On the Shelf: Short Stack

This week, I got a bit less reading done than other weeks. Part of this was due to that the writing wheels have been slowly grinding back into gear, but the majority of the reason was that I had my first drill weekend with my unit. It was a three-day extravaganza, which involved driving to Virginia Friday night for a range on Saturday. I shot a rifle for the first time in about a decade (previous qualifications had all used the M9 pistol, and while I was nervous at first, I ended up killing 35 paper targets, so in all, it was a good day.

It was also the first battle assembly wearing my new rank, and it was kind of weird (to use a very technical term. It’s Army jargon, trust me…) I fully expected to hang out in the Reserve as a Captain until I hit my mandatory retirement date or stopped having fun. But then, the Army decided they needed another Major, so here I am. There’s a whole new level of professional military education and expectations, and I’m working on trying to make sure I don’t immediately step in it.

But anyway, that’s where a lot of my focus was this week, plus working on some stuff for getting out the next publications from Crone Girls Press. And cranking the wheels back up on the Rick Keller Project.

Speaking of cranking the writing wheels, let’s get to the books, because two of them helped start the grind and generated two or three pages of bullet journal notes on how to make the series better from start to (the eventual) finish.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron

This is one of those books, similar to Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling, that purport to use the concepts behind how your brain works (and how other people’s brains work) to help you come up with a plot for a book that will keep those brains engaged. Okay, got it. First, there wasn’t a lot of neuroscience here–at least, nowhere near as much as in Storr’s book. On the other hand, the way our brains process story is a long and winding road, and I’m not completely convinced of how helpful it is as a writer to know all the little nitty gritty science behind it. Second, I think this book will be super useful to a couple of categories of writer–ones new to the journey, or new to working on a novel, or those who like to have a super detailed, incredibly finely drawn plot outline, and be as prepared as possible before starting to write. For me, getting into the amount of detail beforehand would be a death knell to my personal creative process; that said, the information in this book is incredibly useful, whether you want to incorporate it into the pre-writing process or the revising process. I certainly came away with some new insight into how to shape the series I’m working on. It’ll definitely go on my shelf, especially if I’m working with a client new to the noveling journey, or who REALLY REALLY enjoys the pre-writing process.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody

It’s a bold claim, and one that I’ll probably disregard as I enjoy reading craft books from a variety of experiences and perspectives. On the other hand, when it comes to craft books gelling with my personal creative process this book, like Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story, will get a place on my bookshelf within reach of my writing area. This book draws on the story beats from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, in case that title sounded familiar, but lays them out in the context of novel development. The beat sheet with fifteen story beats arranged in three acts might sound too structured and stifling. And yet, this is the process that I have found that is the right mix of laying out what I’m going for when it comes to characters, theme, plot and subplot, and of writing forward while remaining open to discovery writing. Knowing the information about my story that this book invites you to explore both keeps me focused and at the same time gives me the freedom to play. As someone whose goal is to indie publish several series of urban fantasy, which require me to plan, write, and deliver at the rate of about a series a year, this is the structure that sets me up to do that. Of course, your mileage may vary. But I encourage you to check it out and see if it works for you.

Haunted Nights edited by Lisa Morton & Ellen Datlow

The other day, I had reached the end of my rope. Super frustrated, exhausted, stressed, claustrophobic, kids had been fighting all day… my spouse walked in and I was like, hey babe, gotta go! I went to get some yarn for some projects I said I would do, and then, I decided to just kind of drive around. Suddenly, I was at Barnes & Noble. Oh no… Guess I had to go in! I picked up a bunch of books, because why wouldn’t I, even with unread books back in the trailer. One of them was this anthology of horror stories all set on/centering around Halloween (I love Halloween so much!!) I started reading, and found a book of stories that spanned the sublimely terrifying to the straight up scary and horrifying. It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite, so I’ll just say that if you’re a fan of short horror fiction, and looking to get into the mood for fall, pick up a copy of this anthology, and you’ll be all set.

That’s what was on my shelf this week. What have you go next on your reading pile?

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