Andrew Fitzgerald shares the fascinating history of new forms of creative experimentation of storytelling from radio through to twitter.
Andrew Fitzgerald shares the fascinating history of new forms of creative experimentation of storytelling from radio through to twitter.
You have lots of great ideas that you want to turn into a book – that’s wonderful! Now the hard work starts. Much needs to happen before an idea becomes a full-grown manuscript. The first step is to hone your writing skills, through advice from other writers and from your potential readers too. Here are some ideas on where to get that support:
On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part-memoir and part-masterclass, On Writing dispels any doubt that a wealth of knowledge and writing skills underpins Stephen King’s prolific output. He starts with a mini-autobiography, discussing his childhood, and the experiences and influences that helped him to become the author he is; this morphs into a section of advice to budding writers, drawn from questions he had been asked (and some he wished he had). The final section of the book is a raw and compelling description of his recovery from his near-fatal car accident in 1999. In serious pain and frustrated with his incapacity, it’s no exaggeration to say that the act of writing helped him to survive that difficult time.
20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias
This is a fascinating piece of literary analysis as well as a useful writer’s resource. Ronald B. Tobias shows how most powerful, engaging stories fall within 20 timeless and universal “Master Plots” – such as Quest, Adventure, Forbidden Love, and Transformation. Each chapter of this book examines one Master Plot, analysing and explaining how it works, illustrating with literary and cinematic examples, and concluding with checklists that keep writers on-track. Ronald B. Tobias also shows how to adapt and develop these themes to suit your characters, making your fiction more cohesive and convincing.
Autobiography is the ultimate “writing about what we know”, but laying bare our lives and those of our circles is fraught with social and emotional risks. Here, 20 memoirists including Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Ayelet Waldman (Bad Mother), tell us why and how they do it. Many of this diverse and talented group talk about a compulsion to write, hoping that their stories will resonate with and help someone else. Others dispense advice on how to handle the (both positive and negative) reactions to their work. Part bibliography, part personal reflection and part writer’s manual, Why We Write About Ourselves is inspiring and highly readable.
Cheryl Klein is an experienced editor at Scholastic Books, and this is her comprehensive guide to crafting great middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her advice ranges from writing and editing to pitching your idea, navigating the publication process and choosing an agent. A range of writing exercises will challenge you to analyse, critique and revise your work. The Magic Words offers a nice balance between encouragement with pragmatism, and the wealth of insider tips will help you refine your masterpiece into a compelling, publishable form.
Once Upon a Slime: 45 Fun Ways to Get Writing… Fast! by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Once Upon a Slime encourages kids to have fun creating stories and playing with words. Drawing upon the skills of the hugely successful Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, this book can be enjoyed on many different levels – as an activity book, as a series of writing exercises, as Andy Griffiths’ story on how he became a writer, and also as a sneak peek at the creative processes of this mighty duo. Once Upon a Slime is simply fun to read, full of examples from Andy and Terry’s books. It speaks directly to kids and young people but is also useful for teachers and caregivers – make this your go-to guide for encouraging young people to start writing.
The rise of social media has changed the publishing landscape profoundly. It has enabled authors to engage with potential readers even before publication; it has helped authors to connect and form supportive communities; and it has created new pathways to publication, either by self-publishing, or by attracting publishers through your profile as a blogger / social media influencer. Here are two writer- and writing-specific communities worth your attention:
Tablo (tablo.io) is a self-publishing platform that also helps writers engage with their readers – and for readers to discover new books and/or writers in their favourite genres. Writers can upload works-in-progress to seek feedback. Publishers also have a presence on Tablo, and there are communities offering advice to aspiring writers.
Wattpad (wattpad.com) is a reading app with social networking features that helps writers interact with readers and promote their work. Wattpad has become a huge repository of user-generated stories, some of which have been adapted into successful TV series and movies. Wattpad also hosts writing contests and has helped secure book deals for their most popular contributors.
Most of us booklovers have probably dreamt of writing our own masterpieces someday. That dream may be more achievable than you think – the internet has given us more opportunities to get our work noticed, both in terms of helping us connect with potential mentors, buddies and audiences, and also in terms of self-publishing (physical books, eBooks and online). Here’s some inspiration, information and motivation to finally get started on “that book you have in you”.
Did you know that this acclaimed novel of a woman’s battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was originally self-published? After receiving no interest from traditional publishers and literary agents, Lisa Genova chose to self-publish, then set about engaging with potential readers through social media. Her persistence was rewarded with internet buzz and solid sales, and eventually led to an offer from a major publisher. E.L. James’ 50 Shades trilogy is another famous and successful example of a book that was self-published before gaining attention from traditional publishers.
