Previous to 500 Ways to Write HarderI'd never read anything by Chuck Wendig, and I still may never. But if you're looking to kick start your writing hPrevious to 500 Ways to Write HarderI'd never read anything by Chuck Wendig, and I still may never. But if you're looking to kick start your writing habits, Wendig has the weirdest, most energetic, and, well, most kick butt ways of telling you to write...harder. Yes, harder.
It's a fun, foul mouthed list of 500 thoughts, insights and ideas to help the budding writer. Wendig divides the 500 bite size thoughts into lists of 25, dealing with character, ideas, stories, publishing, agents, critics, editing, and more. Truth to tell, I didn't really read this straight through. Rather, I have it on my mobile phone and iPad, and I would pull it out between...stuff. Outside the elevator, waiting in line, and on the porcelain throne. I'd read a couple of Wendig's "ways to write harder" and recharge my motivation to write, be awesome, and to create. I'll keep it on there, too, because writing doesn't seem to get easier, just better, with practice.
The 500 ways all seem to have one thing in common: write, write, and write more. Reading a book about writing is not writing. Writing is writing.
Which is why this review is shorter than as is typical for me. I'm going to go write.
PS. When I say "foul mouthed," I really do mean it. Wendig likes to cuss. ...more
Spoiler alert: the trick to writing productivity is writing all the time. And you have a lot more time than you think. I promise.
I picked thSpoiler alert: the trick to writing productivity is writing all the time. And you have a lot more time than you think. I promise.
I picked this gem of a book up at Salt Lake Comic Con after a panel that included the author was asked a question along the lines of how they avoid writer's block. Without missing a beat, one of the panelists (Larry Correia, I think) said there's no such thing as writer's block, and each of the panelists agreed. Now, I've never had a problem with writer's block, per se, but there have been times when I've questioned my own ability to accomplish much writing.
Sure, I can bust out a 140 character long tweet without two brain cells, and I can click 'like' on about 19,000 Facebook posts of LOL Catz and cute little babies without losing a single calorie. But writing something substantive? A blog post? Finishing the fourteenth short story that I've begun this summer? Rounding out the outline of that space opera novel I've been working on since my first child was born (alright, it's not the same novel anymore, but the point remains)?
Then it's a bit more difficult.
Back to Salt Lake Comic Con and the author's panel. The panel was a list of fairly illustrious--if also fairly local--authors, including the not unproductive Brandon Sanderson, Larry Correia, Dave Farland/Wolverton, and the currently being reviewed book's author, Kevin J. Anderson. Somewhere in that discussion about writer's block (which was not the panel topic, by the way), Anderson noted that a lot of times it was a productivity problem, not a lack of material to write about, and if you keep working, you manage to blow through the block. Coming from a guy who has busted out 125 novels--a number of which a bestsellers--and doesn't look like he's been parked on the couch consuming potato chips for the last five years, I was interested.
(Did you see the subtle way he plugged his book there? Yeah, me neither.)
So, naturally, I bought it as soon as the panel was over and I could make my way through the crowds over to Anderson's Wordfyre booth.
I read it that night. The book is short because, let's be honest: you should spend more time writing than reading about how to spend more time writing.
I won't give away the million dollar secrets here, because that's how Anderson's going to make his million dollars, but the $10 I dropped on the book was worth it, even if just to inspire me to change my habits and behavior to write more.
And I have: the last half week has been substantially more productive and useful than in a long while. Productivity is a fantastic thing; it builds on itself and creates more productivity and more success. That's worth way more than $10. ...more
Finding an interesting, new author is a fantastic experience, like discovering a new favorite restaurant or traveling to a place you’ve never been befFinding an interesting, new author is a fantastic experience, like discovering a new favorite restaurant or traveling to a place you’ve never been before. It is full of exploration, of discovery, and the refreshing feel of something new and fresh.
Imagine, then, what it’s like to find one book with 12 interesting new authors, all at once. It’s exactly what you get with Writers of the Future Volume 29. As a collection of the fiction, it’s a cornucopia of clever tales and excellent writing, and you won’t even need to buy 12 different books to enjoy each author.
Perhaps only slightly hyperbolically, the cover says that the stories “show us who we are, what we may become, and how far we can go.” Indeed, the stories may be more imaginative than predictive, but it does nothing to diminish their ability to convey the reader away from the ordinary and to lands and worlds unbounded by time or physics. And, eschewing the cliches even as it embraces them, the stories prove that science fiction and its close cousin fantasy are just as much about people and relationships as spaceships and magic.
The Writers of the Future contest is unique among collections of short stories. Where others focus on a topic, share a single author, or even share the same imaginary world, the commonality between tales in Writers of the Future Volume 29 is in their selection by a panel of judges comprised of the who’s who of science fiction and fantasy authors and headed by Dave Wolverton. Authors submit their work to the panel and their submissions are reviewed blind.
