Recurring Book Recommendations

Authors are interviewed on podcasts all the time, and nearly every episode includes at least one book recommendation.

Once in awhile, I hear the same recommendation over and over.

Here are three recurring recommendations from The Creative Penn podcast.

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Memoir Writing—Avoiding Self-Indulgence

I like writing in first person, real life, working through the hard times to overcome fear and obstacles, and reach that final goal.

I also enjoy reading this kind of thing–sometimes. And sometimes I find this kind of writing more self-indulgent than satisfying.

In an episode of the Creative Penn podcast, Tim Graham succinctly outlines the difference.

I’m loving this podcast for all sorts of reasons. Check it out.

It’s day two of the Florida Writers Conference in Orlando and I have pages of notes and insights from this amazing community of writers.

In the spirit of sharing the wealth, here are four new websites I’ve learned about and can’t wait to explore:

Yasiv: Enter a book title and discover a network of related books based on different variables (genre, topic, etc). Helpful for identifying comps and readership circles.

Twin Word: Enter your keywords and find the other related keywords, including their ranking so you can select the most powerful relevant keywords for your content.

Temi: Advanced speech recognition software.

Kindlepreneur: In-depth info on marketing Kindle books

Website recommendations from FWA conference

FeaturedMy Gardening Blog: Yarden Love

My Gardening Blog: Yarden Love

I’m converting my yard into a garden, one square-ish foot at a time. The goal: a yard full of edible perennials, Florida native plants, and hardy fruits and veggies that take minimal care from me.

I’m writing about it at YardenLove.com. If you find digging in the dirt relaxing and edible plants exciting, follow along on the blog or on Facebook .

I recently had the honor of working with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital on a story about a remarkable patient. His rare genetic mutation inspired one of the JHACH doctors to launch an international investigation into potential treatment options and their outcomes.

You can find the full story here.

(Photo from JHACH)

Writing Role Models: Lots of Characters and Backstory in Chapter 1

In the first ten pages of a novel, characters need to become whole, rich people that we care about. We need hooks to keep us reading, questions that need answers, and enough plot to let us know we’re in for a good ride. It’s tough to fit it all in, and seeing it done well helps me identify what to include, and more importantly, what to cut.

I just started reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Chapter 1 introduces numerous characters, with just enough backstory and questions that I’m hooked. An excellent example of introducing lots of people quickly without info-dumping.

and-then-there-were-none

Another first chapter that I’ve read many times is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. This book earns accolades for plot, for character, for twist, but what I love most about it is Chapter 1. Flynn delivers an immense amount of backstory without making it feel like an info dump. I’m amazed at how much story she stuffed into just a handful of pages.

gone-girl-book-cover

Tell me your favorite first chapters. What do you love about them?

Writing Role Models – Studying Specific Passages

To improve your writing, read more. That’s the advice I hear. But I think the advice should be a bit more specific, like this:

Read more passages that accomplish exactly what you are trying to accomplish in the passage you’re working on.

It’s not pithy, but I think it’s more accurate. Maybe a cleaner version is:

Read for the sake of modeling.

When I read, I read to learn. Or escape. But when I read for the sake of bettering my writing, reading becomes a form of study. And if I’m studying, I need to choose my textbooks carefully.

I am going to catalog the passages I study from. When I stumble on excellent passages that accomplish specific things that I have struggled with, I will add them here under Writing Role Models. If you can add recommendations, please do!