This is the manual for Living the Dream – how to support yourself as a full-time writer. Joanna Penn is an author, speaker, marketer and publisher who has developed a growing business – and a six-figure income – out of her creative output. In How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she uses her own experience to show how to make money from books, and also how to capitalise on your creativity in other ways, such as by blogging, public speaking, coaching and content marketing. Also checkout her website, The Creative Penn for a wealth of (free) tips and resources for aspiring writers.
Chuck Wendig has built a successful writing career by embracing new formats and media – his works include a blog, eBooks, computer games, scripts, comics as well as novels. He also writes great writing advice – his tone is sharp and in-your-face and aims to challenge and provoke. The Kick-Ass Writer starts from the beginning – how to get started, how to build characters and dialogue and develop suspense – and onto how to deal with publishers and agents, and how to promote, connect and market yourself. It also discusses crowd funding, self-publishing writer’s block and how to handle rejection. A great resource for helping you become the Kick-Ass Writer you want to be.
For an insider’s take on writers and their relationships with the publishing industry, you cannot go past Gail Godwin’s memoir. Gail Godwin has been a writer for five decades, with over 20 published works. Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir reflects on Gail as a writer: her hunger to be published, her craft, and what it means to be a modern author (there is a great anecdote about branding and self-promotion). It also reflects on the changing nature of the publishing industry, from a more “gentlemanly”, literary enterprise to big business. Gail Godwin offers fascinating insights to anyone curious about the book industry.
Developing great blogs and vlogs (eg YouTube channels) are an increasingly common pathway to a book deal. Blogs/vlogs are powerful tools that can help you hone your writing skills, develop/promote your brand and connect with potential readers. Many popular authors – particularly in the humour / food & wellness / lifestyle / parenting categories – first became known through their blogs. Two of my favourite bloggers/vloggers-turned-authors include:
Advanced Style started as a blog celebrating stylish, older New Yorkers, and has turned into a worldwide movement. The colourful portraits in Advanced Style urge us to be bold, take risks and dress how we like, whether we are 15 or 85. I saw the eponymous documentary a few years’ ago, and not only was there great style on-screen, many of the audience were bold and stylish too. Advanced Style is joyous and gloriously inspirational.
Amy and Julie Zhang are popular YouTubers whose Dumpling Sisters videos showcase modern takes on homestyle Chinese dishes.
The sisters – born in China, raised in New Zealand and now living in the UK – love their food because it’s a reminder of their Chinese background and their childhood, and also because it’s a great way to connect with their friends. Dishes such as oyster sauce beef and broccoli, and prawn and spinach wontons, are great whether for some quiet me-time or for fun and casual entertaining.
Despite what is frequently thought, writing a great book review is more than merely summarising the book and its characters. When I was studying, I would stare at a blank page for hours before distracting myself with sharpening pencils, tidying my room or adding colourful sticky notes to my lecture notes. What I needed was a quick, step by step guide to writing a great book review. The Booko team has decided to do just that for you. You’re welcome!
1. First, read the book. Sounds obvious, but it is important to read the book knowing you are going to review it. Sometimes that means reading it more than once. If it’s a novel, you may read it first purely to enjoy the story, and then re-read it a second time with the intention of taking notes.
2. Think about the book within the context of its genre or topic and decide for yourself how it fits. Does it build on knowledge of the area or miss things out? If it is a history book make sure the main events are covered, if any are missed decide if it was on purpose to present a new angle, or a whopping great error on the author’s part.
3. Determine the major themes of the book. This can be tricky to articulate when on a deadline (if you have left the book review to the last minute) so here’s a top tip, something we were taught is to try to sum the book up in a single word and then slowly stretch it out by adding additional describing words until you have enough to form the basis of a summary sentence.
4. Consider the authors writing style and how well the author develops major storylines or characters within the book. If the book is a work of fiction, think about how plot structure is developed in the story. Take notes on the book’s character, plot, setting, symbols, mood or tone and how they relate to the overall theme of the book.
5. Decide if you think the book is unique in any way and assess how successful you think the book is. How did the author convey the overall purpose of the book and did you feel satisfied by the book’s ending? Finally, would you consider recommending this book to others?
The easiest way to tackle a book review is to genuinely have a love of reading and writing which ideally would be fostered from a young age. Speaking of which, we have been approached to publish a book review by a certain young chap who follows this guide to a tee:
Hi I’m Niko, Booko’s creator’s son I’m 7 years old, born in 2009 Australia and I’m writing about some of my favourite books.