In other words, the only commonality is the genre and the high level of writing. Only the best selections win, and it shows. Each tale is carefully crafted, from “cut to the chase” openings that thrust the reader right in the middle of the action, to heart breaking conclusions that both satisfy and leave you wanting more. In addition to the tales, the contest features art from the parallel contest for art, as well as essays on writing by L.Ron Hubbard, Dave Wolverton, and others.
One of my favorite s was “Planetary Scouts” by Stephen Sottong. In the far future, he writes, technology has taken humanity to the stars, but only to confront the harsh reality that many of the planets we might colonize are already occupied, often by forms of life not welcoming to our exploration.
Another exciting tale by Brian Trent is “Hero,” a fast paced story about a young man who must face his nemesis not once, but twice, in a revolution that sweeps the peaks of Mars.
“Dreameater” by Andrea Stewart is a clever and horrifying story about a girl coming to grip with the terrible legacy that may become her future.
And there are more. Writers of the Future Volume 29 is replete with great writing and good stories. If you want a bead on tomorrows great writers, this is the place to start reading.
Review first published as "Book Review: ‘Writers of the Future Volume 29′ edited by Dave Wolverton" on Blogcritics.org....more
It's a rare day that I'm willing to give a full five out of five stars to a book. It's rarer still that I'll give the five stars, and then put it backIt's a rare day that I'm willing to give a full five out of five stars to a book. It's rarer still that I'll give the five stars, and then put it back on my bed-stand for continual reference in my future reading.
It's just that kind of a book, and every bibliophile should read it. In "How to Read Literature like a Professor," Thomas Foster has given us a delightful little romp through literature, producing a guide to the themes, symbolism, ironies, allusions, and plots that reoccur through-out almost all of the fiction we read. Whether it's Charles Dickens or Charles Schulz or even Tom Clancy, Foster's collection of essays are each a fun and enjoyable guide to what you've been reading, and what you will read, when you pick up a work of fiction.
For example: in chapter 10, "It's more than just rain or snow," we read that "weather is never just weather. It's never just rain." Rather, Foster says, instead of providing just a setting, a backdrop to the story, weather in fiction is rooted in our fears and hopes. In addition to appearing as a feature character in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic biblical tale of the great flood, it makes notable and significant sightings in mythologies from all over the world, often, if not always, appearing and appealing to our fear of drowning. "Rain," Foster says, "prompts ancestral memories of the most profound sort. So water in great volume speaks to us at a very basic level of being.
So rain--and floods--signifies drowning? Kind of, but it doesn't stop there. Citing D.H. Lawrence's "The Virgin and the Gypsy" (1930), which I've not read yet, Foster sees it as a "big eraser that destroys but also allows a brand-new start."
Kind of like baptism? Yeah. If you're part of that Christian tradition, this is what baptism is: death of the old, imperfect, and flawed man, and rebirth of a new man. And such is the role that this element--rain and floods--plays in literature. Well, most of the time. Fog can represent a lack of clarity, sunshine hope and clarity. In short, weather is rarely just setting.
That's rain and weather. Each chapter is a written with a quick and light wit that allows a reader, whatever his level of experience with literature, to follow along, see the theme, enjoy the examples, and find a taste for the point. Other chapter titles include the following:
• "When in Doubt, It's from Shakespeare..." • "…Or the Bible" • "It's All Political" • "Marked for Greatness" • "Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion" and, of course, • "Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampire." (Stephanie Meyer ought to pick that one up to understand why people who love literature hate Twilight).
Weighing in at just under three hundred pages, "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" doesn't require deep commitment, deep concentration, or deep literature reading. My brain-candy of choice usually falls in the science-fiction or fantasy categories, and yet, I've started to find the themes and allusions and ironies that I saw in classics like "Howards End" and "Bleak House" appearing there, too. Whatever you read, it applies the symbolism that Foster walks through. As a result, my experience, whatever I'm reading, has been more enjoyable since I started it. It's that moment of sudden realization when the whole theme of Steven Erikson "Book of the Fallen" subplot (and there are a lot of them) is an allusion, or imitation, to Spartacus (I think). Or that the journey (all journeys are quests) across the water is a journey of transformation, where the fallen man chooses to start a new life, emerging from the water, as it were, reborn.
It's fun. A lot of fun. Even just reading the book itself is fun. To boot, at the end Foster provides a list of all the books he refers to throughout his essays to allow you, the reader, to pick them up and read further. And what could be more fun about reading than delving into great fiction?
Pick it up, start reading, and enhance your general reading experience. If you're going to read fiction, and you should, you might as well get the most out of it. ...more