Yesterday I covered the fiction I read in March so here’s the non-fiction. This month I was prepping for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo so my non-fiction reading was mostly about writing or mythology. I’ve included a re-read list at the bottom since there was a bit of that this month.The links in this post are Amazon referral links so if you make a purchase through them I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Write to Market by Chris Fox
Some people get very upset about the idea of writing to market i.e. analysing successful books in a particular niche and then writing a novel that emulates them. As someone who will blaze through any series that ticks my boxes, I’m delighted that an author might get to know my genre tropes and deliver on the best ones. Please do!
There’s nothing in Chris’ book that says you must be formulaic or a sell out. It’s a book about writing strategically in a genre you enjoy and thereby increasing your chance of success as an indie author. He shows you how to get an understanding of what is doing well in a genre, why and how that could help you sell more books.
I love urban fantasy but the high achievers are mostly first-person series with way more sex than I care to write (including the male-led ones). But Chris isn’t saying I have to suck it up and get on with it, he’s shown me how to examine my market and now I’ll put that knowledge to use in my own way.
The 5 Day Novel by Scott King
For a lot of indie authors, a broad catalogue of books is the key to becoming a full time writer, it’s almost impossible to sustain yourself on one or two novels unless they’re real breakout successes. The more quickly you can produce quality work, the faster you can build up your back catalogue.
Scott King wrote a novel called Ameriguns in 5 days just to see if he could. It taught him that though the intensity wasn’t sustainable, he should be doing better with his regular writing schedule. He was capable of producing a lot more words and publishing more books as a result.
I wouldn’t really call this a ‘how to’ book, it’s more inspirational and I find it sort of….supportive. It makes me believe I can write enough good stuff to support the life I want to live.
Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books by Chris Fox
This is Chris Fox’s latest addition to his Write Faster, Write Smarter series which began with 5,000 Words per Hour. In this one, he covers how to teach the artificial Amazon intelligence to sell your books for you.
Since my career has included a whole lot of ecommerce data analysis and I’ve even designed (way more basic) sales AI, the concepts introduced are not new to me. Chris does a good enough job of explaining the underpinnings of his methods but it’s not a statistical analysis 101 book or anything.
The real point, and the thing he does well, is to show you how to feed the Amazon machine so that it’ll do the heavy lifting for you. I’m grateful for him pointing this stuff out since it hadn’t occurred to me despite my experience, hindsight is 20/20 of course! I will definitely be coming back to this book as I put my launch strategy together and I certainly recommend giving it a read if you’re publishing.
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
I’m starting to feel like I have read every book on story structure that has ever been written. So it’s a both gratifying and annoying to finally find the one that really meshes with how my brain wants to write.
Let me get a couple of negatives out of the way first. The writing in this book extremely combative and Brooks constantly uses fear of rejection as a motivator. I dislike that negativity. He is also not a man to use 4 words when 20 will do. I did a lot of skimming (and shouting ‘Oh FFS, get on with it’) to get to the juicy stuff, but it was absolutely worth it for me.
Common story structures are so prevalent in the media we consume that when a story doesn’t conform, we notice. Now sometimes, it’s a masterpiece and we notice brilliance, but more often it’s a poorly paced book or film that we have a hard time finishing.
Some people are able to write structurally sound stories naturally and so, to borrow one of Brooks’ metaphors, the stunning architecture of their Sydney Opera House or their Empire State Building shows up in a billion tourist photos. No one really notices the foundations and the steel girders that give it structure but without them, the only thing people will be taking pictures of is a pile of rubble.
Planning (or drafting) with a specific structure in mind from the start can save a lot of rewriting down the road. The traditional 3-act structure is one I understand, but it doesn’t make me want to write. I couldn’t get on with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat beats and making myself outline with them was a real battle even though other writers love them. I tried a bunch of others but none of them stuck. Now I have Brooks’ 4-part structure. For me it is like everything Baby Bear owns: Goldilocks approved.
Will it be Just Right for the next book? Who knows but my current outline is flying (good job since I need it done by April 1st). Will it be right for you? Only you know that, but it’s a solid option to try. Pretty much all the well-known structures follow Aristotle’s model making them pretty damn similar so it’s largely about finding the one that clicks. They’re mostly very US/Hollywood-centric though which is something to bear in mind in you’re writing from or for other world views.
Books I re-read
- The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction by C.S. Lakin
- 2k to 10k: How to Write Faster… by Rachel Aaron
- 5,000 words per hour by Chris Fox
- Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
- Write Great Fiction – Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress