Nov 17

Books for NaNoWriMo

If you’re beginning to think you may need some help to whip your work in progress into shape, these books for NaNoWriMo have you covered.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I’ll receive a small commission if you happen to purchase one of the books I mention — at no extra cost to you. 

Books for NaNoWriMo

Bashing out words is one thing, but structuring your story is quite another. And while the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to just write your words without thinking about next steps, we’re halfway through November. And that means that NaNoWriMo is almost over, and you’re well on your way to being at a point where you have to actually do something with those words you pulled out of your skull cavity.

But have no fear! I’ve got your back.

If you’re in the market for some quick and dirty writing education, I’ve got a list of books that will help. And sure, you can probably find all the information contained in these tomes online, but isn’t it nice to have good information all in one place, and vetted by capable editors?

(Small disclaimer: I think writing books are double-edged swords. I’ve spent a lot of time just buying them, thinking I needed them to make me a writer. But I realized I was just metaphorically asking for permission, or knocking on a door that wasn’t really a door to begin with. So, keep that in mind with this post. Do you need them to write? Absolutely not. Does it hurt to read about the craft of writing? Never.)

Anyway, here are my recommendations for books for NaNoWriMo!

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Craft Books for NaNoWriMo (to structure your writing)

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham
Do you feel like your novel is at a level 10 all the time? Like it’s just go go go go and never a moment for your characters to process what’s going on? Then this is the book for you. The main premise is that the action occurs in the scenes, and then characters digest the action in what Bickham calls the sequel. And balancing out these things is the key to balancing out the actions and emotions in your story.

The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante
Do you wish you’d gotten one of them there advanced degrees in creative writing? That’s what this book feels like to me. Is there anything sexier than a Norton English book? It’s got academic establishment written all over it, and it’s way cheaper than any MFA program. (Unfortunately, there’s no workshop included.)

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
We all know that characters need to grow throughout the course of a story. They have to change, go through some stuff, and maybe even get a haircut. But like, how do you go about making all this happen to your characters? This is a great book for creating characters and their motives.

The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates
For me, the hardest thing about being a writer is balancing my energy with my day job and writing. And this book is great for pacing your work between the day job and creating the Next Great American Novel. And a really cool thing about this book is that it comes with assignments that you can work through to sharpen up your writing skills.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
I am the queen of creating stories that just sag in the middle, no matter how hard I try. I start strong, and end with a bang. That middle, though? Saggy. That’s why this book is great. Not only does it help you structure plot for different styles and genres of stories, but it also has a lot of plotting diagrams, which are great for visual people.

Woo Woo Books for NaNoWriMo (to keep your head in the game)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
In the middle of NaNoWriMo, it’s hard to miss the idea of Bird by Bird. I mean, you’re bashing out words every day, slowly but surely making your way to the end goal. And that’s one thing you really need when you’re working on a big writing project, because otherwise it’s so overwhelming. But, in case you forget when this month is over, pick up this book to keep you on the path of taking it day by day.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
This book singlehandedly kickstarted my journaling process. I love how Goldberg details her free-writing process — fountain pens and cheap notebooks — and I’ve definitely adopted that. If you’re looking for something that will help you embrace the mundanity of writing, look no further. For building your process and creating the routine, this is your book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Has it been long enough since this book came out for me to remind you about it? I think so. One thing I love about Elizabeth Gilbert is how she embraces the woo woo of writing. (If you haven’t seen this Ted Talk yet, then you really need to watch it.) I think this book is a great reminder to honor your ideas by consistently working on them, because if you don’t, they go.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
I’ve been having a lot of really big conversations lately about what I’m meant to do with my life, and this book is exactly the book you need for those sort of conversations. This book covers talks about where talent, work, and passion all intersect, and what that means for your life’s work. And if you’re into this book, you should definitely check out Jeff’s blog.

Making your way through #NaNoWriMo? Check out these books. Click To Tweet

So that is a handy dandy list of all the writing books for NaNoWriMo you need to keep your motivation, and to make your story functional.

Let me know in the comments what books for NaNoWriMo you recommend!

Sep 17

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper

As a writer, I always have a ton of worldbuilding questions.

Note: I received a free copy of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding in exchange for an honest review.

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper

How do I lay out the map of the city so that it makes sense? How do I explain the currency the characters are using? How should the society I’m creating store knowledge? What does this society do in the event of a birth or death? How does science work in this world?

What are your biggest worldbuilding questions? Click To Tweet

Sure, for the most part, the fiction I’ve written in the past has been fairly mainstream. And that tends to be what I read and write most often. But I’ve got some science fiction ideas, y’all. And these ideas come with a whole mess of worldbuilding questions.

Luckily for me, Rebekah Loper is here with some help.

I met Rebekah at Mini-Con, and got to really know her this past spring when I went to my first writer’s retreat. She’s a dedicated fiction writer and blogger, and homegirl even owns chickens.

