Why yes! I am determined to keep my Read List up-to-date (once this post publishes, I’ll be two for two – yay!).
So I just finished Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. I’d missed all the hoopla around the Kickstarter that began this project a couple of years ago, so I’m glad I discovered it the other day when I was bored and clicking around Amazon.
As I always do when I’m deciding whether to buy a book, after reading a handful of the five and four star reviews, I then read all the three, two and one star reviews. I find that these lower-starred reviews often help me to gauge whether a book is a right fit for me. If I don’t agree with what these ” this book was meh” reviewers are saying, or if they point out the reasons why the book isn’t for them and these reasons don’t affect me (or, as is sometimes the case, these reasons actually make me want to read the book), I often will end up getting the book.
(So to all you authors out there despairing about mediocre or downright bad reviews, take heart! There are readers like me who actually find these kinds of reviews helpful in making the “purchase” (rather than the “don’t purchase”) decision.)
After reading the “this didn’t work for me” reviews, I decided to take a shot with this one, because:
- I don’t listen to the authors’ Self-Publishing Podcast;
- I didn’t know anything about their Kickstarter for the Fiction Unboxed project; and
- I haven’t read their other writing book, Write, Publish, Repeat.
In the meh reviews, this sounded like the main problem–that if you’ve done all of these things, there’s nothing fresh in Fiction Unboxed for you (although many of the five star reviewers had done all these things, and still really liked the book).
Luckily, that wasn’t me. So I plunged in. And i’m glad I did.
What I liked about this book is how Truant takes everything that happened during the course of the 30 days it took for them to write, produce and publish The Dream Engine, plus all the Kickstarter days preceding it, and puts it into a narrative first-person tale that’s engrossing enough to keep you reading. I mean, seriously, you’re reading about two authors writing a book–that’s something that could get quite boring.
As they indicate at the beginning of the book, Fiction Unboxed is all about their process, and it’s a very intriguing process. They use story beats rather than a set outline, and I was fascinated by how the story beats enabled them to continue to write organically, with all the spontaneous surprises that entails, while at the same time providing them with a series of guideposts so they always knew in what direction they were headed.
My problem with all of my fiction WIPs has always been finishing the projects. I write by the seat of my pants, and often find myself backed into a corner at around 50,000-60,000 words. I’ve tried to outline projects several times before, and it’s never worked for me. There’s something about the word “outline” that makes me feel confined within the plot points I’ve put down, and I find myself just plugging away at my writing, bored stiff–and trust me, this shows in the resulting work.
But I also know that when I sit down to write and I know where my scene needs to end up, the writing is almost always fun and effortless. I just haven’t done this that often, so I can’t say for certain I still get those delightful surprises which, for me, are one of the main reasons I like to write–I want to discover the story as I go.
So I think I’ve discovered a process that I can tweak to my needs. For that alone, Fiction Unboxed was worth the price.
But it’s also a good look behind the scenes at how a couple of full-time fiction writers actually do their stuff. And judging from the excerpts in the finished book, writing at that speed doesn’t affect the quality of their writing – Truant seems to have a real knack for painting a scene and quite a lovely way with words. In fact, their production process seems quite rigorous, and while I haven’t read any of their novels yet, I suspect none of them are rife with the kind of grammatical errors I’ve been seeing in a lot of books lately (both self-published AND traditionally published, sadly).