writing books

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
User avatar
yoyo123
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:56 pm
Location: USA

writing books

Postby yoyo123 » Wed Nov 25, 2015 6:44 am

Anyone have a favorite? I'm sure they have limited usefulness if you already know what you're doing, but as a relative beginner, I find I'm in need of something to help me along. I can't afford a class at the moment, so this seems a good place to start. Suggestions? I'm looking for something that focuses on improving mechanics.

kentagions
Posts: 289
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2015 2:45 pm
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Re: writing books

Postby kentagions » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:49 am

http://www.writerswrite.com/bookreviews/how-to-write-science-fiction-fantasy-110125

At the above address you'll find a fairly good review of Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. I picked it up second hand for $7.00.

OSC presents the marvelous world of speculative fiction with conversational ease. I felt like I was listening to my favorite uncle on a walk around a wooded lake. Chapters 3 and 4 will interest you particularly as they deal respectively with story construction and mechanical problems unique to F&SF. All concepts are explained clearly and with examples from further reading (Excerpts are included, but reading the works he mentions is instructional and recommended).

It is a short book that avoids the self aggrandizing asides written into the instructional books of some other successful authors. The language is ultimately accessible and highly informative at once, NEVER like a graduate level text. After finding it, I stopped looking.

Kent

User avatar
orbivillein
Posts: 129
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 4:37 pm
Location: Anatoll

Re: writing books

Postby orbivillein » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:43 am

Damon Knight, Creating Short Fiction, a primer of prose mechanics. If any book contains comprehensive prose composition method review, spans gaps, and beginner, intermediate, to advanced prose methods and concepts, this is close. This might be a first place to start and build from. Say hello to Fred.

A sample about "Plot."

Knight is possibly best known for "To Serve Man." He founded SFWA, is spouse of Kate Wilhelm, also cofounded Clarion Writers Workshop, and a Hugo winner, among other stellar distinctions.

User avatar
yoyo123
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:56 pm
Location: USA

Re: writing books

Postby yoyo123 » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:45 am

Thanks. Do you recall if he discusses dialogue in this book?

User avatar
orbivillein
Posts: 129
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 4:37 pm
Location: Anatoll

Re: writing books

Postby orbivillein » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:04 am

Knight discusses dialogue in a one-page section -- pgs 167-68 -- with two dialogue exercises, and related topics, "Speech Tags," "Dialect," "Thought," "Viewpoint," "The Expository Lump." The first chapter's "Four Stages of a Writer's Development" section maps out a course of the writer journey, contains a blunt assessment of the first stage -- "daydream writing." After the dialogue section, Knight also broadly and bluntly assesses the publication marketplace.

I have other sources for more focused and extensive dialogue and thought development discussions, intensive and obtuse though. Studying Knight's and others' comparably easy reading and study writing books brought me along Knight's first three stages of writer development, brought me enough far along that the obtuse books I can now fathom.

User avatar
MattDovey
Posts: 397
Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2015 1:33 am
Location: England
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby MattDovey » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:51 pm

Stephen King's On Writing is very enjoyable; half auto-biography, half discussion of writing prose. Mostly just fascinating and easy reading.
Golden Pen winner v32 (2016)
Stories | About | Facebook | Twitter

User avatar
Martin L. Shoemaker
Posts: 4279
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:20 am
Location: Michigan (more or less)
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:49 pm

StoryBundle.com has a bundle of writing books in honor of NaNoWriMo. Runs for another 36 days. Name your price for 13 great writing books. If you pay $25, they'll throw in the 12 books from last year, so that's a dollar a book!

This is not an endorsement. I've read some of these books, but by no means all of them. But I do know many of these writers, and I follow their advice in my own writing career, so I expect these books to line up with their advice. The bundle leans more toward the business side than the craft side, but there's a little of both here.

Stephen King's On Writing really shaped my thinking about the craft.
http://Shoemaker.Space
Other worlds from award-winning author Martin L. Shoemaker

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
NNiNN

User avatar
bobsandiego
Posts: 1225
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:27 pm
Location: SAN DIEGO CA USA
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby bobsandiego » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:25 pm

There have been some great suggestions here. Lots of great craft and story, and character how to's, but let me step to a different kind of writing book.
Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon.
I got this as the audio lecture series but there is also a book version. Iy greatly changed how I approached crafting my sentences.

http://www.amazon.com/Building-Great-Se ... +sentences
Literary saboteur
Blog: http://www.robertmitchellevans.com/
HM X 5
SF X 3
F X 1
Current Rejection Streak: 0

User avatar
AliceBrook
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:53 pm

Re: writing books

Postby AliceBrook » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:02 am

I've gone through quite a bit of these, mostly because I can't afford a workshop so I just made my own wotf008

Nancy Kress - Beginnings, Middles and Ends
James Scott Bell - Plot & Structure
Renni Browne & Dave King - Self-editing for Fiction Writers
David Manning - Revising Fiction, a handbook
Alan Watts's The 90-day novel is....interesting, but not that..it's more like a daily pep-talk, fitting to NaNoWriMo people, I think

I'm currently reading 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (can you tell my weakness is always plot over character?). That ones okay, it gives you a signpost or two if you're lost.

