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Book Reviews
January, 2008

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Book Reviews - November
Only the best will do
By  Anne Duguid, Penelope Jensen, Mark London

Tune into IN reviews for the best of books about writing – all genres – from high adventure to haiku, from fact to fiction, cookbooks to commentary, and much, much more. Always check IN to see what's in. We only publish the best and our rating scale below is based upon the values of the three Es: Easy To Read, Educational, and Entertaining. If you have a how-to-write book that you would like us to read and possibly write a review about (we only publish reviews of books that we deem are best of the best) please send it to us. Our snail mail address can be found at Contacting IN.

Title: Kate Walker's 12-Point Guide To Writing Romance
Author: Kate Walker 
Publisher: Studymates Ltd, Somerset UK
IN Rating:
Reviewer: Anne Duguid

Review: Are you interested in writing romance, either as a beginner or as a writer looking to improve your technique to become a sure-fire bestseller? Then Kate Walker's12-Point Guide To Writing Romance is a must for your bookcase.

It's no accident that her name is also incorporated in the title of her book. Her novels have sold millions. A prolific Mills & Boon and Harlequin author, she saw her fiftieth novel –The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge – published this summer. This month her new novel, The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife, is on sale and there is yet another in the pipeline for Spring 2008.

She knows how to write romance that sells. She also knows how to teach. Her courses are well attended for good reason. She is an author who always finds new twists for her plot lines, and she gives practical, helpful advice.

Her book, however, comes with a warning. "No how-to guide," she writes in the Introduction, "can ever teach you how to write." However, if you do the exercises as you read through the guide, you should be able to recognise your own strengths, pinpoint your weaknesses, and learn from her pointers how to overcome them.

The chapters cover everything vital to give your writing that necessary page turning quality (PTQ). Starting with emotion, she goes through conflict, dialogue, sharp focus on hero and heroine, and sensuality and passion – clearly differentiating between the two.

Separate chapters on the hero and heroine help you find the man behind the fantasy, the woman with whom a reader can and will identify. A useful two-page characterisation worksheet ensures you know, really know, your characters before you start. This worksheet also acts as a checklist in case you forget any of the details as your page count increases

If you use the book as the workbook it is intended to be, you cannot fail to notice an appreciable difference in the quality of your romance writing. You can then benefit from the practical advice on preparing your work for submission, and writing synopses – she gives two versions for one of her books, showing by example how to improve quality by asking and answering the question Why.

I found the book easy to read, never condescending, and never boring. Her honesty is refreshing. She admits she hates writing synopses and feels she would never have sold her first book had it depended on writing one.

When not writing, Kate Walker spends a lot of time helping new writers through her teaching. Believing that the help she had as a beginning writer was a contributory factor in her success today, she in turn wanted to give something back by helping new authors. This book most certainly does that.

Buy this book from Amazon!

If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

Title: No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide To Writing A Novel In 30 Days
Author: Chris Baty
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-8118-45052
IN Rating:
Reviewer: Penelope Jensen

Review: Are you up for the challenge offered by National Novel Writing Month? Although NaNoWriMo, as it's affectionately called, traditionally takes place each November since 1999, you can take the NaNoWriMo challenge any month you like.

In No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – NaNoWriMo founder – walks you through exactly why you should take the challenge and how to live through it to be the high-velocity, novel-writing champion that you can be. In 172 pages, Baty's chummy and conversational style revs you up, coaches you through the cramps, and cheers you to the finish line.

If this is all beginning to sound a bit like the trappings of a marathon, consider yourself very perceptive. That's exactly what it's like. The difference is that this marathon is accomplished over the course of 50,000 words, and your fingers carry you and your imagination across that threshold of achievement.

The Introduction describes the origins and history of NaNoWriMo, laying the groundwork and philosophy for subscribing to what some might call novelling madness. Section One, Gearing Up For Your Writing Adventure, prepares you – gives you the mental training and establishes the mindset – for your word marathon. Here you learn strategies for dealing with the realities of time constraints and garnering support from friends and family. Consideration of places to write, things to write with, and magical milestone incentives are presented.

Section Two, Write Here! Write Now!, gives a week-by-week overview of what Baty calls "bashing out your book." In each of four chapters – one for each week of the 30-day month – Baty accompanies you on that particular phase of the journey. He's been there; he knows intimately of the highs and the lows, the care-freedom and the straight-jacket insanity. But have no fear; Baty and millions like him have gone before you and have many tales to show for it. You will live through this too, and you will have your own novel tale to show for it in the end.

There's no dawdling here. If you are ready to write that novel you've always said you would – even if you haven't the slightest idea what you might write about – this is the book you've been waiting for. Challenge yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days. There's nothing else like it to get that writing done. And there is no other book that can get you through it like No Plot? No Problem!

Buy this book from Amazon!

If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

Title: This Year You Write Your Novel
Author: Walter Mosley
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN-13: 978-0-316-065412
IN Rating:
Reviewer: Mark London 

Review: This Year You Write Your Novel, just released in April 2007, is a magnificent, hundred-page how-to-write primer for beginning writers. At the same time it is excellent reading for experienced writers, giving that push, prod, and nudge you need to tackle a new novel or revive your interest in an old manuscript.

Walter Mosley is the author of twenty-five books, both fiction and nonfiction, and he takes us on the writer's journey of self-knowledge with an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand format.

This Year You Write Your Novel offers solid advice on self-discipline and learning how to avoid many of the dead ends writers often face. For example, getting lost and overwhelmed in the middle of your novel even though you know, and may have already written, the beginning and end.

The book concisely examines the various elements of fiction writing – voice, showing vs. telling, character development, creation of plot and story – and then throws you in to the actual how-to of writing.  With examples you can easily wrap your mind around, he teaches the fundamentals of fiction writing, from how to pick a perfect narrative style to fit your story, to hooking your audience with dynamic characters.

This Year You Write Your Novel answers age-old questions like:

  • What is the strongest imagistic intimation in a writer's bag of tricks?
  • What is the most important item to remember about what a novel actually is?
  • What is the difference between an intuitive writer and a structured writer?
  • What do novels, short stories, plays, and most poetry all have in common?

For experienced writers or published authors this book serves as a reference and reminder of what should be done. Mosley simplifies the art of writing and boils it all down into a fast, informative read. This Year You Write Your Novel is a keep-it-on-my-desk-at-all-times book, not only for quick reference – it's only 100 pages long – but for motivation during times when you begin to procrastinate, or for clarity when your story becomes murky, or as a map home when you're completely lost in your written creation. This Year You Write Your Novel is a vital tool to help bring you back around to what you should be doing – writing well.

Buy this book from Amazon!

If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

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Anne Duguid is a features writer who loves travelling and telling other people's tales. A subeditor in the days when metal type tinkled and stone subs proofread upside down, she now freelances for newspapers and magazines in the UK and websites worldwide. Email:


Penelope Jensen considers herself a citizen of the world, aligning herself at this moment with the purposes of IN, where you'll find her writing articles and interviewing authors, among other things. You can reach Penny at:


Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. Email :  

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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