At the retreat, I not only got to hear her read some of her fiction out loud, but I got to talk to Rebekah about her nonfiction book she was working on at the time. So, when she finally finished The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, I jumped at the chance to review it.

What is The A-Zs of Worldbuilding?

This book is your one-stop shop for answering all the worldbuilding questions a writer has while trying to create a fictional world. Sure, it’s easy to say that you’re going to write some science fiction or fantasy work of staggering genius, but the truth is, you’ve got to do the legwork.

This book allows writers to do that legwork easily. With a topic for every letter of the alphabet, the workbook pages within the book allow the writer to answer specific questions about the story world. Everything from architecture to clothing to language to time to religion is covered.

Hell, this book enables writers to answer worldbuilding questions they aren’t even thinking of asking.

Why should writers care about these worldbuilding questions?

For me, as a reader, I have to feel grounded in the story, or I stop reading. And when the writer hasn’t taken the time or effort to answer those questions, it’s HELLA OBVIOUS to the reader. And it pulls the reader out of the story.

Honestly, fantasy and science fiction stories take a lot more effort than many other types of fiction, just because you have to create everything from scratch. And The A-Zs of Worldbuilding allows writers to carefully and thoughtfully build those worlds for the betterment of their stories. Not only does answering these questions create a richer story world, but it also creates more realistic characters with more intricate plot complications. Basically, it turns your story up to 11.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say that J.R.R. Tolkien had never written The Hobbit, or given us the “Concerning Hobbits” passage in the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring. Would any reader logically be able to follow the story?

Or, for a more recent example, let’s look at Game of Thrones. Georg R.R. Martin sets it up so that we understand that winter 1.) is  hella long and dangerous and only comes around every so often, and 2.) is coming. But if we didn’t get that tiny tidbit of information, would we even care about the army heading south to ruin Westeros? No. We’d just be confused because we know that winter is roughly three months, and how bad can it be?

That’s why you have to answer these worldbuilding questions. That’s why writers need to take the time and think about the world they’re creating. That’s why this book is so damn useful!

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, you can take a look here at what formats Rebekah has made available to you. And bonus! If you sign up for her email list before September 30 (this Saturday for those of you sans calendar), you can get a 25% discount on the paperback.

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How do you go about worldbuilding? What are your biggest worldbuilding questions?

Psssst! Hey. I like your hair. You have a cute butt. Wanna sign up for my email list?

Sep 17

Reading Lately: September 2017

Today I’m linking up with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy fame to talk about what I’ve been reading lately.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I’ll receive a small commission if you happen to purchase one of the books I mention — at no extra cost to you. 

Reading Lately: September 2017

Original photo by Kari Shea

Admittedly, my reading has slowed down considerably since the summer. Do any other teachers out there feel personally victimized by the school year? Like, yeah. I want to shape the young minds of America, but I also need to escape into two epic fantasies, one romance, and some post-WWII fiction each week to stay sane.

The things I give up for those students…

Anyway, on with what I’ve been reading lately.

Reading Lately: September 2017 Click To Tweet

Reading Lately

Girl Walks into a Book: What the Bröntes Taught Me Life, Love, and Women’s Work by Miranda K. Pennington
Admittedly, I started this one during the summer, but didn’t finish it until fairly recently. That isn’t because it wasn’t good or that I didn’t like it. In fact, I loved everything about it. However, after the breakup, I’d been kind of in a weird place mentally, and the level of introspection in this book made me think too damn much about my own life for the state of mind I was in. However, once I finally got my head on straight and was able to finish it, I loved it. My good friend and Lit Gang leader, Mike, sent me a copy. Pennington writes about her lifelong love of Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brönte, and how it shaped her as a person. She’s so frank and honest about life and love and the complications of relationships, and how the Bröntes LITERALLY TAUGHT US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THAT OMG WHY HAVEN’T I PAID MORE ATTENTION.

One side effect of reading this book is that you begin to wonder about what book it is that has completely shaped who you are as a person, and what book is always there for your when you need a guiding light. I’m not ashamed to say that mine is The Hobbit.


Reading Lately

Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
Early I did a full review and talked about how writer’s can use Reading People to shape characters and conflict. As a member of the launch team for this book, I was really excited to get a copy. And if you’re the type of person who wants to know more about personality types in layman’s terms, I can’t recommend this book enough.


Reading Lately

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
The structure of this book was interesting, in that the author did something that I would generally think of as inadvisable, but it virtually made the story. Halfway through the book, I thought to myself, “You know, I know the town people better than I know the main character.” But the book kind of relies on you HATING the town’s people to an immense degree, so this had to be done. Also, the protagonist’s backstory is revealed at a really frustrating pace, but when you finally get everything about her back story, the ending pay off is perfect. More books should end by burning the patriarchy to the ground.