Firstly Harry Potter’s 3 main characters are Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley. One day they figure out they are witches and wizards so they are sent to Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. Witches and wizard’s sport is Quidditch. Quidditch is a game on broomsticks.
The reason I like this book series is because it’s scary, exciting and magical. I’d recommend this book series for 5 + year olds.
Niko’s book review features a plot summary, what he likes about the book and what age of reader it is suited to. It’s obvious that he loves reading (and writing). One of our favourite books which is a great resource in fostering a love of writing is Jennifer Hallissy’s ‘The Write Start.’
This book is a treasure trove of smart ideas. Whether your child is a pre-writer who is just starting to practice grasping a pencil or crayon, or a beginner writer who is starting to string together letters, words, and sentences, this book offers information and activities that will help your child develop a love of letters. From sand writing and chalkboard play to memory games and letter-writing kits, this book includes fifty-two inventive activities and games to engage your child in the world of letters.
We have also collated and pinned some terrific activity sheets related to writing book reviews to our our Pinterest board. Follow the link here.
The use of pen names or pseudonyms is a time-honoured tradition in writing; many famous authors, including J.K. Rowling, Dr Seuss and Stephen King from last week’s blog post, have used one. Sometimes pseudonyms are used to obscure gender (such as for J.K. Rowling); sometimes it allows established writers to experiment with different genres; sometimes they are used simply to maintain privacy. Here are some celebrated literary pseudonyms, past and present:
The true identity of Elena Ferrante, author of the Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child), is the biggest literary mystery around. We know that she really is female and Italian, but Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym and she has never made a public appearance. The mystery adds enigmatic glamour to this saga about the intense friendship and rivalry between Elena and Lila, which spans 60 years through much personal and social turmoil. The Neapolitan Novels have been widely praised for their complex and visceral depiction of female friendship and experiences.
Lemony Snicket is not just a pseudonym, but a character in the darkly funny A Series of Unfortunate Events. Author Daniel Handler writes as Lemony Snicket, a hapless writer who documents the misfortunes of the Baudelaire orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny – after their parents die in a house fire. Throughout the 13-part series, the children try to foil their evil guardian Count Olaf – who wants to steal their inheritance – while unravelling the mystery surrounding their parents’ death. The absurdist gothic grimness of these stories makes them popular with kids and adults alike, and reflect Daniel Handler’s love of Roald Dahl and Edward Gorey.
Years before 50 Shades of Grey, there was The Bride Stripped Bare. The Bride Stripped Bare was published anonymously, and purported to be a diary documenting the secret sex-life of a seemingly-contented young wife. Praised for its subversive role-reversals and uncompromising portrayal of female sexuality, it became a publishing sensation, bringing respectability and literary kudos to erotic fiction. The anonymous author was quickly outed as established-author Nikki Gemmell, who said anonymity during the writing process was liberating, enabling her to tell a much franker, more honest story.
Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, also used a pseudonym to escape her established reputation. Over a period of 30 years, she wrote six “psychological romances” under the name of Mary Westmacott. These bitter-sweet stories explored love and relationships in all of their destructive, obsessive glory. Unfinished Portrait is the story of Celia, a young writer in the midst of divorce and contemplating suicide. She meets Larraby, a successful painter, who manages to dissuade her, and discovers her life story in the process. Unfinished Portrait is semi-autobiographical and offers fascinating glimpses into the otherwise very private life of Agatha Christie.
A somewhat-forgotten classic now reissued with a great cover. Written and set in the ‘50s, They’re a Weird Mob documents the (mis)adventures of Nino Culotta, an Italian journalist recently arrived in Australia. Nino is on assignment, to learn and describe the Australian lifestyle to readers back home. Knowing only proper English (from textbooks), Nino is bewildered by Aussie slang and customs, resulting in many hilarious encounters. They’re a Weird Mob has been hugely successful, with readers loving the way it pokes affectionate fun at Australian society. It may not be politically correct by modern standards (Nino Culotta is really John O’Grady, who is Irish) but it perfectly captures the beginnings of multicultural Australia.
Journaling is said by some to be the mindfulness trend of the year (2015 belonged to colouring-in for grown-ups). It’s also widely referred to as the first place to start when you are thinking about moving forward with your writing. Journals are great places to jot down those seemingly innocuous thoughts and musings that some people choose to take a step further and get published. There are also a number of benefits associated with clearing your head and making sense of what can be an overwhelming world at times. Here are our recommendations for books to guide you on your journaling process:
Your Life as a Story by Tristane Rainer
Rainer is an expert in the autobiographical field. In this book, she shares her techniques for finding the appropriate story structure for the different events in your life. This book also touches on how to find important messages in the various events of your life and how to communicate these effectively in a narrative format.
