Review: Productivity for Creative People

Productivity for Creative People
Productivity for Creative People by Mark McGuinness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suspect Mark McGuinness and Steven Pressfield are good friends. I discovered this free ebook from a link on Steven’s site, and Mark frequently references Steven’s acclaimed The War of Art in this book. Still, since you’re judged by your associates, this doesn’t harm either of them – both are talented and knowledgeable in the field of creativity.

This book is a quick read, a taster for Mark’s other publications and websites, but crammed with useful suggestions on managing your time to focus on the important things in your life – whether that be family, friends, or your creativity.

Well worth a read.

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Review: Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published

Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published
Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published by Therese Walsh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writer Unboxed is a web-based community of writers, some traditionally published, some self-published while others write as a hobby, but everyone within the community wants to learn more about the craft and to share their experiences. I was sent an ARC of Author In Progress for an impartial review as I’m a member of that community. The thing is, though this is impartial, I knew I was going to love it even before it arrived.

One of the benefits of being in the WU community, is that every few days one of their essays arrives in my inbox. The topics of these essays vary hugely, ranging from where to find ideas on what to write, to how to deal with agents once those ideas are moulded into fully-formed novels. Some of the essays are from authors whose books I already own and whose views I value (Donald Maass and Dave King for example), others are from unpublished members of the community who despite their amateur label still have experiences that can benefit the group.

Author In Progress takes these essays (I’m not sure if they’ve been written fresh for the book or whether they’re recycled or adapted from their website) and groups them into the various phases of writing – preparation, writing, editing, etc. All essays are short, 4-5 pages, so the book is easy to dip in and out of. With such a wide range of topics and voices, some essays resonate stronger than others, but just because some, for me, missed the mark today, it doesn’t mean they won’t have greater value when I’m further down the writer’s path tomorrow.

My only criticism is that I would’ve liked to have seen a couple of essays on the nuts and bolts of writing, something akin to Dave King’s co-written Self Editing for Fiction Writers, but that’s only a minor point. With over 50 authors giving advice on all aspects of writing and the publishing industry, you’re guaranteed to find something of interest.

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Review: Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a PDF for Steven Pressfield’s “Nobody wants to read your …” as part of the launch marketing, and almost put it down immediately. It’s written like a cross between a journal and a James Patterson book (long chapters are 2-3 pages, many are as brief as a couple of lines), and written with a brain-dump kind of style that initially appears random and unconnected. When I read self-help books, particularly writing books, I make notes of the interesting points, and it wasn’t long before I realised I was writing more notes from this book than I have on many other recent reads. And after a while, those random chapters start to join up – they tell the story of Steven’s journey, the mistakes he made and the strategies he used to overcome them. His advice covers all forms of writing: fiction, non-fiction, even scripts for porn films. An enjoyable read, recommended.

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Review: 14th Deadly Sin

14th Deadly Sin
14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The wife likes these books, she’s the target market – that CSI loving, police drama tv loving market. Sales are high, these guest-written Patterson books fill the top sellers lists, but they’re to crime what Mills&Boon are to romance – accessible and undemanding. The writing is awful, the plots are flimsy, yet they’re fast moving and written in the style of a daytime soap – addictive to the target audience. I would give this 2 stars, the wife 4, so 3 seems like a reasonable compromise.

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Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s work for over a quarter of a century, making me feel far older than I feel. From his Sandman days, through other DC projects like Black Orchid (Dave McKean’s original artwork of the final page hangs in my hall) onto his liason with Terry Pratchett, his podcasts and graduation speeches. He is a unique talent, a master story teller for adults and children alike, someone keen to share his skill of the craft. I bought this book for my teenage daughter, so was surprised to find it in the store’s 9-11 section. She loved it, and so did I, proving this is an ageless classic, and one to be enjoyed by oldies and children for generations to come.

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Review: The Last One

The Last One
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

There’s not many books, especially debuts, where within the first few pages the quality, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail, makes you realise you’re reading something special. Oliva’s The Last One falls squarely into that category. From the moment Zoo’s voice entered my head in the second section, I was hooked, racing through the book in just a couple of days. Comparisons, not unkindly, will be made to Station Eleven (on genre), and The Night Circus (on style), both of which also blew me away. As with Station Eleven, it’s easy to find fault in the author’s post-apocalyptic world, but that’s not the point. Just lie back and let the quality of the prose, the strength of the voice, wash over you. This is story telling at its best.

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Review: The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anne Tyler is one of the greats. The subtlety of her writing, the huge swathes left unsaid, allows the reader to mirror their own experiences onto her character’s. I’ve read much of her work, and though her writing style is consistent, the uniqueness of her voice and the depth of her characters, make her books classics. She writes about humdrum, no thrills, no spills, just average people going about their average lives. The Amateur Marriage, in my opinion, is one of her best, and given the quality of her writing, that makes this quite exceptional.

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Review: Dear Amy

Dear Amy
Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: this book was supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

I liked this book. It’s a fairly standard psychological thriller, but nicely done and paced to hold the interest. The writing was good, some lovely prose in places. I did feel Margot was a bit too wobbly at times, but a small criticism for an otherwise solid read.

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