Review: “Crank it Out” by C.S. Lakin

Review: “Crank it Out” by C.S. Lakin

Part of C.S. Lakin’s “Writer’s Toolbox” series, Crank It Out is a fairly well known (fairly well received) book about increasing writing productivity. The focus is on how, as a writer, you can turn your productivity around and really start to…you guessed it…crank it out. That’s where I need to start….

At a glance…

Readability

Usefulness

Motivation

Value

Overall Score

I’m going to do something a little different here and write two “reviews” for Crank It Out: The Surefire Way to Become a Super-Productive Writer, by C.S. Lakin. The reason is that the theme of this book took a hard turn for me about two-thirds of the way through and it almost feels like two completely different books for me at this point. I also want to be very clear about what I got out of this book and why.  

The first part of this review is of the first two thirds of the book, and the second is a review of the last third. Because my reaction to those two different sections is so extreme that I don’t think it’s fair to judge them all at once.  

Ok, so “Part 1”:

Lakin’s advice is a reflection of what worked for her, in her life, to get more work done. It’s targeted at writing, but could be read as a general self-help or productivity book. That’s my problem with it. It is very general. I read this for writing advice, instead I got whole chapters about how I would feel better and be more productive if I exercise every day and drink lemon water. 

Which, don’t get me wrong, that is good advice! Well, I’m not 100% certain about the lemon water thing, but I should be exercising more…and, like she says, eating more healthy food, although I fundamentally disagree with her anti-coffee stance (Come on, a writer who doesn’t like coffee?! What are we doing here?).

But ultimately, as a writer, I was pretty disappointed with the book up to this point. Which brings me to the next part of the review:

“This book spoke to me in a way that no other writing book ever has”

“Part 2”:

This was life changing. Like she looked into my soul and diagnosed exactly what is holding up my writing. Never felt more seen than by this woman. Spoke to me in a way that no other writing book ever has. Address the issue of procrastination, of what it means to be a perfectionist. 

I came to a better understanding of myself by reading this book. She made me see why I do the things I do. 

Everyone who wants to write should read this. If you have anyone in your life that you love and they have goals that they aren’t working towards then buy this for them too. 

Ultimately, I simply can’t recommend highly enough the last few chapters of this book. Utterly changed my approach to writing. However the beginning and middle were not that useful to me, and can be skipped through if you aren’t looking for more general life advice.

Looking for some inspiration?!

The bookspry team wrote a book of writing prompts and it’s available now! Weird and wacky prompts to bust you out of that rut…or to distract you from your real work.

Note: bookspry.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

© 2019 bookspry. All rights reserved.

Review: “Romancing the Beat” by Gwen Hayes

Review: “Romancing the Beat” by Gwen Hayes

You want to know how to structure your romance novel?

Not sure how to meet-cute? Are your characters Fighting For Love, when they should be Retreating from Love? Feeling a little lost? Then you need to read this book.

At a glance…

Readability

Usefulness

Motivation

Value

Overall Score

This is the gold standard for romance writers.

If you’ve spent any time hanging out in writer forums then you’ve probably already seen people talking about including ‘the beats,’ or ‘hitting the beats.’ This book is what they’re talking about. Gwen lays out a plot structure, a series of beats in a certain order, that you should incorporate into your romance. 

This is starting to sound a bit formulaic, right?

You have an interesting idea for a plot, you don’t need someone else to come along to and tell you how to write your novel for you! Part of the joy of being a writer is that you get to make all those decisions. BUT the romance beats are purely for the romance part of your book. You can still have a wild and adventurous plot separate to the romance. The beats are there to make sure that the romance doesn’t get stale. If you want two characters to fall in love, then you have to follow a certain pattern or it won’t be believable.

Gwen takes all these unwritten rules of storytelling (and human nature) and crystallises them for you in an easy to understand nicely digestible way. Her book is short, easy to read and comes with 80s music recommendations to accompany each chapter and get you in the mood.

I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about this book! …However, I know that some people can get quite annoyed by the very idea that romance arcs are as unvaried as Gwen implies.

Sure, in real life, people fall in love in all sorts of ways; romance can take all sorts of forms but romance readers expect certain things. Gwen’s beats aren’t supposed to be a strait-jacket to your creativity. She is giving you a recipe, that you can add your own tropes and plot into.

The Good:

The beats. If you’re a romance writer then you need this book.

The Bad:

Strangely enough, the bad about this book is the same as the good. Gwen only discusses romance beats. There isn’t anything else in this book; it caters to a very specific audience and if you aren’t in that audience then there really isn’t any point reading it.

Pearls of Wisdom:

People who read romance have certain things that they want from their books. You can do all sorts of interesting and imaginative things with your story, but you have to bear your audience in mind as you write; or, as Gwen puts it:

“Don’t betray your readers!”

See our other reviews here.

Looking for some inspiration?!

The bookspry team wrote a book of writing prompts and it’s available now! Weird and wacky prompts to bust you out of that rut…or to distract you from your real work.

