Book Reviews

The Story Grid Product Review | #Author Toolbox Bloghop

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, Book Reviews, Creativity and the Writing Process | 16 comments

The Story Grid Product Review | #Author Toolbox Bloghop

Greetings and happy 2018! Welcome to the first post of this year’s Author Toolbox Bloghop. I hope the past few months have been restful and productive in whatever measure you aimed for.

I spent the end of last year chipping away at my current work in progress (WiP). I managed to finish it before Christmas, and I sent it to my agent and alpha readers. While I wait for their feedback, I am stepping away from the work just enough that I will be able to approach it with fresh eyes once the time comes. However, I don’t want to leave the world of the project all together, so I am researching ways to approach the revision process once the time comes. Along that line, I have discovered a resource called The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, written by Shawn Coyne.

Shawn Coyne has been in publishing for twenty-five years and has worked with an extensive list of industry professionals, including Robert McKee. The Story Grid is a compilation of things he’s learned as a literary agent, an independent publisher, and an editor with major publishing houses, and is designed to inspire original stories, to fix broken projects, and to help writers edit their own manuscripts. It allows authors to break down a project into parts and analyze what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

As a resource that focuses on the craft of writing, The Story Grid contains a lot of familiar content. It spends about half of the time discussing story structure elements of scene, act, conflict, and plot. What the Grid does differently is detail a focused way of mapping a story element-by-element, providing a tool that helps authors evaluate the quality of a scene and assess whether or not the scene works based on the criteria detailed throughout the book.

One of the more unique aspects of this resource is the way Shawn Coyne looks at genre. As a high school English teacher, I refer to genre many times during any given week, but Mr. Coyne expands the concept to a depth of detail even I have never seen before. Understanding this concept is central to working the Story Grid because genres create expectations in readers (yes, that will be on a test), and if a work lacks any element of a genre, it leaves readers feeling unsatisfied. While Mr. Coyne goes into great detail about what the genres are, there is no information about the expectations associated with any genre except the Thriller. This makes since because Thriller is Mr. Coyne’s specialty and because the specific conventions of each genre could fill several books, but it does leave readers wanting. However, Cone does state that authors should be instinctively familiar with the conventions of the genre they want to write in before they actually begin writing in that genre.

One of the things I love about The Story Grid is all of the extra resources that are available. There is a Story Grid podcast that chronicles the experience of Tim Grahl as he applies the Grid to a work in progress and discusses that progress in weekly conference calls with Mr. Coyne (brilliant idea, that). There is also a website where “writers who are eating ramen noodles every night and staying every waking hour at the office” (2) can access all of the Story Grid content archives for free.

While I am days away from applying the Grid to my own work, I have already learned much from this book. For example, I now understand the concepts of beats and story values in a way I never have before. I recommend this resource to anyone who has a story that’s not working but that deserves a chance at publication and/or anyone who is in the process of editing a current project.

What about you? What resources or tips have you found that help with the revision process? Or, what else would you like to know? The #Author Toolbox Bloghop is intended to be a collection of resources and learning for authors no matter where they are in the process, so if there are any topics you would like to read about, please suggest them in the comments below.

 

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, or to join in, click here.

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The Button Girl | Book Review

Posted by on Jun 7, 2017 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

The Button Girl | Book Review

You NEED this book in your life.

Repentance Atwater is a headstrong girl with a resolute spirit and a plan… and she will enact that plan no matter who she hurts. Because of this, I had a hard time with this story at the beginning. I understood Repentance’s reasoning for her goal, and I certainly related with her stubborn determination, but I was angered by the way she refused to see beyond her nose. However, her growth through that selfishness to learn how actions have consequences that ripple out beyond just ourselves is one of the main themes of the story. It is what makes The Button Girl an excellent fantasy dystopian novel.

As with the character of Sara in Jim Henson’s movie Labyrinth, I was frustrated with Repentance through the first part of the novel. However, the author is a friend of mine, so I kept reading. I am very glad that I did because, again as with Sara in Labyrinth, The Button Girl shows how Repentance grows from short-sighted girl to a compassionate and generous young woman. By the half-way mark I was totally emotionally invested, and by the end I was an emotional wreck. I enjoyed this novel so thoroughly that I plan to buy a paper version (instead of reading it on my reading device) so I can display it on my bookshelf in my hall of favorites. I am confident you will enjoy this novel just as much.

Do yourself a favor – skip the digital version and buy the paperback one first.

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Review by Avily Jerome, Editor of Havok Magazine | Healer’s Rune

Posted by on Mar 26, 2016 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

Review by Avily Jerome, Editor of Havok Magazine | Healer’s Rune

“Every now and then I actually get to sit and read and when I do, I really appreciate it when the story I’m reading is worth the time I spend on it. Such was the case when I got to read The Healer’s Rune, by Lauricia Matuska.”

– Avily Jerome, Editor of Havok Magazine

Read the entire review on her webpage.

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Last summer, at the AP Lit. Conference in Austin, the teacher sitting next to me was reading this book.  I have been searching for it ever since, and finally had my local mom-and-pop bookstore order it for me.  It was so worth the trouble!

This contemporary novel falls under the genre of magical realism.  It is a tightly structured, well told story about a computer programmer fan of fantasy fiction, people who love books, Google, and the quest for immortality.  I can’t tell you anything else, or it will give everything away, but I can add this:  the cover glows in the dark!  That’s not just a marketing gimmick, either, but an excellent visual of one of the story’s major components. But wait… I’ve said too much.

This story was one of those that I’m still thinking about after I’ve put it down.  It satisfied my longing for a story I could fall into and love, which is hard to do lately. I highly recommend this book.

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