This is a public service announcement for anyone who is writing a book, has written a book, might want to write a book one day, or has any interest whatsoever in what makes a good book: Buy Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (and the workbook too). Just do it. Right now. You will not regret it.
Based on the title I thought the book might be gimmicky, encouraging people to write formulaic novels with the goal of making a quick buck; I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s written by a literary agent with 25+ years of experience, and he walks you through the common qualities that all good modern stories have, using plenty of excerpts from successful books to illustrate his points. Though it’s geared at fiction, I found that 90% of his advice applies just as well to memoir — it’s basically just advice about how to tell a good story. It helped me resolve so much of the confusion I had about why the first draft of my book wasn’t working — I can’t say enough good things about this book. Recommend it to every aspiring novelist or memoirist you know!
Speaking of books, the other day I was making notes for a chapter in which I recount a particularly
ridiculous memorable evening from my pre-conversion days, and I remembered that Tucker Max was out with us that night. Since it was a rather unusual occasion (a bunch of us were going from bar to bar in a yellow school bus while dressed up as clowns — kind of a long story — you’ll have to read the book) I wondered if he might have mentioned it in his eternally-at-the-top-of-the-bestseller-list memoir I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (the movie version of which is currently out in theaters). I admit that I have not read Mr. Max’s reflections, so I’m not sure if that story made the cut, but I thought that it would be bizarrely amusing if there were overlap between our two books. bacchanalian
UPDATE: It was pointed out that I should probably go ahead and clarify that I do NOT recommend reading Tucker Max’s book or going to his website.
Funny thought: If some psychic person had come onto the school bus that night and said, “Jennifer and Tucker are both going to write memoirs that involve stories like this. One of the books will be about partying, the other will be about a conversion to Catholicism, ” I would have looked over at Tucker Max and thought, “Dude, you’re going to become Catholic? Lame!”
When we visited my dad in El Paso a couple weeks ago I was so envious of his back yard:
After about the third week of daily battles to keep our crunchy, yellow grass from dying out completely this summer, I was about ready to let go of this fantasy that we live in a climate hospitable to life and just call someone in to pave over the whole thing. Some people might think that there would be something mildly depressing about looking out the back window to see a bunch of rocks and pavement, but I think I’d love it. No maintenance, no fire ants, no random stinging insects lying in wait in unmowed grass, no constant feelings of failure as all your efforts toward keeping your yard a less depressing shade of yellow end in futility. Ah, that’s the landscape for me!
I KNOW that I am not the only person who can sing every word to this commercial. With passion:
Oh, man, I remember watching that cartoon about 20 times a day when I was a kid, suspecting — nay, knowing with certainty — that owning that Barbie would pretty much be the apex of the human experience. And the part where the three kids take out their awesome cassette tapes? I swooned to behold that level of coolness. (Hat tip to Domestic Engineering for finding that gem of a commercial and opening up to me the world of wasting hours of my life laughing at 80’s commercials on YouTube.)
Speaking of wasting time on the internet, it’s good to be back from the fast! I still can’t believe how effective it was; a lot has changed around here since my week offline. I’m hoping to have time to put together a post about it for next week.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
I look forward to reading your posts!