Review: “5k Words per Hour” by Chris Fox

Review: “5k Words per Hour” by Chris Fox

Want to write faster? Of course you do.

If you’re struggling with getting your daily word count up, there’s a good chance this book is for you…but be warned, there isn’t any magic formula: it’s going to take a lot of work to actually get up to 5k an hour. The main lesson of this book is accountability and ways to stop procrastinating. Now, that’s obviously very useful, it’s just not the quick fix that I’d hoped for from the title.

At a glance…

Readability

Usefulness

Motivation

Value

Overall Score

Want to write faster? Of course you do.

If you’re struggling with getting your daily word count up, there’s a good chance this book is for you…but be warned, there isn’t any magic formula: it’s going to take a lot of work to actually get up to 5k an hour. The main lesson of this book is accountability and ways to stop procrastinating. Now, that’s obviously very useful, it’s just not the quick fix that I’d hoped for from the title.

Have you ever set aside a few hours to write and felt that sense of excitement? You can feel the hours stretching ahead of you, totally free of any other responsibility, and you’re going to get so much written. It’s going to be glorious. And then, out of nowhere, it’s four hours later and you’ve only written a few sentences.

This book is for everyone who never wants to have that feeling again. Chris’s advice to stop this happening is two-fold. First, learn to focus on your writing. Easier said than done, right? He does have a lot of good ideas. Some are pretty practical and obvious, i.e. turn off your internet when you’re trying to write. Others are more original; he explains how to use writing sprints to focus and increase your words per hour.

I really like the idea of writing sprints and that, if I practice enough, then over time I’ll be writing more and more in each sprint. Personally, that hasn’t worked out for me. I sprint in fifteen-minute bursts and, no matter how focused I am, I write the same amount in a sprint as I did a few months ago. However, I know a lot of people who absolutely rave about Chris’s writing sprint technique so maybe it’s just me.

The problem is, Chris is not the first person to recommend writing sprints. Do a little research and you find that this is pretty conventional wisdom. You don’t need to buy this book to find out how sprints work. Chris explains things slowly and clearly. He puts a bit of a unique spin on the concept and on how to record your sprints. But I would really like the book to be a bit cheaper when his advice isn’t exactly earth-shattering.

Chris’s second piece of advice is to keep track of the amount of time that you spend actually writing, how many words you write in each session, how often you’re doing sprints. It’s about making yourself accountable. This is great advice. It’s really easy to lose track of how much time I actually spend writing. I feel like I write every day. If the chapter I’m working on isn’t finished yet, well that’s because it’s a tough scene and it’s slowing me down. By keeping track of my writing it stops me from making those kinds of excuses. I can look at my spreadsheet and see for myself that I’m getting less done because I’m spending less time writing. Now, maybe I’m spending less time writing because I’m in the middle of a tough scene and I’m not enjoying it…But keeping a log of these kinds of details means that it’s impossible to lie to myself.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking to write faster and avoid procrastination. Even though not all Chris’s techniques worked for me, a lot still did. His writing style is upbeat and full of infectious enthusiasm. I finished this book, put it down and felt inspired, and I bet you will too.

The Good:

Chris’s book made me feel invigorated and excited to get writing, and isn’t that the most important thing about a writing book?

The Bad:

Chris created an app that helps you keep track of your writing sprints using the method that he outlines in the book. This is a paid app. You don’t need his app to use his method, but there is a good chunk of a chapter that reads like an advert for his app.

Yeah, Chris, I know the app is only the price of a cup of coffee…but I already paid for your book and it turned out to be a commercial for something else you want me to pay for. It’s not great.

Plus, the app doesn’t even work…

Pearls of Wisdom:

I want to write faster but it can be disheartening how often I get told that writing must be a slow process, how if I haven’t spent a decade on a book then it’s somehow lacking in merit. I like this quotation that explains what’s wrong with that attitude:

“The gal who’s been writing the same chapter for two months might find just the right words, but you’ll have learned how to convey emotion, show motivation, how to describe a scene, how to craft dialogue, and a dozen other skills she’s never even considered because she’s written a grand total of 20,000 words in her entire career.”

How to Choose the Right Kindle for You

kindle model reviews how to choose a kindle

 

You want to buy a new Kindle…but how do choose the right one for you? What do you need to know when choosing a Kindle in the first place?

If you read like we do, then deciding which e-reader is best for you is no small task. This is something you’re going to be spending a lot of time with; on the bus, in bed, on vacation.  You want to make sure it suits your needs. There are a lot of different e-readers out there, and most of them are very good, but for this post we’re going to focus on Kindles only. In the future, we’ll do a write up of all the major e-readers, but in the meantime, if you’ve already decided on buying a Kindle, this is for you!

So, what do you need to know before you choose your Kindle?  First of all…

What you (don’t) need to know

The bad news is, whenever you buy any piece of technology, you’ll have to learn to deal with a lot of “specs”. You’ll be bombarded with numbers and acronyms by websites and sales people until you can’t think straight. The good news is, some of these specs can be disregarded immediately without further thought.

