Thursday Writing Quote ~ Damon Knight

Love and understanding are the missing ingredients in most slush pile stories. If you (the writer) don't understand your character, you can't make her believable, and if you don't care about her, the reader won't either. ~ Damon Knight

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Ben Bova

The protagonist’s inner struggle should be mirrored and amplified by an exterior conflict with an antagonist. The antagonist may be a character, nature, or the society in which the protagonist exists. – Ben Bova

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Mona Sizer

Beware of the perfect characters. Always write as if the good have weaknesses and the evil have reasons. – Mona Sizer

Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel

Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel
By Cathy Yardley
St Martin’s Press

Allow me to preface my review with my criteria regarding writing books that lay claim to a particular focus. If a book claims to tell you how to write dialog, for instance, and three chapters are about dialog and then it devolves into advice about writing in general, I’m not going to be impressed, no matter how good the in-general advice is. Like fiction, the book makes a specific promise in the title and the beginning pages. Whatever else the book does, I expect it to payoff that specific promise. In a book like Will Write for Shoes, I expect the lion’s portion of the book to be genre specific. Now that the disclaimer's done, let's see what this book offers.

Will Write for Shoes is divided into 3 sections.

I.  It’s a Chick’s World
II. Where Do I Sign Up? How to Write a Chick Lit Novel
III. Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes . . . The Crapshoot That is Selling Your Novel 
IV. Frequently Asked Questions
+ Appendixes (Mostly) Useful Information

The first section discusses what chick lit is and defines a dozen or so subgenres, some of which I’ve heard of (or even read) like Mommy Lit, Lad Lit, and Hen Lit. Then there were subgenres I’d hadn’t even imagined existed like Tart Noir, Widow Lit, and Bride Lit. I found this useful and even interesting, and if I were thinking about writing some form of chick lit, this would help me narrow both my writing and my reading focus.

Section II gets a little schizo. It talks about advanced concepts like voice and story structure but gears it toward a novice writer. For instance:
If you’ve read any other how-to writing books, or heard authors speak or joined any writing organizations, you will at some point hear about “having a distinctive voice.”

Voice is an advanced concept yet in the phrase “if you’ve read…,” the author assumes that the reader of this little tome may not have so much as cracked another writing book.

The author does try to make this section relate to chick lit and she does a pretty good job of that, but I still found a good 80% to be “general” writing advice. None of it was bad advice, but it doesn’t meet the criteria I outlined above and the advice is superficial, which it has to be given the page limitation.

The complete list of topics that are addressed in the second section are:
Free-form writing
Point of view

That’s quite a list for a mere 56 pages. Most of these topics have entire books written about them. Of course, if one assumed the reader already had the general knowledge and was only reading this for the specific knowledge of how these things applied specifically to chick lit, it might not take more than 56 pages.

Alas, that’s not the case.

Nor is it the case with the third section of how to get published.  Everything in this section can be found online and it will be more extensive and much more current. Publishing is changing rapidly, so this section of any print book can’t help but be dated, probably before it hits Amazon’s bookshelf.

The appendixes include sections Sample Query letters, sample scene outlines and synopsis, agent and publisher listings. I don’t find the samples particularly useful since, again, you can find lots of examples online. The book was published in 2005 so the listings are of course dated.

In short, this gets a thumbs down recommendation from me. I have yet to find a really good book on writing chicklit. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Anne Lamott

Plot springs from character.... I've always sort of believed that these people inside me – these characters – know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don't type. - Anne Lamott