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Book Review: The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers by Laura Oliver, MFA

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The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers by Laura Oliver, MFA, is the book you’ve been waiting for. Finally, a fresh way to cover the basics of writing, beyond why we write and how to get past fear and criticism. Instead, The Story Within, written as a writer’s memoir, is packed with stories, examples, and insights into the roadblocks we place in our path. It is Oliver’s style that sets this book apart from many other writing how-to guides.

Finally, a real page-turner that explains the concepts of story and getting to the heart of what matters. The bones of good writing structure are discussed, but we learn more about story and craft through humor, examples, honesty, and interpretation. Told through the author’s personal story, readers will relate to Oliver as a fellow writer, teacher, and mentor along the way. It gets right to the heart of the matter when she observes the faces of students around the table at her evening writing class: “They are glowing with hope, dampened by doubt.”

Unique features of the book include ideas to start essays, dubbed “rocket launchers,” which can jumpstart a stuck writer. The author is sincere in her efforts to motivate even the most blocked writer. She writes of procrastination and its ability to protect a perfectionist from reality by twisted logic: “When I do get around to it, it’s going to be spectacular!” The ultimate motivator, of course, is the physical act of writing. That’s what lets inspiration flow, and sends a signal to your inner-writer that you’re ready for ideas. Oliver conveys the importance of accessing both sides of the brain, but only in the correct order, so your writing sessions reach their unblocked potential.

Inspiration becomes habit and is addressed in over thirty places in The Story Within, because it is so important. The more you write, the more you train neuron pathways to connect with your artistic right brain, even trick the brain into it by doing other tasks, especially repetitive tasks, which free your mind. You’ll also learn why writing in cafes and libraries often sharpens our focus.

Practical resources will keep you returning to The Story Within when you’re writing, as you’ll review the strategies to excise the excess, and edit your work for the essential components of good story. And best of all, you’ll be encouraged to submit your work.

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