Book Review: Toolkit

Book Review: Toolkit

April 13, 2018

“The Novel Writer’s Toolkit A guide to writing great fiction and getting published” as our next book review.  That is a mouthful I agree.  The book is by Bob Mayer, through Writer’s Digest Books.  I didn’t purchase it, found it in, yes you guessed it, my local library.

I enjoyed and like this book.  Now, granted, there was nothing in here that was earth-shattering or some big secret on getting published, writing the Great American Novel or anything.  In fact, the author mentions that when he goes to book signings he asked by someone in attendance “What is the secret to getting published?”  Mr. Mayer was waiting for THIS person to come up and ask since they have the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket or something.  That was my hubris, not Mr. Mayer’s.  There was amusement shared about the longer someone is talking to an author at a book signing, the less likely it is that the person would buy the book.  Good note.

In more than a few places in the book the author also suggests to downright tells the reader “Make sure you are reading while you are writing.”  The other piece of advice is, “Writers, write.  Write a lot, and when you’re done with that?  Write more.  It is hard to disagree with this advice.  Since I agree, been practicing the same technique now for years.

Towards the end of the book, there is a section on publishing.  This too is not giving away trade secrets.  This seems to be things that would be common sense?  An example is “Don’t pay an agent to read your work.”  Another example?  “If an agent has a PO Box as their business address the agent might not be reputable.  There might be something to the thought people are suspicious.

Having given highlights there, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.  One section deals with you as the writer.  The writer needs discipline to write.  It was refreshing to see that the book did not say you must write every day.  This is hard for people.  The author suggests a schedule for writing and keep to it.  This is important.  If you're committed to writing once a week, on Saturday’s, at 5 am.  The writer needs to write.  Organize.  Outline.  Yeah, I am a Panster, I take notes.  Oh, a Panster is a writer that writes by the seat their pants.  Sit down, Write.  I will read what I wrote the day before.  Not the whole thing, the last paragraph does it for me.  I’m good at keeping the voices straight in my head.

Section Two deals with the writer’s surroundings.  Tools really.  Have a computer or do it longhand.  No one can read my longhand, myself included, a computer is necessary for my writing.  Other things included; Printers, a Master Character list.  I am not saying I agree with this, reporting it.  An example being having a place to write.  Now, granted I use a desktop computer, so I am tethered to where I write.  I walk though and think about writing all the time.  Not sure the place is as important as the doing.  Verb over noun.

Here the author and I agree.  I believe it is Mark Twain that said, “Write what you know.” I’m not sure I agree with this.  I think it should be “Write what you are passionate about.”  Cause I might know nuclear fusion, few people want to read about that.  I’m passionate about Dungeons and Dragons, and just as many people might not want to read about the game.  I will make it sound better because I love the game.  Shameless plug “If you are looking for a player for your D&D game please get a hold of me.  If you are looking for a DM for your 1st or 2nd edition game?  I am so your man.  "Cough, OK.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention not all good ideas are great books.  A good idea needs to have what I call “Legs”.  It must go the distance.  I don’t think “Faust The Musical” would be a great idea.  I could be wrong, don’t think so.
Section Four is prep.  Can you distill your story down to one sentence?  Do you have an original idea?  Again, Faust the Musical sounds original.  Is it a story?  One I give extra credit to the author for the warning is that “make sure that your story doesn’t read like your or an outline.”  Yes, I paraphrased that, still he said it, deserves the credit.

Section Five is about writing your story.  This is the same things that are in most how to write books.  I should know, I’ve read them.  Things like “Show don’t Tell”, stay away from “Info dumps”.  Warnings about things beginning writers should stay away from.  Not going to mention them, read the book. -grins-

Section Six is the meat and potatoes of the book.  It is about technique and the part of the book that gives a good insight into writing a book.  A balance of things like Plot and Subplot.  Thinking about Setting, making sure you have good Dialogue.  If you are to only read one section of the book, this is the one to read.

The next portion is about the “Writing Cycle”.  Mr. Mayer breaks this down into; “The Idea, Research, Writing, Editing.”  There should be “Selling” in there too.  He covers selling your book in later chapters, it is part of the process.  Unless you are writing for yourself.  I very much doubt you charge yourself to read your own story.  One section suggests “Read a Lot”.  Know what good writing it, know what bad writing is.  Do not worry about what is selling, don’t copy a story because Vampires or Zombies are hot.  Write a good story.

Next up is “Your Submission”.  Is your story done with the editing, the rewriting, the editing again, the rewriting again?  You get the picture.  Make sure people have read your story, people that aren’t you or a loved one.  People that love you have a hard time being your editor.  Writers have a hard time taking a critique from a loved one.  (Yes, this is from personal experience.)  Writing groups in person or online are great.  There are several places you can place your story online and have someone read it.  The cost is you must read someone else’s.  Not a bad trade-off, you get to read something, and your story read.

This is also the section where the author talks about the publication process, about submitting to multiple publishers, agents.  If you know nothing about the publishing end of the business, read this.  I will repeat that. READ THIS.  The author knows his stuff!
Section Nine is about your business of writing.  Again, if a writer doesn’t know marketing and book signing are things she oversees, this section of the book is a need to read.  Do you need a publicist, I will answer for the author, “Probably not”, since you know about your genre.  Most publicists don’t know a lot about the Fantasy landscape.  You don’t want your story compared to a Vampire novel if your story is in a world filled with elves.

Section Ten, the last section speaks about the future.  E-Books, Print on Demand, and Self-Publishing.  This being 2018 I am not so sure this is the future as much as the now.  The author covered these sections though, so forgive the title.  Plus, the copyright on the book is 2003 Self-Publishing had not become big yet.

So?  Should you buy this book?  I’m not sure.  Should you READ this book?  Yes!  I would suggest you go to your local library like I did and check it out/borrow it.  Nothing new about writing here.  It is a great refresher for things you already know.  The book doesn’t disagree with the things other writers have said about writing.  Read!  Write!  Repeat!  Now I’m off to do more reading and writing.  How about you?

I did use Pro-Writing Aid to assist in the editing of this post.  Please see my review of the app if you want to know more.

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