Your Book Starts Here: Create, Craft, and Sell Your First Novel, Memoir, or Nonfiction Book
reviewed by Lisa J. Jackson
Mary Carroll Moore shares her years of teaching her own “How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book” workshop in her book, Your Book Starts Here: Create, Craft, and Sell Your First Novel, Memoir, or Nonfiction Book. But don’t think that Your Book Starts Here is simply a workbook of exercises. It is so complete, detailed, and instructive, that I think it is a classroom in a book.
Moore’s conversational style keeps the reader engaged and involved, much like a student in a classroom. She asks questions and expects the reader to work out the answers. She gives numerous examples from past students that touch on novels, memoirs, and nonfiction writing. No one is left out, and when I read the book, I felt like I was immersed with other writers eager to discover new tips, tricks, and ways to make the story come alive on the page.
Your Book Starts Here isn’t a book you read once and put on a shelf. It’s a reference book that offers insight, exercises, and real-world examples for all stages of your book writing project.
One particular tip I found riveting was how to change your Inner Critic into an ally. A lot of writers deal with damaging self-talk, but Moore has suggestions on how to turn the unhelpful voice into, at a minimum, a silent voice. One method she used for her memoir and a particular memory that refused to get on the page was to write a letter to her Inner Critic. In her writer’s notebook (which she recommends all writers have), she thanked the Inner Critic for keeping her safe over the years and described how she appreciated its role. “Then I asked it kindly to step aside, to let me write this chapter. I explained why I needed to write it…”
When she finished the letter, she closed her notebook and went back to her desk. The Inner Critic was silent and the chapter flowed onto the page with ease. The inner voice is usually our subconscious trying to get us to face something. Meeting the voice head on writing out what it is we’re feeling when trying to write a particular scene that is fighting us, can help us move forward.
Moore’s book is full of sharing. She not only speaks from experience, but she details those experiences with the reader and that builds a bond. For instance, she talks about the idea of writing for one person; since most writers tend to “begin writing for themselves only.” She didn’t believe in this advice, which she learned from reading Kurt Vonnegut’s work, but after publishing several books she learned how true the advice was by seeing how it improved her own writing. And I believe her, since I felt she was talking to me, one person, as I read the book.
People tend to be left- or right-brain focused, and Moore touches on this a few times. She talks about writers needing to use both sides of the brain to produce the best work and she includes reasoning, student examples, and exercises to help you find your mind’s balance.
The book has 25 chapters divided over 3 sections: planning, writing, and developing and is meant to be read in whatever order applies to your current project. Dedicate some reading time, because once you start reading the book, it’s hard to put down. There are numerous exercises to try, questions to ponder, and tools you can adapt to your own work.
It’s worth repeating, Your Book Starts Here is a writing class in a book. Whether or not you can ever attend Moore’s workshop of a similar name or not, having a copy of Your Book Stops Here to refer back to and mark up can help you continually improve your craft. The appendix alone can keep your muse entertained and curious for months, if not more, because it includes Moore’s favorite books covering writing skills, getting ideas, healing via writing, editing and revision, publishing, the creative process, and more.
Lisa J. Jackson is multigenre writer with a passion for New Hampshire. She is a great leads editor for New Hampshire Writers' Project, cofounder of the blog Live to Write, Write to Live, online author chat moderator at The Writer’s Chatroom, and a volunteer with, and Communications Director for, NH Granite State Ambassadors.
NH Writer, newsletter of the New Hampshire Writers' Project, was first publisher of this review.