Start where you are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel
Start Where You Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: that by taking the time to know ourselves and what those dreams are, we can appreciate the world around us and achieve our dreams. Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images, this is a beautiful keepsake for your writing.
Life-Changing Magic: A Journal – Spark Joy Every day by Marie Kondo
This is a gratitude journal from Marie Kondo, the author of the ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. Kondo encourages readers to ask what sparked joy for them each day. Instead of just feeling joy for objects, events, people and daily activities are reflected on and appreciated. Included are inspirational quotes from ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up’ and covering 3 years, this journal is perfect for those wanting to focus on appreciating each day.
365 Journal Writing Ideas by Rossi Fox
This is perfect for when you’re staring at a blank page and have no idea what to write. The focus of the book is on guided journal writing. It’s split into weeks (and days) but numbered so you can literally pick it up and start at any time. There are daily writing prompts which encourage you to get into the habit of writing. This book services as a place to remember your daily activities, appreciate where you are and gain a sense of purpose with regards to achieving your goals. Included are short story writing ideas, light hearted questions and prompts to get your thinking cap on.
The Ultimate Guide to Journaling by Hannah Braime
In The Ultimate Guide to Journaling, you’ll find the tips, inspiration, and prompts you need to start and maintain a journaling practice for DIY self-discovery. This clear and concise handbook shares everything you need to know to deepen your relationship with yourself using this powerful personal development tool. This book covers topics like how to journal, which tools to use, and how to make it a regular habit, as well as over 30 different journaling techniques and useful prompts.
When we consider the virtues of published writing, we normally think of books, E-Books, White Papers etc. When you are writing in the digital age, the platforms for writing have invariably increased. If you are writing for social media, blogs or a website, one of the greatest influences will be WHERE the writing will be housed. This will influence your tone, style and most significantly, your word count. Depending on your comfort (and interest) levels, you could find yourself making a respectable income writing blogs. (Okay, okay, we chose a list of the uber-successful global bloggers as an example). However, if this is something you are interested in, this selection of books is a useful guide when you are starting out and beyond.
I know people who, when recruiting for digital roles said: ‘If they haven’t read this book, don’t give them the job’. This seems a bit harsh but the underlying sentiment is: this is the fundamental book that digital teams need to read when they are starting out. It discusses how to design usable Web sites by exploring how users really use the Web and offers suggestions for streamlining navigation, creating a home page, and writing for Web sites.
Troy’s clean, clear writing style is useful when you are navigating countless new terms for the technology used in digital forums. Troy’s focus is firstly on the writer, then the writing and lastly the technology as he explains how new technologies can be harnessed to advance the writing medium. We love the easy-to-read style of this book.
Do you want to earn a living doing what you love? Whether you have been blogging for years or just a few weeks, How to Blog For Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) offers solid advice and practical action plans for creating an authentic, successful, and profitable blog. With wit, wisdom, and the insight of someone who’s been there, Ruth Soukup shares how she grew her own blog, Living Well Spending Less, to over one million monthly visitors. We love the insights into Soukup’s own learnings along the way.
Ginny’s easy-to-read style will teach you how to plan, organize, write, design, and test your content. Learn how to have great conversations through your site or app. Meet your business goals while satisfying your site visitors’ needs. Learn how to create useful and usable content that your target market (or clients) will love.
WWW may be an acronym for the World Wide Web, but no one could fault you for thinking it stands for wild, wild West. The rapid growth of the Web has meant having to rely on style guides intended for print publishing, but these guides do not address the new challenges of communicating online. Enter The Yahoo! Style Guide. From Yahoo!, a leader in online content and one of the most visited Internet destinations in the world, comes the definitive reference on the essential elements of Web style.
This book is essential reading: content strategy helps you plan your writing and ascertain which topics will be of most interest to your target markets. It also includes the tone, types of content you can use and which channels should be used. This book also describes the value of content strategy, discusses how to audit and analyze content, and looks at ways to maintain content over time.
Part of celebrating our great writers is ‘lifting the hood’ and getting an understanding of why they write. Understanding the ‘back story’ of our favourite authors enables us to understand their motivation and their inspiration, which in turn inspires us. Here are our recommendations of biographies and autobiographies of some pretty remarkable authors.
I know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
An autobiography like no other, Maya Angelou wrote it in seven volumes, ‘Caged Bird’ being the first. The book covers themes such as racism, discrimination, abuse and extreme poverty but also joy, hope, achievement and celebration. In the first volume of her autobiography, Angelou takes the reader on a journey of her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930’s. Here, she learns the power and prejudice of the white folks of the town. Years later, Maya learns that love of herself, the kindness of others and the inspiration of great authors could help set her free.
