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BOOK REPORTS - Heather L. Benton (Bali and the Secret of You)

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The Art of Fiction

1. How did it help me as a writer? Throw away details that are not necessary. Even as a writer who dislikes excessively long books, it's easy at times when writing our own stuff to have fun "playing" with details in the story that might bore others.

2. Two or three major lessons I learned from it? Writing is like any other art form, break the old, traditional rules if you can do it in a way that makes the art more beautiful. And the idea of not overexplaining what a character is thinking. THAT is something that's very easy to do when writing in the third person, and it's a good reminder to show, not tell, even in third person POV.

3. Anything not aligned with this program? Maybe the aforementioned breaking the rules idea - because I really feel breaking the rule in this program of "third person being best" is not 100 percent true in my opinion. Not only because I feel like my own writing comes to life more in the first person, but I also enjoy READING first person more most of the time. But I digress - I'd add that with the plethora of books out there now on writing, a more contemporary one would probably be more useful to the modern writer. I disliked some of the snobby attitude in parts of it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

1. How did it help me as a writer? (I love this book!) It helped as an overall reminder of things I read in various versions throughout the first couple years I was writing but expanded on it in many ways, and was nice to read an agent's perspective. This was a more comprehensive and easier to approach book on the basics, too.

2. Lessons I learned? Keep going one more level. If you think you have an okay concept, how can you make it better? And after that? How can you raise the stakes further? And make it more original? Basically, taking ANYTHING in a novel (a character, the conflict, the setting) all of it, and pushing one step further. And then even further, to make it better. I love this idea. And also, "if you must go out on a moral limb, anchor your readers in a sympathetic character." This is not something I cannot remember reading in any other book on writing, and yet it's SO helpful for someone who writes fiction on the slightly darker side. Not just with the novel I used in this program, but in other novels, I've dabbled in topics some readers might consider touchy moral ground. I learned a lot from this one. Too many ideas to list.

3. It seemed very aligned with this program. Probably the most of the four books.

Write Away

1. How did it help me as a writer? Discussing what keeps a writer in their seat, and not feeling guilty about something taking a long time (as a writer coming off a sort of hiatus for the past year). I need both of those concepts right now. To not feel alone in the idea that I can take time away, and also a reminder of what will keep me seated and writing, now that I'm back at it.

2. Lessons learned? That I really do prefer breaking literary fiction rules to write grittier fiction with more voice. And that your setting isn't just about it feeling like you're really there, but that it should also cause a mood, an emotional response.

3. Nothing I can think of seemed drastically out of line with the program.

The Writing Life

1. How did it help me as a writer? This may sound off, but honestly, it helped me see how melodramatic we can sometimes be as writers. Everything must be a struggle! The drama! (Yes, I'm being a bit sarcastic about writers, myself FULLY included in that.) When I read this book and thought of how difficult some people have it in the world (and to be honest how crappy some of the stuff I deal with in my day job is) it made the "writer" side of me feel a bit humbled about the moments when I do this "oh the struggle is so hard" kind of stuff. It helped me realize that it's pretty silly to have such a beautiful hobby that, sure, I'd LOVE to turn into a full-time career, but even if I don't, how many people in the world create full books? The author's attitude made me realize that I don't want to have that long-suffering artist perspective so much.

2. Lessons it taught me? Many of the same basic ideas as in the other books, such as sympathetic characters being important. In addition, that there are, in fact, people who actually are writers who make a living as authors in the world - those elusive, mythical creatures. And that I'm correct to hate the idea of small airplanes (nothing to do with writing, but I felt further justified in my fear of them after reading this).

3. It seems a bit in conflict with this program in the snobbish taste in literature. We are trying to "write to market" here, correct? Otherwise, nothing major.

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"King of Pantsers"?


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