This is the second post in my expat bookshelf series, sponsored in part by Summertime Publishing. This series includes books that have related to my expat experience, so today includes a book on writing. And yes, so far, all books reviewed have been by the same author. What can I say, she writes about things I’m interested in!
Write your life stories
by Jo Parfitt
Details at ExpatBookshop.com
Write your life stories is a workbook in eight lessons, designed to help anyone write better life stories, whether for a book, a blog, a personal journal, a memoir, letters to home, or anywhere else you might feel like writing a story. I discovered this book when I attended a writing workshop with the author. The workshop was only half a day, but the SPICE method of story telling, and the guidance from Jo revolutionised my writing, and really sparked me to actually WRITE my novel (which is now 15,000 words long!), rather than just thinking about it.
Before I get into the review, I have to admit that I didn’t complete all the exercises as I went through the book for the first time. I had already done some of them in the workshop and in my journal. But I do intend to work through them all at some stage (they might be useful for writers block, I’m thinking…)
Overall, I thought this book, and the course contained, was really good. It breaks down story writing into manageable chunks, and each of the eight lessons contains both a limbering up/warm up exercise as well as the “real” task. The warm up exercises are a lot of fun, and really help you to get into the real task. And the course progresses through logically, which means that each stage is not scary, but by the time you’ve reached the end of it, you’re at a place you never thought you could be.
The SPICE tool (Specifics, Place, Incident, Character, Emotion) is perfectly logical, and seems like common sense. But turns out common sense isn’t always easy when you’re writing, so SPICE provides a great checklist for writing, and a really simple way to look at your writing in a different light and improve it. This was my biggest take home from the workshop I attended.
Each section of the book also contains extracts and pieces of writing to inspire you. I loved reading through these. They weren’t all “top-notch” writing, but they related to the lesson, and were a good source of ideas and different perspectives. Plus, I think that reading writing that doesn’t necessarily strike you as great can be really useful for seeing what you would do differently, and what doesn’t really work. This is supported by the editing section (a bonus lesson), which shows how the editing process might work, and helps to identify ways to improve a piece of writing.
The book also comes with optional extras (podcasts, feedback packages, inspirational stickers, personal tutors). I didn’t take up any of these offers, but if the course is anything to go by, they could be very useful.
Overall, I thought the book was really good. And if I’d worked through it before I attended the workshop, I might be giving the book 5 stars. But as it was, I thought the in person workshop was a whole lot more valuable for me. So I’d say that the book is definitely worth your time, but if you have the opportunity to attend a workshop instead – do that! As far as I know, Jo doesn’t have any workshops planned now, but you can check out her website to see what else she’s up to.
Rating: 4 stars