We tried to catalogue the features you won’t need to worry about here, so when a salesman says to you “this version has 8GB of memory!” you’ll know you don’t care about that.

So, what can you safely not worry about when buying a Kindle?

Wifi

All e-readers (Kindle included) will boast that it comes with wifi capabilities, but seeing as how that’s been standard equipment for years, that’s a lot like bragging that your car comes with windshield wipers. Every Kindle comes equipped with wifi, don’t worry about this feature or whether the wifi on one kindle is different or better than another.

Storage

Unlike wifi, storage (or memory) does vary from e-reader to e-reader and Kindle to Kindle, but we argue that this is also something you don’t need to spend time thinking about.

The average size of an e-book on Amazon is approximately 2.6MB, and the lowest available storage on a Kindle right now is 4GB. That means that you can fit over 1500 books on the kindle with the least amount of storage. If you need to carry more than 1500 books with you at any given time, you have other things to think about besides which Kindle to buy!

Battery Life

Much like storage, battery life is something that stopped being a problem for most readers a long time ago. E-readers are not power intensive pieces of technology, and even the low end Kindles all have battery life that lasts for weeks at a time. You can bring any fully charged Kindle with you on vacation without worrying about bringing a charger.

Don’t worry about battery life when considering what Kindle to buy.

Waterproof…ness

This one is difficult for us. Having a waterproof e-reader honestly sounds pretty cool. I can see myself sitting in the hot tub, relaxing with my Kindle on vacation, or forgetting my e-reader on the patio before a big rainstorm comes through, or sitting on the edge of a pool with a glass of wine one hand and my e-reader in the other! But, if we’re being honest with ourselves…when was the last time you needed your e-reader to be waterproof? We asked around and haven’t been able to find anyone who lost an e-reader to water damage. Don’t get me wrong, it can happen! Drop your Kindle in the pool and you better hope you have a bag of rice somewhere close by! But when did that last happen to you? How likely is it to happen in the near future?

If you want to read around water a lot, maybe this is something to think about, otherwise, it’s just a fun idea that isn’t all that practical.

What you do need to know

3G

Do you plan on using your Kindle away from wifi for an extended period? If so, you may want to consider getting the 3G option for your e-reader, but otherwise this is an added cost a lot of people don’t need, and considering 3G comes in at an extra $70, it’s not exactly a small cost. Try to think of the last time you were away from wifi and absolutely had to have another book on your device. If you can’t think of one…you probably don’t need this. (Oh, and in a pinch, your phone will give you all the wifi you need.)

Resolution

Most modern e-readers have more than adequate resolution, but this is definitely a place where spending a little money can help. The basic Kindle e-reader has a resolution of 167 ppi while the Paperwhite and the Oasis each have nearly double that amount. If you’re someone who reads a lot, especially for long periods of time, this is a feature you want to pay attention to.

Backlight (built-in lights)

Similar to resolution, this is another feature that can greatly impact your reading experience. If you read in dark places (or you want to) the backlight can save you a lot of headaches. No need for a lamp or external, e-reader mounted light, you can read in any light level if you have a backlight. For those of us who read in bed, this feature becomes critical. Note that this is available on all Kindles except for the base e-reader model. If you decide to choose the non-backlit Kindle, be prepared to buy a case with a built in light for your night time reading.

Do you care about ads?

One of the more…interesting things about Kindles is the “Special Offers” feature. Special Offers are essentially Amazon ads that will display on the lock screen of your Kindle. They aren’t pretty, but they will cost you $20 dollars if you want to remove them. This is not Kindle specific, no matter which Kindle you pick, you’ll need to decide whether or not an ad-free lock screen is worth $20 to you.

Budget

Forgetting add-ons like 3G and Special Offers, Kindles range from $80 to $250, but you’re still really only choosing from three options. The basic Kindle e-reader that retails for $79.99, the Kindle Paperwhite which comes in at $119.99 and the most expensive of the group, the Kindle Oasis at a whopping $249.99.

Most people’s budget will automatically decide whether or not the Kindle Oasis model is even a viable option, but the Kindle e-reader and the Paperwhite are only separated by $40 and that money can make a big difference. It’s necessary to pay attention to the features listed here, as well as what’s important to you, to decide on where to spend your money.

Recommendation

We try to stay away from flat out recommendations at bookspry.com. We don’t want to appear biased, but we also know that everyone is different and has different reasons for choosing different products. What we WILL say, is that the Kindle Paperwhite will be the best bet for a daily reader for most people. It’s slightly more expensive than the Kindle e-reader, but that extra money gets you built-in lighting and better resolution. If you read a lot, these things will become important to you very quickly.

Ready to make your decision? See all current Kindle offers by clicking here.

Kindle prices and features compared in a chart

 

Read more in our “For Readers” review series here.