June 20, 2015

Book review: Love Songs by Jamie Campbell

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Sixteen year old Kaley Thorne is invisible. Or she may as well be anyway. All her emotions, thoughts, and dramas go into her secret songbook. Music is her passion, her escape, and her hidden talent. Her songbook is her diary, singing everything she is too shy to speak.

When the most popular guy in school actually sees her and invites her on a date, the experiences she has to write about skyrocket. First love, first kiss, and first heartbreak, everything is funnelled into her songs.

For this songwriter, life is nothing but fodder for her music. As she rides the rollercoaster of her teens, the shy and invisible girl must find her inner diva. Only when she can find her voice, can she finally speak.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

June 13, 2015

Execution over idea (or, I thought it would get easier by now)

There's a notion in the tech startup world that execution is more important than ideas. I happen to agree with that because anyone can have an idea, but what separates the successful companies from the unsuccessful ones often lie in their ability to execute on the idea. Can the engineers build the product in a timely manner? Can the salespeople sell the product? Can the operations group fulfill delivery of the product once customers buy it?

The same notion holds true with writing. Story ideas are a dime a dozen. I have a notebook of story ideas to prove it. I'm sure you have lots of great ideas too, as do many people who've never written a book. But obviously, not every idea turns into a book, or most of the people in the world would be authors.

Image source: http://bit.ly/1jK8Wjg

This point was driven home to me lately because, for the past few months, I've been working on the first draft of my sixth novel. You'd think that by now, writing a novel would have gotten easier for me. Not so! This might have been the most difficult first draft that I've ever written. The story idea seemed awesome when I first set out to write it (and I still like the premise very much), but the idea introduced a restriction that I wasn't aware of in the beginning. I won't reveal what that restriction is because it would spoil the story, but it's caused me a ton of headaches during the course of writing the manuscript.

I'm confident that I'll eventually whip this story into shape, but the experience just reminds me that a great idea does not equal a great book without the execution and hard work to back it up. Stories don't write themselves, no matter how many novels you've already written!

June 6, 2015

When the show is better than the book - Game of Thrones

In January, I wrote a post with some examples of when a book isn't better than the movie. At the time, I couldn't think of any cases where I disliked the book but really liked the screen adaptation. There is one now.

I know I'm late to watching Games of Thrones. Part of the reason I haven't seen the show before now is that I don't watch much TV and I don't get HBO, so the chances of my catching anything on that channel is virtually nonexistent. Even when episodes became available on Netflix, I resisted the urge to watch it despite all of the good reviews I heard because I didn't like the books. I thought the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, was average at best. Then I read the second book, A Clash of Kings, and it took me a long time to painfully wade through it. I couldn't understand why so many readers loved the series, so it made me wary of the TV show as well.

It turns out that I needn't have worried. The screen adaptation of George R.R. Martin's series is vastly more enjoyable than his books. Something about the books made me view the story as a one-dimensional never-ending soap opera, but once I saw the world of Westeros on the screen, it came alive for me. Characters who I didn't care for in the book were suddenly more interesting. Plot lines that were confusing or boring became intriguing.

I'm still only on season 1 of the TV series, but I'm enjoying it so much that I plan to continue. As for the books, there's a chance that I'll go back and re-read the series from the beginning now that I have a more favorable picture in my mind. Maybe this time, I'll make it past book two.