These are all fine and great, but I don't think writing books and books on writing can help. At all. What an apprentice writer can do is read mindfully and critically - deconstruct short stories and novels, ask themselves Why/How does this work, What purpose does this character serve, Was that foreshadowing I saw? Can I see/expect the plot and how does the author twist my expectations?
You may learn quick tricks and how to be more observant when you read these books, but nothing beats doing it on your own. Of course, reading the books along with deconstructing stories yourself speeds the whole thing up.

Manning's handbook is awesome with revision, he gives you a list of questions, then gives examples and explains why you need to ask them (for ex, Is an important scene presented too briefly? and Do any elements fail to relate in some way to the overall conception?)
I highly recommend it, though, honestly, I've yet to use it. Going over 200+ questions for a short story is a bit much, but I'll definitely use it when I do a novel.

Kress' book opened my eyes to pattern of behaviour. We all know it, really. It's show the villain kicking a dog scene. But, just reading it, like a lesson, keeps it in the forefront of your mind, so you always notice it - both when it's lacking and when it's done well.

Also, the entire "Writing Excuses" podcast. It can be pretty useful. Oh, and Chuck Wendig's "Terrible Minds" blogs is enjoyable.
Last edited by AliceBrook on Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
AliceBrook
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:53 pm

Re: writing books

Postby AliceBrook » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:05 am

Oh, how could I forget?!

Jeff VanderMeer's Wonderbook! I really loved that one, it's packed with exercises and examples and the artwork is jawdropping.

User avatar
yoyo123
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:56 pm
Location: USA

Re: writing books

Postby yoyo123 » Sat Dec 05, 2015 6:15 pm

Thank you for all the suggestions!

User avatar
dstein
Posts: 85
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 8:51 am

Re: writing books

Postby dstein » Fri Dec 11, 2015 10:34 am

AliceBrook wrote:Oh, how could I forget?!

Jeff VanderMeer's Wonderbook! I really loved that one, it's packed with exercises and examples and the artwork is jawdropping.


My pick for sure! I find that books about "writing" never inspire me so much as something like Wonderbook, which is basically pure imagination kickstarting, printed psychedelia.

Beyond that I've found The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus pretty helpful for body language. They absolutely destroy anything I've found online for writing body language and characterization.
V32Q3: HM
V32Q4: R
V33Q1: First-Place Finalist

LDWriter2
Posts: 3390
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 8:59 pm
Location: Central Cailf.
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby LDWriter2 » Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:05 pm

While look at Dave Farland's online workshop page I noticed he has a list of writing books he recommends and/or sells.

I just skimmed through them since that wasn't why I was there but I did notice I have one at least.
Working on turning Lead into Gold.

Four HMs From WotF
The latest was Q1'12
HM-quarter 4 Volume 32
One HM for another contest
published in Strange New Worlds Ten.
Another HM http://onthepremises.com/minis/mini_18.html

User avatar
morganb
Posts: 150
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:11 am
Location: Tiffin, Ohio

Re: writing books

Postby morganb » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:50 am

I highly recommend Barbara Baig's website at http://www.wherewriterslearn.com/. Check out the Lessons section (free!) and work your way through the courses. Really excellent material for developing your imaginative writing skills.


~Morgan
"If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
- Stephen King

Infrequent posts about this whole writing experience thing...http://mbroadhead.blogspot.com/

HM x 1
R x 4

Henckel
Posts: 73
Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:30 pm
Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Re: writing books

Postby Henckel » Fri Sep 29, 2017 4:36 pm

There are tons of great books out there. Another by Orson Scott card is characters and viewpoints. Also in that same series (but written by different people) are conflict, action and suspense AND beginnings, middles and ends.

But for a beginner, there is no better FREE resource for aspiring Sci fy and fantasy writers than the weekly Writing Excuses podcasts.

User avatar
Martin L. Shoemaker
Posts: 4279
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:20 am
Location: Michigan (more or less)
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:49 am

Good morning, little spammer! Thought you'd catch me napping?

