A few people have asked what ‘how-to’ books helped kick off my writing…here is my response.
Of Overall Help:
Fire in Fiction – I picked up this jewel written by Donald Maass a few weeks ago. How he packed so much in such a small book is beyond me. Right next to Stephen King’s On Writing, this is the book to own. I imagine you will read it multiple times, as I did, each time putting it down only to rush to your own work and incorporate what you just learned. He includes excerpts from books from a wide variety of genres, explains how authors are able to grab your attention from page one (often, line one), and provides straightforward exercises that will undoubtedly serve you well. I suggest you have a printed copy of your manuscript handy as you progress through this book. You’ll want to check your work to ensure that fire in your fiction is burning hot!
Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market – essential for so many reasons. Yes, you can look up potential agents and get a feel for general submission guidelines, but the number one reason I found this book invaluable is because it jump-started the process. Looking at the agents seemed five steps too far, given at the time I’d only outlined a story (maybe ten steps). Instead, I turned to the list of suggested blogs. Wow, there’s a whole word on the Internet for writers! 🙂 I spent two days (not not-stop, of course – a gal’s gotta take a chocolate break) browsing sites and reading agent blogs. And that gave me a feel for the business of writing. It set the mood if you will…
The Elements of Style – everyone needs this one, pick it up for a few bucks at your local bookstore.
Concern Specific Reads:
The Power of Point of View, Alicia Rasley – My first manuscript is an urban fantasy/paranormal noir in first-person POV (point of view). This book helped me understand just what that meant, and why it mattered. Great cover on all POVs, so you can decide which one is best for your story.
Hooked: Write Great Fiction That Grabs Readers At Page One, Les Edgerton – First, this was not a quick read by any means. Small book, packed tight. Seriously, a couple of times I stopped reading to get a good look at the size of the book and asked ‘how the heck did he fit so much in here?’. I read this book – and followed the advice – when working on the first chapter of my book (first revision). It helped. Tremendously.
Writing the Breakout Novel WORKBOOK, Donal Maass – I own the workbook and the book, I found the workbook more helpful in terms of practical application. He offers fantastic exercises to get you thinking about character, plot, theme – everything you should consider when working on your story. Fun questions, too.
The Write Great Fiction Series of Books, various authors – This is a series of area-specific books. Think Dialog, Plot, Scene, etc. Umm…I think I might own all of them. My favs – Revision and Self-Editing, James Scott Bell; Dialog, Gloria Kempton; Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, Nancy Kress. You may need help with one area (say, setting), but not so much in another (maybe, dialog). With this series, you can get the help you need. Each one presents info in an easy to follow format, all are amusing, and each one is sure to give you advice that makes the cost of the book a worthwhile investment.
Genre Specific Books:
Howdunit: Forensics, D.P. Lyle, MD – given my protag is a medical examiner, and that I personally have no experience in that field…this book seemed a smart buy. And so far, money well spent.
Bullies, Bastards and Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell – o.k., the person who thought up the name is a genius. This is the kind of title that sells books. At least, it worked with me. It’s a handy guide to the bad guys–and gals–in fiction. She covers the differences between heroes and anti-heroes, offers ways to create reader sympathy for your bad guys, and briefly touches on how to write bad guys in YA literature. While the book is helpful for someone who wants to better understand the sometimes subtle differences between such characters, I found Fire in Fiction a better guide to creating memorable bad guys.
There are a few other books I own, but the ones above should prove a solid foundation for the beginning writer. The one other book I highly recommend is Stephen King’s On Writing. I wrote a review of sorts on this blog.
Happy Reading, Good Writing!