Feb 28, 2014

THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by SPTEHEN COVEY

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After 25 editions and 25 millions of copies sold, I believe it's safe to say that "The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People" is a master lesson on life. I am currently following Habit 1: Be Proactive, to reach my goal of becoming a writer; Habit 4: Think Win/Win to shape up my romantic relationship. I will then focus on Leading (Habit 2) and Managing (Habit 3) my life and relations as I learnt from Stephen Covey's bestseller.
A detail that caught my attention is the presence of the author's life and beliefs in every sentence. It's easy to guess the amount of time and effort he put into his masterpiece, while he was raising a family of 9 kids and countless grandkids. I was sorry to hear he passed away in 2012, leaving behind an extremely successful business, the FranklinCovey organization.
I recommend "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" to all who care about living fully and significant lives, to all who are planning to be successful, have a family, own a business, improve their relationships. That covers pretty much everybody who's alive on the planet.
Stephen Covey's style is simple, anecdotal, charismatic and his examples and personal experiences add a touch of empathy to the important lesson he's learnt and willing to share with us.


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Feb 26, 2014

HOW TO WRITE A NON-FICTION BOOK IN 60 DAYS by PAUL LIMA

How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 DaysHow to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days by Paul Lima
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul Lima is a freelance writer and author of "How to write a non-fiction book in 60 days".
His writing style is simple, neat, effective. His book guides you step-by-step up the ladder of non-fiction writing, convincing you that you can do it, fast and easy.
There are few manuals on non fiction writing, compared to the pile of novel writing textbooks.
"How to write a non fiction book in 60 days" is an energic, precise and fun guide to turn your dream into reality.

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Feb 20, 2014

FALLING IN LOVE: WHY WE CHOOSE THE LOVERS WE CHOOSE by AYALA MALACH PINES

Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We ChooseFalling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose by Ayala Malach Pines
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Falling in love" by the American-Israeli Psychologist A.M.Pines is a reference book for all those who are interested in studying the mysteryes of love. It includes detailed scientific research results and provides "the big picture" on the love theme from different psychological perspectives from the last century up to date.
I have never found such a comprehensive book on love and I like the professional approach A.M.Pines employes, to face a theme that nearly everyone on earth wants to hear about.

As Helen Fisher says, not many of us walk the path of life without being struck by love. A.M.Pines thoroughly discusses all love-related arguments and provides proven data for each one of them.

If you are interested in "Falling in love" and "how we choose the lovers we choose" then you may find interesting a video I'd like to redirect you to. It's called "The brain in love" and it's an amazing course on love by Helen Fisher. You can find it on Ted talks at the following link.

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Feb 18, 2014

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

Where does the expression "The good Samaritan" come from?

The Bible tells the story of a man traveling alone on the road. Suddenly he gets thrown on the ground, robbed and beaten. His aggressors then run away leaving the half dead victim by the side of the road.
First a priest then a Levite passing by that road spot the body but decide it's not their responsibility to do something about it. Afterwards, a Samaritan finds the man and stops to succor him, saving his life.
The moral of this story is that people belonging to different communities (Samaritans and Jewish) can be good to each other. Mutual help and human empathy should go beyond different nationalities and beliefs. Samaritans used to be pointed at as selfish people, while priest and Levites had a good reputation. Judging a person from his reputation is always a bad idea.

Why is "The good Samaritan" a good character for my novel?


Readers love to hear about life values and principles. Day to day life can be dull and pointless. Dreams of a fully lived, spontaneous, significant existence fill every human being. Novels bring to us such a world, where characters  suddenly drop everything in their lives to follow a good cause. It's a warming feeling to believe that if tomorrow we need help, it's at hand. 

Recently, literature has come to prefer anti-heroes to flawless heroes. 
The fearless strong Prince Charming has stepped aside, leaving the scene to a more real, far-from-perfect, Everyday Joe. Hero for a day, casual hero, nerdy hero. 

This tendency has reached its peak when the antagonist has started replacing the protagonist. 
Killers, psychos and tyrants are introduced under a new light that shows how they were the victims of a cruel society or a sick family environment that made them the way they are today. 
Readers feel sympathetic towards the dark past of the anti-hero; they learn to love his useless attempts to fit in a society that keeps rejecting him. Considering what he had to go through, it starts to make sense how he would eventually give up and become the bad one. 
Whatever evil the character has done, the happy ending is a must. After countless obstacles and adventures, finally, thanks to the power of love and goodness, the anti-hero saves the world, keeps the girl, becomes a paladin of justice. 
The very person who nobody would have bet on is the good Samaritan who stops on his tracks to save the day.

How do you imagine "The good Samaritan"?


What does "The good Samaritan" look like in your mind? I like to refer to HE in my posts to avoid the distraction of repeating HE/SHE every line. The good Samaritan may very well be a woman, or a kid, or an animal, or an alien. 
What genre do you see The good Samaritan well fit for? 
Have you ever used such a character before in your writing?
Share your ideas and advice with us at ALL YOU CAN WRITE.

