Tuesday, 15 March 2016

'Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice', by Beth Revis

Title: Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice (Paper Hearts #1)
Author(s): Beth Revis
Release Date: 1st November 2015
Publisher: Scripturient Books
Genre: Writing Craft
Source: Netgalley

Synopsis:
Bird by Bird meets Save the Cat in this new writing advice book by NY Times bestselling author Beth Revis. With more than 100000 reads on Wattpad, this newly expanded and rewritten edition features 350 pages of content, including charts and a detailed appendix.
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Fight the blank page.

When it comes to writing, there's no wrong way to get words on paper. But it's not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won't make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.

Practical Advice Meets Real Experience

With information that takes you from common mistakes in grammar to detailed charts on story structure, Paper Hearts describes:

-How to Develop Character, Plot, & World
-What Common Advice You Should Ignore
-What Advice Actually Helps
-How to Develop a Novel
-The Basics of Grammar, Style, & Tone
-Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure
-How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel
-How to Deal with Failure
...And much more!

BONUS! More than 25 "What to do if..." scenarios to help writers navigate problems in writing from a NY Times Bestselling author who's written more than 2 million words of fiction.

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Writing craft books are something that I have been meaning to read more of for years now, but for some reason I rarely pick one up. Now, with Camp NaNoWriMo fast approaching and the itchy writing fingers already going at full speed, I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. I am a huge fan of Beth Revis' 'Across the Universe' series so I was really curious to take a look into her writing process and her advice!

As is the case with all advice, not everyone will find this useful, appropriate for them, or even overall good. Everyone does things differently and has their own way to approach writing, so the attribution of quality and value to a book of this genre is always going to be incredibly subjective. For me, personally, I quite enjoyed it!

The book starts off exactly with that warning. It's been my experience that the writing crafts books I end up enjoying the most and actually taking something useful from are the ones where the author immediately acknowledges that their word is not law and therefore to tread carefully. That self-awareness seems to transpose into advice that most people can learn from, even if not completely. I don't know if all or most of the books in this genre usually have that sort of disclaimer in the beginning, but as soon as I see it I know that the book will most certainly have appeal to me.

After a short introduction about Beth Revis' work and her own stance regarding writing, the first few chapters are all about insecurities. These were probably the chapters I related with the most, since ultimately the reason I have never finished a draft is because I am insecure about my own writing. Beth has some very wise words to say in this aspect, and I will be sure to copy some of her quotes onto post-its and scatter them around my writing area because they are very reassuring and encouraging.

Being a New York Times Bestselling author, Beth Revis does not glamorize the world of publishing in the slightest. She goes in detail into her own 'failures' before ultimately achieving publication, which I am sure a lot of people reading this book will recognize in their own writing journey. Sometimes reading advice from successful authors can almost feel like looking up at a podium and trying to absorb the wisdom of this higher being, but Beth does manage to put herself at the same level as the reader in some way.

One of the things I appreciated the most about this book is how it refutes labels and encourages people to not feel intimidated by what other people are doing or what they say is the right way to go. Everyone is free to do their own thing: write in order, jump around scenes, plot in advance, plot as you go, you name it. What matters in the end is that, well, you achieve that end.

This was the first time that I have read someone going against the grain of writing advice and actually 'criticizing' what a lot of people see as pillars of writing, and I immediately latched onto those words. There is a whole section labeled 'Arguing with common advice' and it shows from Beth's own experience how those 'wise words' might not always apply. As someone that does not write every day (the most widely spread piece of advice I have ever seen regarding writing), you cannot believe how refreshing it was for me seeing an author saying 'Write every day if you want to. And don't write every day if you want to. It doesn't matter. Not as long as you get the book done.' While she might personally not agree with some of these stances, she doesn't negate that they can be useful for some people, so that constant reassurance that everything goes was encouraging!

That being said, I believe she does, inadvertently, alienate some readers/writers in this book. For example, it is very YA writing and traditional publishing orientated. That being the route that I would one day like to follow I had no problem with it, but surely people intending to write other genres or to self publish won't end up taking as much (a lot will still apply in some way) from reading 'Paper Hearts'. Also, she always addresses readers and characters in the feminine form. For example: 'Your character has a past before the beginning of the story. Or at least she does if she's written well.' This can make for a confusing read if you are a male reading this book, or writing from the perspective of a male character.

Overall, I found 'Paper Hearts' to be a very encouraging read, and it will surely be helpful to aspiring authors that need that extra push. While most of her advice does sit in that reassurance area, you will also find chapters dedicated to grammar, plot structure, character development and so forth, so you will surely find something you will be able to apply to your own writing process from this book, either it be the practicality of writing itself or the 'cheerleading' words of a successful author.

This is the perfect starting point for all your NaNoWriMo needs!


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