Reading Lately

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
The novel starts with two sisters burying their parents in the backyard of their house in Glasgow. And if that shakes you a bit, just know that by the end of the book, you’ll wish the girls would’ve buried their parents a lot sooner. Marnie is a teenager dealing with love, drugs, and all the big things that kids in an urban environment often deal with. Nelly, her little sister, has developed all manner of personality quirks to deal with their terrible life situation so she can escape it as much as possible. I fell in love with these two girls, and their neighbor, Lennie, who steps in to help the girls in anyway he can. If it sounds sappy, it ain’t. This book is a black comedy through and through, and I loved every last minute of it.

Additionally, I’m currently making my through It by Stephen King (and I anticipate finishing this thousand-page monstrosity sometime in 2067) and Code Red: Know Your Flow, Unlock Your Super Powers and Create a Bloody Amazing Life. Period. by Lisa Lister. (Check out Marie’s review of that one!)

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What about you? What are you reading?

Aug 17

Reading People by Anne Bogel: A Personality Handbook for Fiction Writers

I was selected as a member of the launch team for Reading People by Anne Bogel, and I was really excited to dive in. I received a free advanced copy of the book in exchange for some social media buzz and bloggy love.

Reading People by Anne Bogel is a great book for writers who want to learn about different personalities they can give their characters.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been into personality typing, and the book is basically a survey course in the subject. I’d read little things about personality types, but I never cared. In fact, in high school we had to take a personality test to determine what sort of major we should pick in college. (I think it was a cheap knock-off of the Myers-Briggs test.) The result I got was writer or teacher, which was no surprise to me then. Basically, I’m so introverted and spend so much time digging around inside my head that I always know what I want.

(I do get fairly irritated when people say they don’t know what they want, though. LIKE HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?! YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF. SIT DOWN AND FIGURE IT OUT.)

Anyway. Here I am now, working as a writer and a teacher. Thanks, cut-rate MBTI test from high school!

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So all of this probably sounds like I’m the worst possible person to review Reading People.


Here’s the deal. As a writer, I’m enamored with different personalities. I create characters that get to play off one another, and I have to understand how different personalities can clash. (I’ve even thought about what kind of character I’d like to be in fiction!)

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Sure, you could create a story with some tired archetypes — “I wonder how this uptight librarian might converse with a swashbuckling pirate?” While I’ve never read that particular story before, I’d really want those characters to be more than just two stereotypes. Instead, you could look to the different personality types and the tests used for quantifying them to get the most out of your characters and conflict.

And that is why I’m wholeheartedly endorsing Reading People by Anne Bogel as a writer’s field guide for creating new and different characters.

What makes Reading People different?

I took a personality psychology class in grad school, and to say it was arduous was an understatement. But I really enjoyed making my way through Reading People. Why? Well here’s the thing about Anne Bogel’s writing: It’s like watching your favorite PBS show. (If PBS were to create a show about drinking warm beverages and talking about books, I’d recommend Anne to host. PBS hasn’t contacted me to discuss this, but I thought I’d throw this out there.)

Anne is always informative AND friendly. She doesn’t talk down to you in her book or on her blog, ModernMrsDarcy.com. In fact, her style is basically like meeting with a friend for coffee and just chatting.

And the kicker here for all you bookish fiends — my homegirl doesn’t just explain the personality types using basic descriptions. She tells you which of your favorite characters fit into what types! It’s the best because not only do you start to really see what the different personality frameworks mean, but since you’ve already been in that character’s head (if you’ve read the book), you get that insight into the personality type she’s describing!

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Why do fiction writers need Reading People?

For me, one of the biggest things I struggle with is making my characters fully-formed humans. Sure, my protagonist is fleshed out to the max, so much so that sometimes I see them on the street when I’m walking to work. But my others characters?

Not so much.

Reading People by @AnneBogel is a good resource for creating characters! #ReadingPeopleBook Click To Tweet

Stories need characters, and those characters have to experience conflicts. And what better way to figure out how to get two characters to butt heads than by figuring out which personality types butt heads?

So in order to figure out how my protagonist would interact with others, it’s great to have access to all those personality frameworks in an enjoyable-to-read book. Also, you’d be hard-pressed to find another book that covers introversion vs. extroversion, highly sensitive people, the Five Love Languages, Keirsey’s Temperaments, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Clifton StrengthsFinder, and the Enneagram. This book is functionally a complete survey of the topic.

For example, I’ve been working on a scene in a novel where there is a lot of tension between a two characters who obviously like each other, but struggle expressing that to the other person in a way that they other person responds to. I made one of the characters a words of affirmation love language, and the other one is a physical touch love language.

(Clearly my characters need to read this book too so we can get over the tension and just get on with the story!)

And while this isn’t something I state in the actual text, it’s there in the planning and plotting phases to help me craft the story.

How can you get your hands on Reading People by Anne Bogel?

Reading People doesn’t come out until September 19 so you should pre-order now. If you pre-order, you get the audiobook free — read by Anne — and the online “What’s Your Reading Personality?” class.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

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So, tell me. What’s your favorite personality typing framework? What two personality types would you like to see in conflict in fiction? Did you also have to take the poor man’s MBTI test in high school?