Category Archives: A Writer’s Life

A quote about love

“Part of the beauty of love was that you didn’t need to explain it to anyone else. You could refuse to explain. With love, apparently you didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain anything at all.”

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

hold

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The Romance of the Typewriter

I cannot pass by one without pausing to admire it. If it’s within reach, I cannot resist touching it. I trace the retro curves and mechanical angles before finally letting my fingers settle reverently on the keys. Glass and lacquer, enamel and chrome, Bakelite and celluloid – the keys are the most irresistible part of […]

via The Romance of the Typewriter – A Writer’s Ode — Live to Write – Write to Live

10 Rules of Writing

A random stroll through the library or bookstore can turn my whole day around. I love the randomness of the books that catch my eye, and trying to figure out why that title or that book cover drew me in.

10rulesElmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing recently caught my eye at the library because 1) we’re a list-loving society and 2) I’m a writer always trying to improve my craft.

The book is small, filled with few words and many illustrations, and can be read completely in 10 minutes. The advice is solid and witty. You may want to take another 10 minutes to read it again.

#3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. 

#4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”… 

These are ones I’ve heard many times but a reminder is always nice.

#9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things   —  I can’t agree more. There are certain authors I love but at the same time, I despise their lengthy paragraphs of description. Get to the point or I’m going to skip a few pages and then be frustrated when I realize later on that I missed an actual plot point!

Which leads us to the tenth rule of writing that can not be argued with…

#10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Obvious, right? But what are those parts and how do we, as writers, know when we’re boring our readers? Check out the book during your next local library stroll to get Leonard’s take on this.

 

Interesting Fact: This book was originally published in the New York Times in July 2001 as “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation  Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”.

A Writing Style Comparison: Tobias Wolff and Dean Koontz

After reading Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, I wanted my next read to be lighthearted and plot based. So, I picked up an old Dean Koontz novel, By the Light of the Moon. The two books could not be more different. Of course genre plays a big part, but the difference in writing styles is striking.

Koontz’s writing style is heavy in description and his plot moves forward minute by minute. Wolff puts the bare bones on paper, jumping right to the action and cutting all unnecessary description, plot, characterization, ect. I don’t think This Boy’s Life contains a single wordy sentence. Koontz, on the other hand, loves lengthy metaphors and diving deep into characters’ thoughts, even during heated action scenes.

Koontz and Wolff are two of my favorite writers but their styles could not be more different. Reading their books back-to-back really opened my eyes to those differences. Let me show you some specific examples.

Opening Lines

Here are a few sentences that begin chapters in Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and Koontz’s By the Light of the Moon.

Wolff

  • The sheriff came to the house one night and told the Bolgers that Chuck was about to be charged with statutory rape.
  • My father took off for Las Vegas with his girlfriend the day after I arrived in California.
  • When I was alone in the house I went through everyone’s private things.

Koontz

  • Shortly before being knocked unconscious and bound to a chair, before being injected with an unknown substance against his will, and before discovering that the world was deeply mysterious in ways he’d never before imagined, Dylan O’Conner left his motel room and walked across the highway to a brightly lighted fast-food franchise to buy cheeseburgers, French fries, pocket pies with apple filling, and a vanilla milkshake.
  • These were extraordinary times, peopled by ranting maniacs in love with violence and with a violent god, infested with apologists for wickedness, who blamed victims for their suffering and excused murderers in the name of justice.

What difference do you notice? Length? Who is more action-oriented? Who is more introspective?

 time-pass-by

Time

By the Light of the Moon: 140 pages into the novel less than three hours have passed in the plot with very little background/flashbacks. A high-speed car chase (not really a chase but a mission) that lasts approximately 10 minutes in real time, stretches 15 pages in the book. At times, I forget the chase was even happening because the side tangents and in-depth character thoughts were so dense.

This Boy’s Life: the plot skips large chunks of time, covering approximately eight years in total. In the following sentence Wolff captures the entire time frame of 7th grade (aka puberty): “I kept outgrowing my shoes, two pairs in the seventh grade alone.” Of course Wolff does go into normal-speed scenes in his memoir, but they are strongly action-based with little filler.

Which writing style do you enjoy more?

Does one style draw you in more than the other? Why do you think that is? I personally enjoy both. Certain months I relish the bare bones of Wolff, Carver, and the like. Other months I crave the second-by-second, in-the-mind-of-the-character stories of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and others.