Have a good novel!


Feb 11, 2014

SNOW and STEAKS

An unexpected treat


This morning I woke up to a stunning view outside my window. White silent snow had covered every single centimeter of land during the night, all the way from the balcony to the still blue ocean.

Snow is one of those magic treats of life that never stop to surprise you, whoever you are. You expect kids to get excited for every new discovery that comes their way. Adults are expected to be self-controlled and rational. You would laugh at a grow up jumping around for a daisy blossom or letting the neighbor dog paw his newly pressed shirt.


PJs and friends


Snow is different; every year when I see the first snow I can't help a "Oooohh..." 
And for a second, just for a tiny moment, hiding away from the real world, I'm a kid again.
Has it happened to you? That's okay. You might even find yourself rushing out of bed, put on rubber boots over you PJs, bury yourself in coat and scarf and before even knowing it there you are, leaving footprints among that white candor. 

There's a part of you that feels guilty for ruining the perfectness of that whiteness. The rest of you is too busy touching and hopping and freezing, taking pictures and, if you are a writer, plotting stories about it.





An Italian around the world


When I meet new people I like to see their eyes growing wide as soon as I tell them I'm italian. I can tell right away, just by those eyes, if they have been to Italy or if it's their dream to go there some day. 
Just-met-acquaintances  can't help telling me the details of each Mario and Luigi they met, how much they loved Tuscany, all focused on trying to remember that little restaurant on the rocky beach of some secret corner of Amalfi.

I always feel bad to admit that they have probably seen more of Italy than I have visited myself, being too concentrated on  wanting to see as much as possible of the rest of the world to find time to visit my own birthplace.
Sometimes I just nod and smile, knowing the real treat is for them to remember those happy days, go down the memory lane, taste that fiorentina steak and Montepulciano red wine on their tongue again.


What snow has to do with steaks

Nothing really. Unless you want to. 
Creative writing is about finding new relations, trying unexplored ways. 
Considering the trillions of words that have already been written and copyrighted in the past millennium, chances are someone has had your idea before.
Still, no one has ever been in your head except you, so here's the good news. You hold the key to an unexplored mine of unique, original, peculiar treasures. Your only weapon against the writers troupes is your inimitable voice, your own writing style. It's always nice to read of a gorgeous prince, his fragile princess and, of course, don't leave out the noisy witch. 
Now throw in some snow and a couple of steaks, and voilĂ . 
A brand new plot is about to unfold.

Have a good novel!

Please note: if the new bestseller coming out in a few months is called "A BBQ love"... 
you owe me a dinner!


Feb 4, 2014

WRITING EXERCISE: DIRECTED FREEFALL

If I could get paid for reading...


I often have the feeling that I read too many books on how to write a book.
It's a good way to avoid the haunting blank page without feeling too guilty about it. 
After all, I'm still doing something about my writing! 
Except I'm not writing, I'm reading.

I've always been a book worm. 
If I could get paid for reading instead of writing, I would be a trillionaire before I turn 40 years old. Unfortunately that's not the case, and so I keep reading books on how to write a book.


"How to write a non fiction book in 60 days" by Paul Lima


 I'm loving this book. It's simple to read, easy to follow, it contains practical useful tips. 
In the preparatory days before even starting to write your book, Paul Lima suggests you do a simple exercise called Freefalling, nothing new, just the good old 10 minutes brainstorming where you write no stop without worrying about editing, spelling or silliness.
Then Paul Lima suggests your try a variation of freefalling called Directed freefalling: you pick a sentence and start writing whatever comes to mind in relation to that line, brainstorming for 10 minutes or more. 


Exercise: Directed Freefalling


Last night I tried the directed freefalling exercise using as my first line a simple sentence that was flashing on my laptop, totally unrelated to the task: "The bell rang..."
In ten minutes I had written 323 words about some weird accident that happened in my high school fifteen years ago and I had never thought of since. 
The story was catchy, fun and smelled of bullies and Nirvana.
I read it again today, started editing it, and I intend to submit it by the end of March for the flash fiction competition Lascaux 250.

Lascaux 250: the 2014 contest

Every year the Lascaux 250 flash fiction contest gets hundreds of submissions. The entries are required to be no longer than 250 words, submissions close on 20 March 2014.
Last year the competition was free, this year it requires a payment of 4$ but the first prize winner will get a reward based on the number of submissions received.
Everyone can send more than one story, every genre is accepted (except rude and offensive contents).

This will be my second year participating in the Lascaux writing competition: I strongly recommend every writer to submit their stories, and this is why:

- You get to see your story online, your name among the other writers. This makes you feel good and motivates you to keep going. 

- You get to read hundreds of flash fiction stories, that is a great writing exercise. 

- Comments to your story are a precious feedback for improving your writing skills.

- Comments to other stories help you to distinguish between good stories and weak stories.

Let me know if you decide to participate, I will make sure to leave a comment on your entry. I hope you will do the same with mine.
And if you know of any other good writing contests, please share in the comments section.

Have a good novel!


flash fiction contest