ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Insecure Writers Support Group Post - burrow into a great writing craft book...

Insecure writers should read--fiction, if that's what you write, and books about writing fiction to accelerate your grasp of the craft.

I read hundreds of books, and have quite a stash of writing craft books. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, some of these books can be hard to follow or confusing at best. Finding the advice you need can mean wading through pages of irrelevant info.

The best ever writing craft book for me has been Donald Maas' Writing the Breakout Novel. I used some of the exercises in it to write some prize-winning short stories. I've just ordered his latest, but it hasn't arrived yet--no next-day Amazon delivery in Australia, more like next month!


A great craft book I picked up over the holidays is The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by the editors of Writer's Digest (I love their work). You may have it. I've got the first edition, but there is a second edition out.  It is divided into several sections, each penned by famous writers such as Margaret Attwood, Stephen King, yes...Donald Maas, Anne Tyler et al. The beauty of it is you don't have to wade through it cover to cover, you can pick what you feel like reading or need to know about at the moment. It comes in five parts...

PART ONE is the Art and Craft of a Strong Narrative

If you're struggling with ideas and getting started, there's Taming the Beast by N.M. Kelby, using a great example in Truman Capote--ideas can start out running wild, train them onto the page. Then once you have the idea, there's plenty of advice on outlining your novel which I definitely need.

There's advice on Plot and Structure by the masters, which includes great advice on settings/locations.

As you'd expect, there's a HUGE section on Characterisation, including tips from Alice Hoffman on bringing your characters to life.

PART TWO is all about The Writing Process

There's heaps of best-selling advice from the likes of Sue Grafton and Elizabeth Sims. This section concludes with two great articles on Revision and Editing.

PART THREE is Exploring Novel Genres

I found this section great as I have to write fantasy in my writing group. It's a way to equip yourself if you want to try different genres--Literary, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery/Suspense/Whodunits, Romance and much more...all by top-selling authors in each genre.

PART FOUR is about Finding and Cultivating a Market for your Work

Well, if you write it, then you need to sell it. This part is all about publishing, the market, book proposals, queries, synopsis, rejections, platforms (including for novellas), marketing plans, editors, agents, contracts, self-publishing. It's all there!

PART FIVE is Interviews with Novelists

Let's listen to Tom Clancy, Elizabeth George, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Tyler, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow talking about their way of writing...these are superb.

The book concludes with Best-Selling Advice. This varies a lot from author to author.

Overall, this is a great book on the craft of writing, one of the best I think. It inspires me. If you haven't got a copy on your shelves, I highly recommend you grab one.


  • Have you read this writing craft book? If so, are you a fan?
  • What is your favourite writing craft book?
  • Do you find how-to books a help or a hindrance?

This post is part of the IWSG posts, originating with the Ninja, Alex J Cavanaugh. Click on the badge to sign up or to find more posts.






35 comments:

  1. If I continue writing, I'll have to get it.
    My favorite is still Save the Cat. It just clicked for me.

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  2. I was going to recommed SAVE THE CAT as well. SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK is also a great book. The ghost of Mark Twain insisted I mention GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY since he has more than a few chapters in that! Humility is not a burden for him! :-)

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  3. I will definitely check this one out. I'm usually not into the how-to craft books but I agree that Writer's Digest puts out incredible stuff (I still regret getting rid of 3 years of subscriptions to their magazine a decade ago.) And your review makes me think this one might just be the one I'm looking for. Thanks, Denise!

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  4. btw, I LOVE the look of your blog! Guess it's been awhile since I stopped by :)

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  5. Wonderful review and now I want it ;D

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  6. I've have Donald Maas' Writing the Breakout Novel and a number of others, and I found that Stephen King's book was most informative.

    I've been addicted to self-help books forever. Always in search of the secret to success -- so far what I've found is that it's HARD work(including research), PERSISTENCE, and BELIEF in the POSSIBLE.
    Probably because I'm in a really good place today!
    Tomorrow I might be wailing at the moon... :)

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    1. Sorry about the I've have -- need an edit button on comment boxes! :)

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  7. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll have to check it out. My favorite writing book is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

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  8. Not delved into writing craft books yet, and will admit to some hesitation. Writing advice out there already is so contradictory, or fitted to particular ways of thinking (i.e. it might work for you, or it might not) that I expect craft books to be much the same. In other words, just because a particular book helps one writer doesn't necessarily mean it will work for all. I reckon it's important to find one that "clicks", as Alex mentioned re. Save the Cat.

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  9. I've not read this particular one. I'm currently reading Save The Cat, which is brilliant.

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  10. Thanks for a great book suggestion, Denise. Will look it up.