Comment with two writers who are very different, yet you love them both. 

Book to Movie Adaptations

Below are a few book-to-movie adaptations I’ve recently read and/or watched.

into the wildInto The Wild – I have not read the book but the movie blew me away. The main character chose a way of life that many of us only dream about.

2002 Yann Martel Life of PiLife of Pi LOVED the book! Disappointed by the movie.

imagesHunger Games Trilogy I love both the books and the movies. I think the film adaptions have done a great job at capturing the world of Panem and the cast is exceptional! I recently reread the Hunger Games series in preparation for the release of the final movie adaptation. **SPOILER**  The only part I didn’t like about the movie adaptation was the prologue at the very end. The characters seemed much too happy. The ending of the book holds much more wonder and darkness.

Kite_runnerThe Kite Runner I fell in love with The Kite Runner novel this year. The characters spoke to me; their actions infuriated and inspired me. Its a novel that will stay with me for a long time. I have been avoiding the movie adaptation because I hold the novel so high, there is no way the movie will meet my expectations. (Or am I being too pessimistic?) If you’ve seen the movie and read the book, please comment with what you thought.

great gatsbyThe Great Gatsby – As one of My Favorite Books of All Time I made sure to see the 2013 movie adaptation in theaters. I thought it was a great adaptation with an excellent cast and superb staging/scenery.

Wayward-PinesPines I watched the ABC TV series, Wayward Pines, this summer and LOVED it! It was one of my favorite TV shows of the year and I’m glad to hear they are coming out with a second season, even though they created the first assuming it would be the one and only.  After watching the show, I read the Blake Crouch novel it was based on and was sourly disappointed. The novel was poorly written and contained large sections that I found irrelevant to the story. See my full review here.

6 Authors That Keep Calling Me Back

Sometimes when I read a great book, it feels like the end. I’m thankful for the story, I enjoyed the story, but the experience feels complete and doesn’t keep calling me back. Other times, when I finish a story, I only want more, more, more! When this happens, I pick up another book by the same author and hope they can feed my longing.

Here are 6 authors that are currently calling me back to read more of their work: dry cover1) Augusten Burroughs – After a coworker recommended Burroughs, I asked, “Which of his books do you recommend?” She replied, “All of them.” Thats when I knew it was a recommendation I should listen to. So I purchased Dry at my next visit to the bookstore. It was exceptional.

Photo taken from BarnesandNobles.com2) Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book was exceptional! One of my favorite books of 2014! I didn’t enjoy American Gods as much but still looking to spend more time in Gaiman’s imagination. devil in the white city3) Erik Larson – I read The Devil in the White City this summer and loved the fictional feel of his nonfiction writing. I love learning new things while I read and Larson certainly educates his reader!

tobias wolff4) Tobias Wolff – I’ve enjoyed every short story I’ve read of Wolff’s and have had his memoir, This Boy’s Life, waiting on my bookshelf for too long.

where-im-calling-from

5) Raymond Carver – Another of my favorite short story authors. I’ll never get enough of his minimalist writing style and I know I can learn so much from his stories.

Photo taken from DeanKoontz.com

6) Dean Koontz – I’ve heard some hype about his new book, Ashley Bell, coming out in December and am excited to pick it up! After reading Koontz’s The City, I believe he will continue pushing himself out of the comfort zone, creating new and exciting works instead of punching out generic, familiar novels like so many best-selling genre writers do.

Great First Paragraph(s)

Here are two EXCEPTIONAL novel intros that immediately hooked me. Please let me know what you think in the comments. What are your favorite first chapters? 

The Martian by Andy Weir

The_Martian_2014Chapter 1

Log Entry: Sol 6

I’m pretty much fucked.

That’s my considered opinion.

Fucked.

Six days in to what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned in to a nightmare.

I don’t even know who’ll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.

For the record…I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can’t blame them. Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.”

And it’ll be right, probably. Cause I’ll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did.

This intro does so many great things:

Bold use of “fuck” in the first sentence. A sure way to gain the attention of your reader.

It quickly explains the situation. Our main character is alone on Mars after some kind of accident.

It sets the mood. Dangerous. Life-threatening. Unhopeful.

It develops character. An astronaut. A survivor.