They've learned to disguise their spam links as "Recommended reading lists".
http://Shoemaker.Space
Other worlds from award-winning author Martin L. Shoemaker

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
NNiNN

amyhg
Posts: 70
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2017 5:28 pm

Re: writing books

Postby amyhg » Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:54 pm

You've already got a slew of suggestions for books so I thought I'd throw in some audio options if you don't already know of them. Brandon Sanderson has posted his Creative Writing college course lectures on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH3mK1NZn9QqOSj3ObrP3xL8tEJQ12-vL). This is specifically angled toward novel writing for beginners. He explains a lot of terms, strategies, models, genres, business, etc... assuming he has a lot of new writers listening.

There's also Writing Excuses (http://www.writingexcuses.com/category/season/season-10/) hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Taylor, and Dan Wells. This is more discussion based, but Season 10 takes listeners through a potential step-by-step for organizing and writing a novel. Each episode is only 15-20 minutes long and includes an exercise prompt and suggested reading. I find it useful because it's not a huge time commitment. I can listen to an episode, spend a half-hour with a warm up exercise, and then the next hour working on my current project. It's not very in-depth, but the discussions often bring up a term or issue I'm having and give me direction on where to turn for answers.
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
v34: Q1 - R; Q2 - SECOND PLACE! Q3 - HM (oops...?)
http://www.amyhenriegillett.com

BLAlley
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:20 pm

Re: writing books

Postby BLAlley » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:45 pm

I'm not a fan of how-to books, particularly for writing. They tend to be more self-congratulatory and less helpful, and writing, like most skills, is learned by doing. Yes, take a class to learn the mechanics of writing, but beyond that you're far better off reading fiction, focusing on your chosen genre but not limiting yourself to it. Ultimately, the only way to find your rhythm, style, and voice is to write. A lot.

User avatar
RSchibler
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:53 pm
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby RSchibler » Sat Jul 07, 2018 12:13 pm

I really enjoyed Scene and Sequel by Jack Bickham and On Writing by Steven King. I also listen to a number of writing podcasts that help me think about my writing in different ways.
Trying to refute entropy with words.

Vol34: Q2 R, Q3 HM, Q4 R
Vol35: Q1 HM, Q2 R, Q3 pending

Blogging about my writing journey at: http://www.rebeccaetreasure.com/blog

LDWriter2
Posts: 3390
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 8:59 pm
Location: Central Cailf.
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby LDWriter2 » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:15 pm

Not sure of a favorite. I read "On Writing" two books by Card. Self editing for Fiction Writers even though that isn't specifically about writing. Hmm, maybe my favorite is the continual Daily Kicks by Dave.
Working on turning Lead into Gold.

Four HMs From WotF
The latest was Q1'12
HM-quarter 4 Volume 32
One HM for another contest
published in Strange New Worlds Ten.
Another HM http://onthepremises.com/minis/mini_18.html

User avatar
orbivillein
Posts: 129
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 4:37 pm
Location: Anatoll

Re: writing books

Postby orbivillein » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:50 pm

Writing on writing texts come in two flavors: how-tos that cover mechanical basics, are more so prescriptive than descriptive, and descriptive aesthetics, plus, of course, Neapolitan vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. The third flavor of which is sample texts for contrastive comparisons to the explication content. These are all stepstones for method analyses within other prose texts, and practice, and self-selected application -- ultimately, the true benefit from one and all.

User avatar
morganb
Posts: 150
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:11 am
Location: Tiffin, Ohio

Re: writing books

Postby morganb » Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:39 am

I've collected a good number of writing books. I read anywhere from twenty to thirty novels a year. I've also attended a lot of workshops, joined up with writing groups, taken classes, subscribed to online magazines, listened to podcasts, etc. It's been several years and I get frequent personal rejections, but still haven't published anything, not even in the semi-pro's.

The personal lesson I've learned over the years...? Reading books about writing and taking classes to learn how to write feels productive and valuable, but in the end I can't really say I learned something I didn't already know before. Improving my writing and getting rejections is HARD! Sometimes I read a book or take a class on how to improve because it makes me feel better or because I'm hoping to stumble across a secret recipe that will lead to success. Some things have been helpful, sure, but I regret not spending more time with butt in chair, cranking out volumes of really crappy stories that get less crappy each time. I have to admit I learn more from trying to write stories than I do from any book I've read or class I've attended.

I'm really inspired by Phil McCollum's quest to write 52 stories in 52 weeks. I don't know how many stories he's actually written so far (I think he's near 50), but I do know he recently got Semi-Finalist in Q2 this year. I've only written about two dozen stories and the best I've gotten is HM. Is there a link between writing a lot and improving? I think so.

Anyway, for what it's worth. Maybe my experiences stumbling around can help someone else!