The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller
Accomplished journalist Sam Weller met Ray Bradbury while writing a cover story for the Chicago Tribune Magazine and spent hundreds of hours interviewing Bradbury, his editors, family members, and longtime friends. With unprecedented access to private archives, he uncovered never–before–published letters, documents, and photographs that help tell the story of this literary genius and his remarkable creative journey. The result is a richly textured, detailed biography that illuminates the origins and accomplishments of Bradbury’s fascinating mind.
Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
This is the story of Iceberg Slim’s life as he saw, felt, tasted, and smelled it. A trip through hell by the one man who lived to tell the tale. The dangers of jail, addiction, and death that are still all too familiar. By telling the story of one man’s struggles and triumphs in an underground world, Pimp shows us the game doesn’t change, it just has a different swagger.
The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller
I wasn’t aware of any myths surrounding the lives of Emily, Charlotte and Anne during their lifetimes but apparently there was such a fascination with them that myths (or lies) abounded! Some examples included Charlotte being seen as a ‘sex-starved hysteric’, Emily being attracted to both sexes and there were those that denied her authorship of Wuthering Heights, attributing it to her brother Bramwell. Sounds much like our fascination with the Hollywood stars of current day! A great read for fans of the incredibly talented sisters.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
In this hilarious memoir, Bryson travels back to explore the kid he once was and the weird and wonderful world of 1950s America. He modestly claims that this is a book about not very much: about being small and getting much larger slowly. But, for the rest of us, it is a laugh-out-loud book that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young.
My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
I wasn’t 100% sure about reading this book as anything written by an ex-lover doesn’t seem particularly….fair. I’m not a huge fan of the kiss and tell. I am, however, a big fan of Rand’s work (The Fountainhead in particular). Branden is an American psychotherapist and this book charts their relationship but also details Rand’s philosophy of objectivism. Definitely an interesting read for fans for Rand’s work and gives an interesting perspective into her private life.
Make sure you’re following us on Pinterest. More biographies can be found on our Pinterest board: https://au.pinterest.com/officialbooko/autobiographies-biographies/
I think just about everyone has flirted with this, haven’t they? I still have a screenplay for a TV series floating around in my head. I am POSITIVE it will be a huge hit, if only audiences weren’t so stuck on reality TV. One of my friends went on so many dates in one year that I convinced her to write a book about it. And on it goes…..
If you have some great ideas for writing, whether it’s writing a blog, a novel or a TV series like me, there is a book to help inspire you and guide you. Some of my favourites in this list include hearing advice from some of the masters themselves. We need to start with a book that appeared on my bookshelf when I was about 10 (odd gift for a child) but it was pretty useful during creative writing classes:
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. White
This book is an essential part of your ‘books on writing’ collection. It contains the basics: grammar, writing in your active voice and omitting superfluous words. This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with your writing.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part of what makes this book so entertaining is hearing about King’s own rags-to-riches story. Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired Carrie. King gives an excellent masterclass on writing – how to use the tools of the trade from building characters to pace and plotting as well as practical advice on presentation.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Largely accepted to be one of the best books about writing, The Writing Life is brutal in its honesty about the difficulty of the writing process. Dillard encourages you to carve up your most ‘perfect paragraphs’ if they don’t do their job, which is to communicate the entirety of the idea. “This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.”
Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson
It’s crucial for any writer to understand their own language. Bryson steers us through why island, freight, and colonel are spelled in such unphonetic ways, why four has a u in it but forty doesn’t, plus bizarre and enlightening facts about some of the patriarchs of this peculiar language.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
While there are plenty of books that talk to the challenges of writing, Bradbury’s enthusiasm for writing is infectious. That’s what makes this book such enjoyable reading. In a series of essays, Bradbury discusses his career and his compulsion to write. Nine essays discuss the joy of writing, the writing process, inspiration, creativity, and the circumstances surrounding the writing of several of his works. “Think of Shakespeare and Melville and you think of thunder, lightning, wind. They all knew the joy of creating in large or small forms, on unlimited or restricted canvasses. These are the children of the gods. They knew fun in their work. No matter if creation came hard here or there along the way, or what illnesses and tragedies touched their most private lives. … If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.” Brilliant.
The Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith
Finding inspiration to write creatively can be one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process. Experienced writing teacher Hazel Smith demystifies the process of creative writing, providing exercises and examples to show how it can be systematically learnt.
More tips for aspiring writers can be found on our Pinterest board, Tips for Writers!