It sets the tone of casual, journal entry format. Fragment sentences and the use of “cause” instead of “because.”

Its develops setting. On Mars, obviously. And the Wikipedia reference sets us in recent time.

If this genre in any way interests you, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to pick up this book!

 

The Zoo by James Patterson

Book 1, Chapter 1zoo

I woke up shaking.

I panicked at first, thinking I was having a stroke or something. Then I opened my eyes, relieved, as I remembered it wasn’t me that was shaking, it was my apartment.

Outside the wall of dusty, industrial-style windows beside my bed came what sounded like a regiment of giants rhythmically striking concrete with their rifle butts in a parade drill. But it wasn’t the jolly green marines. I knew it was the elevated number 1 Broadway local, rattling to shake the dead back to life next to my  new fifth floor Harlem loft apartment. Hadn’t gotten use to that train yet.

I winced, covered my head with my pillow. Useless. Only in New York did one have to actually pay for the privilege of sleeping beside an overpass.

But I was so broke I couldn’t even afford to complain. I sat up. I couldn’t even really afford to sleep. I couldn’t even afford to think about money. I’d spent it all and then some; my credit was in the sewer. By that point, I was in  tunnel-vision mode, focusing my entire life on one desperate need: to figure things out before it was too late.

(False) shock to hook the reader. The world is shaking!

Character- building. A broke New Yorker with something to prove.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up? Whatever it is, it will tell us a lot about your current life situation. The same is true for fictional characters, and Patterson gives us that before we even know our character’s name.

Sets the tone. An honest first-person narrator open to telling us his struggles.

Develops setting. A dingy New York apartment next to the train tracks.

 

Life of Pi Quotes

This entire novel is a good quote but here are a few I picked out that specifically pleased me. Enjoy! 

2002 Yann Martel Life of Pi“I wish I could convey the perfection of a seal slipping into water or a spider monkey swinging from point to point or a lion merely turning its head. But language founders in such seas. Better to picture it in your head if you want to feel it.”

“When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.”

“…Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.”

“Ten thousand trumpets and twenty thousand drums could not have made as much noise as that bolt of lightning; it was positively deafening.”

“I cannot think of a better way to spread the faith [than leaving sacred writings like the Bible where weary travelers might rest their heads]. No thundering from a pulpit, no condemnation from bad churches, no peer pressure, just a book of scripture quietly waiting to say hello, as gentle and powerful as a little girl’s kiss on your cheek.”

“It was as unbelievable as the moon catching fire.”

“At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.”

arunrajagopal.com

Beautiful photo taken from arunrajagopal.com.

“There were many seas. The sea roared like a tiger. The sea whispered in your ear like a friend telling you secrets. The sea clinked like small change in a pocket. The sea thundered like avalanches. The sea hissed like sandpaper working on wood. The sea sounded like someone vomiting. The sea was dead silent.” 

“Life on a lifeboat isn’t much of a life. It is like an end game in chess, a game with few pieces. The elements couldn’t be more simple, nor the stakes higher.”

“If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.” -from the Author’s Note

Book Nerds, prepare to laugh at the simple truth!

Extremely Accurate Charts for Book Nerds

Presented by EpicReads! These are just my favorites, click on the link above for more! 

EpicReads_BookNerdCharts_0  EpicReads_BookNerdCharts_05 EpicReads_BookNerdCharts_06 EpicReads_BookNerdCharts_08 EpicReads_BookNerdCharts_09

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The Outstanding Similes and Metaphors of David Rhodes

Like all great metaphors, all of the following quotes are amplified by the context they are found in. That is why I encourage you to read Driftless by David Rhodes, a novel that rings true with every word.

driftless

The darkness of the room surrounded him like an ocean. 

Like primeval cathedral bells his mother’s voice called…

Your must guard your words like a dragon guarding her cave.

The sun reflected from the clouds in avenues of colored ideas.

He saw his beliefs, things he could not know for certain but still held true, as clearly as pictures drawn on paper.

The color of the [cougar] impressed him…this kind of bright black. It drew all other colors to it, like water to a drain. The animal possessed a darkness even beyond black, with two glowing eyes as yellow as stars.

As the morning rinsed stars out of the night sky…

Gail, in her red coat, and surrounded by a sea of flowers, looked like a cardinal in a spring apple tree. 

Black cougar

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