King makes the book feel personal. His humor shines through and there’s plenty of parts in it that challenge you not only as a writer, but as a person. True, this book is a memoir, but it’s also a guide to the writing life and a friendly pat on the shoulder. If you’re interested in writing or a fan of Stephen King, I strongly recommend this book.

 

No Plot? No Problem!

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Author: Chris Baty

Genre: Non-fiction, reference

Summary: You’ve always wanted to write, but . . . just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

My Opinion: YOU DO NOT NEED TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 DAYS TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THIS BOOK. Ok there, now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue shall we?

The latter part of the book is for if you’re going to go through with the “write a novel in 30 days” challenge. For some people that’s just not their thing, and the advice changes more into encouragement in this section. If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before (as I have), most of the stuff in the later section of the book will be familiar to you. Also Baty’s writing style was a little off for me at times. But that’s just personal preference. Because of that I rated this book four stars.

This book is funny. It’s got silly ideas, funny metaphors, and yet somehow it all comes together to make sense and give some practical writing advice. Some of this advice I wouldn’t have thought of on my own but it makes a great deal of sense. It’s writing advice that you can use for planning out a novel you’ll write over the course of a year or for your history paper due in 3 days. It was those nuggets of advice that really endeared the book to me. It also gave tips on how to keep yourself organized as a writer, how gather ideas, and how to make your dialogue and character interactions sound genuine. This book lacked depth, but it made up for that with a plethora of encouragement and good ideas to get you started on your own writing journey. Even if you know NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing, I think this is still a good book to read simply because of the good ideas. Even the sheets in the back, typically used for NaNoWriMo, can be made useful. This book isn’t about writing yours in 30 days as much as it is about giving yourself a strict timeline, giving yourself motivation to stick to that timeline, and then giving yourself rewards for meeting your goals. It’s a fun and quick read that’s quite handy.

10 Books You Shouldn’t Read if You Hate NaNoWriMo

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Aaah yes. It is finally November. Personally this is one of my favorite months, not only because I get to spend time with family during Thanksgiving, but because of NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November people from around the world try to crank out 50k words during the month of November. The first Harry Potter book is a bit longer than that (at 70k)  to give you a size comparison. Another thing that makes NaNoWriMo so cool is that it’s a non-profit organization that helps promote literacy world wide. To be a part of that is a pretty cool thing!

Throughout this month I’ll be doing weekly posts on writing and NaNoWriMo in general. Fret not, the usual book reviews will still be around (posted on Fridays).

There is one damper on this excitement though. Every year without fail, there’s a group of very vocal people insisting NaNoWriMo is horrid, no one should try it, and no, they’ve never tried it themselves they are proud to say. Why would they? After all, they want to write real stories.  Not only are their posts just plain wrong and lacking in facts, the authors of the posts, knowingly or not, are insulting those who dare to try it.  Usually these insults are covered up with a quick complement, but it goes right back to the insulting soon enough. I’ve even seen a post where someone said it made them sad and dissapointed to see how many authors wasted their time each year trying to draft a novel in one month.

I understand that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I’ve met quite a few people who have tried it and it just didn’t work for them. I’ve met others who have heard of it but know that trying something like that just isn’t for them. That’s fine and completely understandable. But these people gave it a go, or looked into the idea of it, and while they realize a month of writing frenzy isn’t for them, they still manage to respect those who do it (or try to).

Despite all the awesome people out there, both participating and encouraging from the sidelines, sometimes it’s hard to ignore the nay-sayers. That’s why it’s always inspiring to look at the list of authors who published their NaNoNovels.

Here’s 10 popular books that started off as NaNoWriMo novels:

To see the list of every author that’s published their NaNoNovel check it out on the NaNoWriMo site. Warning, the list is long. The list I drew from was the traditionally published list. But there’s also a list of self-published authors, many of which wound up winning awards for their NaNoNovels. If you have time and are looking for a new read, I recommend checking out both lists and seeing what you find.