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Book Reports-Ben Chewey ( Zilos Chronicles)


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Ben Chewey Reaction to Algonkian Novel Writing Program Readings

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something?
 
The Art of Fiction
helped me as a writer by introducing me to the concept of aesthetic interest. Since the start of my writing career I was aware of the importance of a story having a cast and setting that stands out. John Gardner made it clear why it's important for every aspect of one's story to be organic, or at least as organic as possible from something that does not actually exist.
 
2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel?
 
What I can apply to my Zilos novel is to make sure that everything feels genuine.
 
The second lesson I learned was the importance of a story's theme coming across organically and not beating a reader's head in with the themes. I realize that I must make sure that my story's themes are present, but not overbearing. Gardner emphasizes the importance of choices in subject, plot, character, setting and theme and that it all must come together with care and revision. This is another major lesson for me.
 
3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? No
If so, what are they?

I did not notice many major deviations from what John Gardner had to say compared to what I learned in the Algonkian program, but did see a few minor differences in aspects of subjects such as the flow of writing and style.

 

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something?

The book by Donald Maass helped me as a writer because this novel was written by a literary agent and thus was able to give me a clearer idea on what to focus on to succeed in getting published. Writing the Breakout Novel did help me see clearly that any story's marketability depends on how one can sell a story's idea to readers' gut appeal and have them relate to the story's theme with something that is personal to them.

2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel?

One major thing that Donald Maass brought to light to me was the importance of how the matter of development can make or break a story so that it stands apart from others. I strive to insure my Zilos novel has enough to stand out, but I know it's inevitable that some parts of the story have ideas that would could be viewed as elements from already published works.

Donald Maass showed me that it's important to have the development stand out from other stories, and while I tried that from the start I am determined to apply making sure the development unfolds in a way that will make my Zilos novel unique enough to be exceptional.

A second lesson I learned from reading Writing the Breakout Novel is the "Psychology of Place". I have been aware of how important a novel's setting is for a while. Learning about the Psychology of Place gave me an even deeper understanding of how a story's environment is vital for shaping a reader's mood. I think I can apply this to my writing in the sense that I make sure each location sets the mood precisely for the reader.

The third lesson I learned from his book is the importance of high tension over low tension or "Slack tension". I tried to make sure everything in Zilos has purpose, but it can be tricky figuring out how to flesh out the cast and world of a story without dragging things out. Going over how he emphasized how every page should have tension caused me to reexamine my novel to see if I can maximize how much tension is on each page to increase the chances the story can be a breakout.

3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? No. If so, what are they?

There seemed to be a few small contrasts to the things Donald Maass recommended to do to pitch a story over what I have seen in the Algonkian novel writing program. I believe that this is based on when the book came out this was primarily due to the different state of the internet at the time.

 

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something?

The Writing Life did give me a few new ideas for my writing, but it was a bit tricky since Annie Dillard seemed to write this more like a memoir. Nevertheless, it showed me how veteran writers pull off releasing successful books and the mindset it takes to achieve it.

2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel?

One lesson I learned from The Writing Life is the importance of keeping a coherent vision of what one's projected work of art will be. I have had a very clear vision of Rise of the Crimson Ravens since I started the first page. But of course, things change to match the situation. Seeing how Annie Dillard clung to her vision despite the "hoops" she had to jump through to get published gives me ideas on how to hold on to my vision despite what changes I might have to make to my book to get it published.

Another lesson I learned from The Writing Life is the importance of a writer being shaped by literature. I have been aware for some time of how important it is for a writer to be aware of the world he or she is trying to break into. But seeing Annie Dillard's struggles showed just how important it is to be in synch with who you are trying to reach out to.

That is why I want to insure I am properly shaped by the market I am trying to break into to guarantee that my Rise of the Crimson Ravens story is targeting the proper audience.

3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? No. If so, what are they?

Due to The Writing Life being more of a memoir than a proper instruction book, the advice does not match. Even so, her personal processes do align with the lessons on the site in areas such as building character.

 

Write Away by Elizabeth George

1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something?

Write Away helped me as a writer by giving me deeper understandings of concepts I had previous knowledge of such as the hero's journey. Elizabeth did well to give examples that clearly showed her points.

2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel?

A lesson I learned from Write Away is the full nature of the Hero's Journey. While I have been aware of Joseph Campbell's contribution to writing for a long time, Elizabeth George's analysis gave me a new understanding of it and how it merges with the Seven-Step story line. From this I learned how to apply it to my story, and make sure that the main lead of my book, Zach Zilos' hero's journey unfolds in the proper order.

Another lesson I learned from Write Away is the value of turning places into settings. As much as I desire my story to have unique locations, Elizabeth George showed me the importance of not just thinking up unique settings, but making sure they feel real no matter the type of story. That's why I'm going to insure that as many settings as possible have some resemblance to a real world location in some way. Her book makes it clear that a lot of research is involved in evoking the correct setting.

Elizabeth George made me realize how important it is to have total discipline and to work on the crafting of plot, characters and setting. She emphasized that besides discipline and craft that it is important to have passion. That is another important lesson for me. I also feel that I was meant to write.

3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? No

If so, what are they?

After looking Write Away over, the most noticeable deviation between the lessons in the Algonkian program and the lessons from Elizabeth George revolve around the Six Act Story Structure. Elisabeth seemed to prioritize actions over ruminations and other story contemplations as part of the structure.

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