#booksforwriters August 2018

You’ve studied the craft of fiction writing ad nauseum. You know everything there is to know about plot, characterization, theme, etc., etc. You crank out manuscript after manuscript and nothing sells. Maybe an agent has even scrawled on a curt, form rejection letter, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

You can’t understand why you are unpublished, or worse, self-published and you can hear the crickets chirping from Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.

Nobody, and I mean nobody besides your Aunt Nelda’s bridge group has bought your book. And even Blanche Grizbowski (the one with the giant goiter on her neck) gave you a less than favorable review on the big A–ouch.


Sit on your ego a minute and ask yourself, “What gives? And what can I do about it?”

What your writing needs is a big dose of Larry Brooks.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, Writer’s Digest Books, 2011. 288 pages (of gold)

I first ran across author Larry Brooks via paranormal author Jami Gold’s website–a treasure trove of resources for writers by the way–and hit upon beat sheets. (see Plotting, Pantsing and the Genius of B.S.  for more info.) 51I0LzgdhTL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

At any rate, I knew I had to know more, so I picked up his contribution to the already crowded Amazon cyber-bookcase of offerings on writing fiction.

I know, I know–I can hear you groaning, “You’re suggesting I read another reference book?”

I get it. Really, I do. You’ve read every book on the craft and you have an MFA and you’ve been at this writing gig for years…

I am with you there–on all counts.

So is there really something new here? Something that will help a writer transition from slush pile to best seller? A magic bullet?

Short answer?

Put aside the boring-ass cover.

Put aside the math-centric title which could give most creative-types a case of hives.

Freaking-A-right this book can teach you a new way to approach novel-writing–and I am sold. 

This is lightning between the covers. Kind of like my husband–bahahahahaha.

This is one of the few books on writing that is written to advanced practitioners of the craft, and yet Brooks’ voice is so no-bullshit, it feels as if you’re getting a one-on-one with a master writing coach rather than a graduate-level lecture.

Larry Brooks sees the art of novel-writing much like the construction of a building. There are necessary structural aspects that must be planned for and correctly implemented before it is viable, and then, once standing, there are architectural considerations that must be addressed in order to distinguish it as aesthetically balanced and desirable.

Brooks asserts there are Six Core Competencies of successful fiction writing, but unlike so many windbag-college professors, he actually provides the practical strategies and tools to use rather than platitudes that leave you scratching your head. “Your characters must be fully realized and compelling…” Great–how do I make that happen?



Read this book and you’ll fully understand how to make it a reality.

As a writer, I have used Freytag’s triangle, the Snowflake Method, pantsing, planning, outlining, etc., but nothing is as spot-on as Brooks’s competencies and structural benchmarks or storytelling beats.

What makes this superior to other storytelling models or methods?

It is based on the specific rules of screenwriting.

Screenwriters not only know how to tell a story, they know exactly who the characters must be (Dimensions 1, 2, and 3), how they operate, plus the what, the when, the why, and the wherefore.

A screenplay is nothing if not economical.

Same goes for our storytelling as novelists–both the elemental competencies of concept, character, theme and (this is a big one) multifaceted story structure as well as the practical/talent-based competencies of creating effective scenes and professional writing voice.

This book shines the light on the magic behind the curtain of novels and movies, and explains how to write so that the gatekeepers out there (agents and publishers) will keep turning the pages of the submission.

Instead of finishing yet another writing reference book and putting it on my shelf, I plan on learning the material first-hand and then internalizing it.

I can’t give Story Engineering and Larry Brooks any higher praise than saying I can’t wait to get back to my desk and apply everything I have discovered herein to my current work in progress.


Happy reading and writing.


Susan J. Anderson

Foxy Writer Chick





5 thoughts on “#booksforwriters August 2018

  1. Hilarious, as always! I’m laughing out loud as I sip my first coffee of the day.

    I’ve only sent my book proposal to one publisher, and I’m still in shock that it wasn’t accepted. haha! And having spent my career mostly editing, I find it’s much harder to write than when I was younger. I try to edit as I go along, which is excruciatingly slow.

    I may buy this book and put on the shelf for my next project. My current project is a memoir, so no rules apply (or that’s what I tell myself so that I don’t have to rewrite the whole damn thing).

    As always, thanks for the entertainment!

    Liked by 1 person

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