Friday, November 18, 2016

#FridayReads Author In Progress

It was quite a delight to win one of the ARCs for Author In Progress by Therese Walsh, Editor & the Writer Unboxed Community. If you are not familiar with the Writer Unboxed Blog, you might want to hop over there, when you are finished here, and spend some time reading the wonderful posts. I found that community a number of years ago when one of my writing friends had written a guest post there. While I was at the site,  I read a few of the other posts, and immediately subscribed to the blog. Every day there is a new bit of writing advice and wisdom and inspiration, and the writers who share so freely on the blog have contributed to the book.

The book is organized in such a way as to take a writer from the very beginning of a journey of words through to the end. Part One is Prepare, with an opening essay by Barbara O'Neal, Why We Write. She says, "Story is why writers exist, and story is why you are driven to the page. In a world so overwhelmed with everyday trivialities, we need writers more than ever to sift substance from the noise, to make sense of a chaotic world."

That certainly is why I first started writing, and in many ways why I continue. Whenever I have to process the things that are happening in the world and how they affect my life, I  have always done that by putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

Part Two is Write, with practical advice on elements of craft from creating characters, establishing setting, and a great piece from Jo Eberhardt on empowering ourselves by owning the badge "writer."

The rest of the book is divided into the following sections:
  • Part Three- Invite
  • Part Four - Improve
  • Part Five - Rewrite
  • Part Six - Persevere
  • Part Seven- Release
As I read the book I marked so many passages I wanted to quote that I soon realized I could compile a whole new book of quotes. There is not room here on a blog to include them all. However, there were a few that particularly resonated with me.

In several places throughout the book is a section called Community Conversations, where the online Writer Unboxed community weighs in on a topic. Readers are able to connect with that community online using a password provided in the book, and I thought that was a terrific idea. The comments left at the blog are often full of little nuggets of wisdom, and the Community Conversations offer such nuggets. Commenting about "voice" Robin LaFevers shares, "Your unique story becomes your novel's secret ingredient. Voice embodies an author's core emotional truths and personal wisdom. Take time to learn your core truths."

And, in a Conversation about why we write, Robin shares, "The act of creating changes us and makes us stronger, draws us closer to wholeness."

What a nice way of voicing that something deep inside all of us who write that we often find so hard to describe. It is indeed why we keep writing despite all the downsides of this wacky business.

The design and layout of the book make it easy to read a few pages while taking a break from writing, or while waiting in a doctor's office for an appointment. There are Pro Tips, short quotable tips that pertain to the topic of the current article, as well as Caution Signs by Bill  Ferris.

There is actually a little caution sign graphic with a short bit of advice under the headline How to Get in Your Own Way. This one followed the essay about research and how much is too much. "Research is like author time travel. You pause writing for just a sec while you look up the average weight of an American black bear. Suddenly it's an hour later and you're reading the Wikipedia page on PT Barnum."

Oh my gosh. How many times have you done that?

There are so many more things to love about this book, and I will keep it handy, right next to Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life  by Anne Lamott, to pick up and re-read sections until the pages almost wear thin. I found the articles on craft so helpful, and was inspired throughout by the encouraging tone of each essay. Even a beginning writer will feel welcomed into a community of supportive professionals who treat newcomers as kindly as old friends.

Ever since I started reading the Writer Unboxed Blog, I wondered exactly what it means to be Unboxed. The simple answer might be that we can be a writer who  stretches the bounds of genre and stretches the bounds of expectations. However, I found this explanation by agent, Donald Maassa more complete answer: "Readers aren't moved by what has moved them before, only by how you can move them in new ways now. They want familiar ideas put together in fresh ways. They want to feel like they're in on the joke even though they haven't heard the joke before. That high-wire balance is possible when it is a balance you hold within yourself. To be unboxed is to dwell in an in-between place and be happy there."

I think, "happy" is the key. If we are happy with what we are doing, that will show in our stories.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Therese Walsh is the co-founder and Editorial Director of Writer Unboxed. Her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was nominated for a RITA award for Best First Book, and was a TARGET Breakout Book. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named one of the Best Books of the year by Library Journal, and received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal.

One of the contributors to the blog and to  Author in Progress is Kathryn Craft, a former contributor here at The Blood-Red Pencil and the author of The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. 

Author in Progress is published by Writers' Digest and is available in paperback and Kindle versions.
Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

7 comments :

  1. I love the title, the way sections are organized, and of course the quotes. I wish I'd had this book when I wrote my first novel; however, I can have it now. I will definitely be buying it. Great review, Maryann!

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    1. Glad you liked the review, Linda. I think the book is just as helpful to a seasoned writer as a beginner. It reinforces things we already know, gives some new insights on craft, and offers lots of inspiration along the way.

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  2. It sounds like an excellent book - and a great website, too. I'll hop over and take a look.

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    1. I think you will enjoy the book and the website, Elle. I have learned so much from being connected for several years. Oops, that sounds sorta gangster like. LOL

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  3. I have a friend who goes to their conferences and speaks highly of the group. I'll check it out. Great post, Maryann.

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    1. Thanks, Polly. I've never been to one of the conferences, but hear good things about them. Writer Unboxed has a staff of highly professional writers, editors and agents.

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    2. In fact, she writes about it today. https://vrbarkowski.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/november-in-a-nutshell/#comment-9375

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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