Where I got the book: purchased at the National Portrait Gallery (London) exhibition.
It’s not often I buy an exhibition-related book, but a) this wasWhere I got the book: purchased at the National Portrait Gallery (London) exhibition.
It’s not often I buy an exhibition-related book, but a) this was Sargent and b) the price (£10) was very fair for this high-quality book, with print colors close to the originals on heavy gloss stock. This was an exhibition of portraits with a personal connection to their painter, John Singer Sargent, who in my opinion is still matchless when it comes to his very large, well worked-on portraits. Being able to get up close enough to them to see the sheer intensity of the faces made every moment of that exhibition a joy, and I found myself appreciating Sargent’s more Impressionistic works to a greater extent than I had before. Also, I got a great overview of Sargent’s connections with artists, writers and musicians in several countries, which is something I find completely fascinating.
This book is the next best thing to attending the exhibition itself (but oh, seeing some of the more famous pictures—particularly Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth—at their full size is something I’ll never forget). Each work of art is shown singly on the recto page, with an expanded version of the information and description available at the exhibition on the verso. In addition there’s a nicely written introduction at the front (with extra pictures) and a useful Sargent chronology at the back. Altogether this is a super little book for the Sargent lover. A large coffee-table-size book, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, was also available, but it would have put my suitcase over the weight limit (don’t ask me about the TORTURE of walking around the gorgeous central London Waterstones and not being able to buy any books). Anyway, this one’s a whole lot easier to hold and gaze at, and I love it....more
Where I got the book: a gift from the author. Katharine Grubb is my critique partner and I worked on this book, so you can take this review with howevWhere I got the book: a gift from the author. Katharine Grubb is my critique partner and I worked on this book, so you can take this review with however big a pinch of salt you like.
But I’m unashamedly five-starring it, because this thing is USEFUL, people. I’ve read a lot of writing books over the last few months, trying to improve my own processes, and this book, possibly in combination with Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing, is going to remain by my side as I go into the rewrites of my WIP.
Why is it good? It’s organized, that’s why. It’s aimed at people who feel like they have a novel in them but also feel that a) they don’t know enough about novel-writing to do a good job and b) they just don’t have the time to do this. They are totally me in 2008, when I had this story that had been writing itself in my head for 14 years but seriously never thought I’d get round to writing it.
The secondary audience would be people who’ve maybe written part of a novel, or perhaps even produced a first draft, but don’t feel like they’re doing a very good job of it. That would be me in 2009 when I began pantsing the 14-year-old story. I kind of got one-third in and realized I was going way too fast for where I needed to be at the end of the novel, so I produced a very sketchy sort of timeline (I didn’t know about outlining) and wrote on. Then I revised the timeline and wrote some more, until I got to the end. That one’s still awaiting revision on my computer since I realized I wrote well but had no clue how to produce a decent novel. This is the book I needed at that point, instead of just kind of randomly floundering around until I started finding the information I needed.
Grubb breaks down the process of planning and writing a novel into ALL the steps, beginning with getting yourself organized so that you have more time to write. Having started her own novel-writing career while homeschooling five young kids, learning to be organized was key for her. She tends to write for readers with similar issues of household and child management, so those whose issues are different might feel a bit left out. Although, of course, it’s always good to have a plan to keep our houses clean and eat well while we’re writing, whatever our personal circumstances. I didn’t have the homeschooling but I pretty much went through the same journey of trying to fit writing into my life once I gave in to the urge to novelize, and one of the things we have in common is our love of breaking stuff down into manageable chunks and making LISTS.
After getting organized comes becoming a writer (in the sense of actually writing stuff), then learning the craft of novel-writing, then learning the business of becoming a working writer. There’s some brief discussion on getting feedback, joining communities and so on, and a quick overview of moving toward publication, but as Grubb says at some point, these aren’t matters you should be worrying about while you’re writing your first novel. The point, really, is to learn enough to actually be able to produce a decent novel—its onward journey is going to vary wildly in accordance with every writer’s level of talent, personality, networking ability and level of perseverance.
Each section has exercises you can do ten minutes at a time, by setting a timer and just going for it until the timer beeps. I don’t use that technique much myself any more except at times when I have to crack the whip over my own back to get something done, but you know, it’s a big help to give yourself permission to do ONE THING AND NOTHING ELSE for ten minutes. It’s also a chunk of time small enough that you can either persuade your family members to leave you alone for just ten minutes, or slip it in while they’re watching TV, or take ten minutes of your work lunch, or get up ten minutes earlier—whatever you need.
There are examples, but not too many, and drawn from novels that most people will at least know a bit about even if they haven’t read them. I find that helpful—I’ve been known to complain about craft books that yak on about a hit from 1990 that may have been a great book but has since disappeared from view. It’s much handier to reference the popular novels, even if they aren’t the greatest critical successes.
And of course it’s well written and very nicely edited. I’m not talking about my own contribution here, you understand, but about Grubb and her team at Hodder & Stoughton. Different box styles and symbols are used to help you flick quickly back through the book. It’s indexed, has a nice bibliography and a handy list of writers’ associations with their website URLs.
At my stage there’s a lot in here that I don’t need, but I’m keeping Write A Novel In Ten Minutes A Day on my desk as a reference to dip into, particularly as regards the chapters on character-building and narrative voice, two areas where I always beat myself up for not putting in enough work.
My final remark is that this book is published as part of the Teach Yourself series, and has thus been rendered into British spelling. Ha. I’d tease Grubb mercilessly about this if I were meaner. But I also wanted to say that as a child I loved the Teach Yourself books. I’d look for secondhand copies, buy them and try to teach myself Russian or whatever—usually languages or something potentially dangerous, like chemistry. I never succeeded because I didn’t have sufficient self-mastery at that age, but just seeing a Teach Yourself book brings back fond memories of a nerdy little girl who found life outside school intensely boring, lived inside her own head most of the time, and dreamed of doing something spectacular with her life....more
Where I got the book: bought used on Amazon. A real-life book club read.
When she was 18, a terrible accident killed Rachel’s friend Jimmy and ripped hWhere I got the book: bought used on Amazon. A real-life book club read.
When she was 18, a terrible accident killed Rachel’s friend Jimmy and ripped her life apart. Since then things have gone from bad to worse and her life is one of failed dreams and personal grief. Or possibly not. After a head trauma, Rachel awakes to a very different version of the last five years . . . .
This was a cute story, but it pans out at about a 3.4 stars for me because the writing just wasn’t to my taste. If it weren’t for some sexual references, this is one I could have easily passed on to my youngest daughter when she was 11 or so, which gives you an idea of what I mean. It reminded me of the days when literary agents kept telling writers to dumb themselves down to about an 8th grade level because that was what readers wanted. Well, this reader wants more.
And that, really, is all I’ve got against the novel. I suspect, knowing my book club, that everyone else will love it, and you may too. Oh well, let’s hope that I win the draw next time so I can land everyone with a book nobody else will finish because it’s too long or boring or difficult. Hmmmm, what to choose…...more