Review: The Making of a Story

Alice LaPlante – The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing

Writing books are so tricky, because the hard part of writing is not the technique. Yes, you need to learn technique at some point, but it won’t get you more than 5% of the way. So technique books, fun as they probably are to write, are just really not that helpful in general.

Especially this type, the “General Advice for All Kinds of Writing” type. Too general to actually be helpful in any way to anyone.

So, now that I’ve declared the whole genre worthless, let me tell you about this specific book. Despite its claim to be general advice, this book is about writing short stories and creative nonfiction. And it does that by example. The book is easily half filled with actual short stories and actual pieces of creative nonfiction. Which sounds like a great idea, but it was not for me. I am not a fan of either of those genres, and wouldn’t be writing them anyway, so probably I should have just put the book down once I realized what it was about.

The techniques offered were completely standard. If you have ever read a book of writing advice, you have read this book. And with one exception, I didn’t feel the stories added anything to the book. That exception was a Raymond Carver story, first as it was originally published by his crazy minimalist editor, then a second time as he would have published it, with significantly fewer edits. It was pretty excellent example of how much editing can change a story, so that was pretty great.

Did I mention it’s long? Really long. And for nothing. So, I’d say, unless you really love short stories, read a different technique book.

Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Self-Defense

Lillian Glass – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Self-Defense

Do you have the kind of crippling social anxiety where you just wish that someone would make a list of EVERY SINGLE acceptable small talk topic? Boy, do I have a book for you. Other lists include: a list of everything that might be wrong with your voice and/or body language that you aren’t anxious about yet, a Helpful List of things YOU ARE DOING that are RUINING YOUR VOICE (including eating dairy, talking, and clearing your throat), a list of Important Things You Should Know About Yourself, a list of foreign words borrowed by English, a list of things to do when you are in need of self-care, a list of commands for men, a list of commands for women, a list of things you should expect to hear from your teenager at some point in their teenagerhood, and dozens of separate lists of types of people you may have to talk to.

But wait, you may be saying, a lot of those lists have nothing to do with verbal self-defense. True, but we here at Idiot Industries believe that you wouldn’t need verbal self defense if you just weren’t an idiot.

This book is exceptionally comprehensive. So comprehensive it’s insulting. I came to this book looking specifically for how to deal specifically with a couple of really venomous people. I didn’t come to it for speech therapy, body language, or how to make friends. While I would have needed such a book several years ago, I would have looked for a book called, “The Idiot’s Guide to Basic Social Skills.” Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think that “verbal self-defense” is exactly a beginner technique.

Review: The Power of Positive Choices

Gail McMeekin – Positive Choices: Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life

Gimmick time! Guess what! Positive Choices is an acrostic! Guess what it stands for! Priorities, Opportunities, Subtraction, Insight, Timing, Invitation, Visualization, Empowerment, Centering, Honoring, Owning, Inventing, Committing, Empathizing, Synthesizing.

Buzzword buzzword buzzword, buzzword buzzword. Buzzword?

If you have read any other self help books, you have read this book. It is the same material as all the other self help books. But, there are exercises, and exercises are awesome! I didn’t do any of them, but they’re awesome!

If you haven’t read any other self help books, or if you’re still in the “repeat it till I get it” phase, this book is good. The information is solid, concise, and well put together, and you probably haven’t read enough self help books that the acrostic makes you cry and scream. Go for it!

Review: Write

Karen E. Peterson – Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period

This book is one of those right brain/left brain books in disguise. There were no hints that it would be like that, but it is all about that. There are a bunch of checklists, and you’re supposed to fill them out with your dominant hand, then do it again with your nondominant hand.

I really, really hate that shit, so I’m calling false advertising. I did read the book but I read it so fast I barely got anything out of it. So bleh.

Dennis Bakke – The Decision Maker

Dennis Bakke – The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time

I’m just going to say this straight out: This book doesn’t work. It’s a fictionalized account of a couple of executives putting all the decisions in the hands of the workers close to them and how that worked out perfectly and everything was sunshine and rainbows and profits. It doesn’t work as “fiction” because everything is way too contrived and wraps up far too neatly, and it doesn’t work as business advice because it’s clearly made up.

It certainly makes you think, I’ll give it that, but if I were running a huge company, I would want some solid evidence that this would work before I tried it, not fiction. Actually, the fact that he chose to tell this story in fiction makes me more leery of the idea than I was going in. If it works in the real world, why doesn’t he just say so? Why the song and dance about how everything is perfect in storyland? I’m not willing to purchase this tale. Try someone else.

Bruce Nussbaum – Creative Intelligence

Bruce Nussbaum – Creative Intelligence:┬áHarnessing┬áthe Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire

It has been a couple of days, and I have already forgotten everything about this book. Not a glowing recommendation, I guess.

This book is 100% a business book. It is about bringing creativity to the workplace. Specifically, it is a collection of stories about businesses that did creative things, with some guesses as to how they did those things.

It contains such shockingly original advice such as “Playing sparks creativity.” And “Looking at things differently sparks creativity.” So basically, if you’re already a creative person, this book is worthless to you.

The target audience of this particular book is that guy who sits in his cubicle reading Lifehacker whenever the law mandates that he takes a break, and says things like, “I don’t understand how getting beers after work will improve my personal productivity.” He probably spits a little when he talks. And he needs this book badly. Somebody buy it for him, please.