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  11. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I just finished Plot & Structure, and Revision And Self-Editing both by James Scott Bell. Great reads that I now must own. He mentioned Donald Maas several times in his books. I might need to get that one too.

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  12. I couldn't just pick one, there's so many good ones! But I do like Maas' guide, very straightforward (and thank you for putting me onto it!). I haven't seen this one before, but also like Writer's Digest for great writing books.

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  13. Thanks for the suggestions, always on the look out for a good book on the craft.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  14. I LOVE Donald Maass' books on craft, all of them. Thanks for heads up on this one, too. I just added it to my TBR and will search for at Powell's Books next month when I go to Portland. We writers can never have too many books on craft.

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  15. I love Donald Maass' books. I have a copy of The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing. It is a good book to have along with others mentioned here.

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  16. I have read a number of writing books over the years. Writing Romance was an interesting one, my stepsister gave it to me for Christmas and I didn't even say I wrote romance, just that I wrote stories. Most of the books I've read though kind of all intermix in my head so I don't remember much of them anymore and it's harder to read a book on writing now. I have the Breakout Novel one but have only skimmed it. I've also skimmed an editing book since that is my main focus right now.

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  17. Hi, Denise,
    Over time I've read both books and articles on the craft. Nowadays, I skim over areas that might be of interest for a particular reason.

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  18. I find How-to books on any subject can be both helpful and a hindrance. "The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing' sounds interesting. Thanks for the tip, I may have to pick it up. I'm on an island in the Caribbean, so I hear ya about Amazon Sometimes down here, next day can mean next year.

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  19. Absolutely! Reading is such a vital part of the writing process and learning how to write. Couldn't agree more!

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  20. I read a lot of books on writing too when I first started out. I should re-read some, the lessons are valuable.

    ........dhole

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  21. Hi Denise .. just ordered this - I'm going to look at a few of these books .. and picked some out of Karen Jones Gowen's recent blog post on the subject ... so I can get a better understanding of writing a novel, or crafting some short stories etc ..

    Thanks for highlighting the book for us and the other info you and your commenters gave ... cheers Hilary

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    1. You're welcome Hilary...the more books the better I say.

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  22. You have me thinking about the romance in February blogposts! That is not my genre, but might be fun.

    Like Farawayeyes, I think reading about writing is two edged.

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  23. This sounds good. I like craft books that are down-to-earth. Some are too dry, like an academic textbook, and I can't respond to that. That's why Stephen King's On Writing is my favourite - he mixed in his life story and writing journey alongside great advice.

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  24. great idea...gotta check the book out , now!

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  25. Love your review of the book. Most craft books are the kind that don't hold my attention for long. I do have a folder full of snippets- on writing tricks, suggestions and pointers.
    I hope my RFW story comes out readable at the very least.

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  26. Hey Denise, I just saw your well-written post! Very glad you like the book, & thanks for mentioning me (and Don Maass, whose agency represents me). It strikes me that you might find value in my new book coming out in April from Writer's Digest Books. It's called YOU'VE GOT A BOOK IN YOU: A STRESS-FREE GUIDE TO WRITING THE BOOK OF YOUR DREAMS. In particular, I think you might enjoy the chapter called 'Stormwriting: The Tool of Tools'. Anyway, best wishes to you and all your correspondents! Elizabeth Sims

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  27. Sorry I got here so late, Denise. I thought I had visited you for this post. I really need to read these books. I haven't read much on the 'art of writing" and I know I should at some point.

    Thanks for the wonderful suggestions and the finer points of these books Denise.

    I hope you are cool and enjoying your week.

    Michael


    I am taking a cake decorating class, so I had to bake a cake to decorate. SUCH FUN.. Great people in the class too... I got home and called the neighbor. TAKE HALF THIS CAKE! She laughed and buzzed across the four ft hall separating our condos. She thanked me and about a minute later knocked on my door again. SHE RAVED... Love the cake and cursed me that she would gain weight. LOL. Better her than me.

    I try NOT to keep too much of these goodies in the house. I am constantly watching the scale and have been at the gym EVERY DAY no matter how cold. Of course I am TASTING everything and I MUST burn off the added calories. WHY did I start this baking obsession? Don't I have enough on my plate? LOL.

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  28. It's quite possible I have this book (or the first edition) on my Kindle, but I haven't read it yet. So far, I've really loved Hooked by Les Edgerton.

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  29. Hi Denise!

    You saw my craft books, yet now I'm buying Style Guides!

    Nas

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  30. Hi Denise.
    I completely spaced out the support group this month. I will have to buy that book. I have two favorites. The Writer's Journey and 50 Master Characters.
    Nancy

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  31. you have given me a great gift idea for someone i love--thanks!

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  32. I haven't read this book - or heard of it - so thanks for the suggestion!

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