~Morgan
"If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
- Stephen King

Infrequent posts about this whole writing experience thing...http://mbroadhead.blogspot.com/

HM x 1
R x 4

User avatar
orbivillein
Posts: 129
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 4:37 pm
Location: Anatoll

Re: writing books

Postby orbivillein » Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:22 pm

Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction and A Rhetoric of Irony, put all the writing texts I've studied into focus. Those former needed study, too. A few years on now, I understand fiction's greatest challenges regardless of genre: satire and irony''s many splendors. Mindful, though, fantastic fiction readers and, to a similar degree, writers deny rhetoric's poetic figures of speech. Yet fantastic fiction entails a greater quantity and quality of rhetoric and covert poetic expression, especially extended metaphor and dramatic irony, than "literary fiction" genre.

pcmccollum
Posts: 88
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:45 am
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: writing books

Postby pcmccollum » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:40 am

morganb wrote:I'm really inspired by Phil McCollum's quest to write 52 stories in 52 weeks. I don't know how many stories he's actually written so far (I think he's near 50), but I do know he recently got Semi-Finalist in Q2 this year. I've only written about two dozen stories and the best I've gotten is HM. Is there a link between writing a lot and improving? I think so.

Anyway, for what it's worth. Maybe my experiences stumbling around can help someone else!


~Morgan


Oh, wow! I need to check these forums more often. It means a lot to hear that, Morgan, so thank you so much. You are correct, I'm currently working on story 51 with a week-and-a-half left in my 'sprint.' Wish me luck. wotf008

You mentioned stumbling...I've spent the past seven or so years of my writing life stumbling. I always wanted to write novels and was never a big short story reader. I read countless writing books, made numerous attempts at those novels, and after six years, had barely anything to show for it. The inflection point for me was that I had become so frustrated last year that I was willing to try something that I had convinced myself was both impossible and a colossal waste of time. I'd heard all the reasons from so many writers and I bought each and every one of them -- short stories are a waste of time for novelists, short stories are an entirely different skill set, you can't write quality stories unless you're inspired, etc., etc., etc...

Thankfully, I was desperate enough to both humble myself and believe in myself (I know, sounds contradictory) and actually listen to the advice of someone like Ray Bradbury and Larry Niven. They'd both recommended writers start with short stories because it allows you to fail, and therefore, learn faster. After a sober evaluation of where I was (or really, wasn't) in my desire to write professionally, I figured I had nothing to lose.

Best. Decision. Ever.

I've come to be a true believer in the numbers game. Not every story I write is gonna be a winner, but with each one, I have a couple of opportunities:

  • Practice shutting out the fear -- So long as I focus on the goal of finishing stories quickly, I can't afford to be afraid of writing crap. Does that mean I'm never afraid when I sit down at the keyboard or that I don't try my best? Hell no. I still get hit with the second-guessing and I try to make the most out of every story I have in my given timeframe.
  • Practice different aspects -- With so many stories to write, I can choose to focus on setting, or characterization, or plot, or cliffhangers, or whatever the heck it is that I think I need to work on! I don't feel pressured to make all of those work in a single story. And what I found? They often complement each other, getting stronger with each story, and I end up hitting many of them at once. But the pressure isn't there. It's that whole eating the elephant thing--one bite at a time.

As you can probably see, 'practice' is the keyword. The more we write, the more natural certain skills become. The more natrual those skills become, the more we can focus on improving other skills (I'm convinced the improvement never ends).

I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention how I've come to understand the value in reading a lot, both in subject matter and medium. I thought I used to read a lot, and I probably did compared to Joe and Jane Smith, but after following Ray Bradbury's advice of reading one short story, one poem, and one essay a night, I discovered I was barely scratching the surface. Through all that varied reading, I've picked up ideas, tools, and styles both consciously and subconsciously. There is so much raw material out there to draw from, it's crazy how much we miss by staying in our comfort zones. Ray's advice, combined with advice from Louis L'Amour on just reading everything you can get your hands on, no matter the subject, has given me so much grist for the writing mill. Literally, I've pulled inspiration from a magazine on home remodeling and a 50-cent out-of-print book on the history of sherry.

Anyway, getting a little longwinded here, but I hope someone reading this finds at least a useful nugget or bit of inspiration. I'm not special. I have a busy day job and a family like most of you. I just have chosen maybe an hour or so less sleep a night to do something that I think is more valuable for both my long-term sanity and happiness. wotf008

-Phillip
V34-Q4: HM, V35-Q1: HM, V35-Q2: SF
---
“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.” ― Ray Bradbury
Follow my attempt at 52 short stories in 52 weeks - https://phillipmccollum.com/52-short-stories-in-52-weeks/


Return to “Writing: Craft, Talent, Technique”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests