On Writing


Books on writing that I keep on my shelves

Novelist's Boot Camp: 101 Ways to Take Your Book From Boring to Bestseller
Todd A. Stone
Writer's Digest Books, 2006.

Thinking about writing that first novel, but haven't typed word one yet? Got your last novel published, but can't seem to start the next one? A dose of Stone's no-nonsense philosophy should help, i.e. "Hope is not a plan." I didn't think I'd like this one, but it turned out to be one of the best for practical tips on how to improve and revise a manuscript. Stone's overall blueprint for writing a novel from idea to final proofread is broken up into 12 "missions" with a total of 101 "drills" making it a handy reference no matter where you may be in the novel writing process.


First Draft in 30 Days: A Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript
Karen S. Wiesner
Writer's Digest Books, 2005.

Wiesner's book has great templates for keeping track of story arcs, characterization, and setting. Although using this method of planning put stories is not my cup of tea (I would go absolutely insane if I had to do it this way!), I did pickup some valuable techniques. The use of plot points and excerpts form Tolkien's Lord of the Rings kept me reading though this how-to manual. This is a great resource for those who are keen on outlining and planning out each little detail of a story before you start--or as you go. It's also a great tool for taking an unorganized pile of notes (or the word/idea slush from NaNoWriMo) and whipping it into a viable foundation for a novel.


Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons From a Writing Life
Terry Brooks
Del Rey Books, 2005.

Terry Brooks will be a familiar name to those of you who read or write fantasy. There are many references to fantasy novels, but don't pass this one by if you write other genres. The tips in this book apply to every genre. Here's a great example: "The strength of a protagonist is measured by the threat of the antagonist."


Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers
Carolyn See
Random House, 2002.

This book opens a window into the reality of a writer's life--the day-to-day trials and dedication as well as the exceptional moments that make going back to the day to day trials and aggravations worthwhile. Any writer will appreciate See's honesty and humor, not to mention the arsenal of writing tips within these pages.


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Scribner, 2000.

Let's face it: there are certain authors whose fame and success other writers envy. King is one of them. I envy his success even though I haven't read all his books and only like about half of those I have read. (It's probably no wonder that my favorite is Misery.) Whether or not I like King's stories, there's no denying he's a skilled writer. His tips on the craft, which comprise about half of this slim volume, are just as valuable as the insights into his life--both before and after the hit-and-run accident in 1999.


The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
Betsy Lerner
Riverhead Books, 2000.

Have you finished a few pieces, submitted them to publishers and started to earn your rejection letters? Then you're ready to get a professional editor's view on authors. Lerner identifies the different author personality types that an editor has to nurture and also gives valuable insight into the editor's side of the publishing business such as: "The art of editing is a dance one engages in with the author to help him achieve the best results."

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