[Archive] Review: Three Nonfiction Titles

Wired For Story The Plot Whisperer Story Architecture
The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Structure to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing
Lisa Cron Martha Alderson Larry Brooks
July 10, 2012 October 15, 2011 February 24, 2011
Writer’s Digest Books Adams Media Ten Speed Press

I spend a lot of time looking for more tips about writing. In fact, out of the books I’ve read each week this year, three of them were just that.

Of course, not everything you read is worthwhile. The three books I bought caught my eye because of their descriptions on Amazon, and I looked through the reviews to see if they were actually as good as they were played up to be. It turned out that just about every book on the subject that I could find got really good reviews, but I couldn’t just spend all my time and money on every single one. I had to go with my gut.

What follows is a quick look at each of the books I read, and how I feel about them. A mini-review, if you will, but an honest one, based on my overall experience with writing materials. I’ve already reviewed one book on writing here in the course of all my other book reviews, but I decided to make this sort of a separate realm.

So, without further ado, let’s see what I’ve got.

If you like to have cold, hard evidence, this might be the book for you. It poses the question: what’s really happening in a reader’s mind when he or she is really fascinated with a book? And, more importantly, how can you recreate the same thing? There’s a lot about what details you should or shouldn’t have in a scene, as well as how much the reader–and characters–should know at any given time. It hones in on a lot of specific, important aspects of building a story, but leaves holes in any subject that doesn’t fit its agenda. At the same time, it sometimes touches on things that, so far, I haven’t seen anywhere else.
This book has kind of an emotional side to it. When I started blogging about the ups and downs of my productivity, I did that partly because of this book. You’ll see some really useful plotline trackers and other useful features that really help you bring your story from a simple idea to something that you know well from beginning to end. At the same time, it will tell you that your journey as a writer has to play out as a story, and that you should go through all the stages. In fact, when it introduces character sheets, it asks you to make one for yourself! A lot of the language used in it may seem oddly mystical in nature (to the point where I often couldn’t take the book seriously), but if you can get past that appearance, there’s some great information in here. The basic plot outline from this book is the one I’ve adopted myself.
Unlike the other two books, which had very specific missions, Story Engineering attempts to cover every aspect of writing fiction, and to show the relationships between them. It really gets you thinking when you realize what these major categories are, and apply them to the other information you find. In other words, it helps you keep track of what you know about writing and put it in perspective. You might find that your own strengths and weaknesses become more clear. It spends several chapters explaining each of its subjects, but it’s really just a starting point–you may find that you want to find a book or two that focuses on one of these topics more in-depth. But at least you’ll understand what it is you’re really reading about.

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