Archive | October 2010

Writing Resources

I’ve been doing a workshop on research, which led to my digging out some old notes on useful writing books.  This is the short list of the books that have taught me so very much about writing–these are the books I still have on my shelf, the ones I go back to for a refresher course. These books may speak to you, or may not, but if you find one good piece of advice and some entertainment, these will have served you well, too.

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott — some instructions on writing and life, the perfect inspiration book

The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron — a workshop on how to unblock any blocks

The Courage to Write, Ralph Keys — one of the best books ever written on writing

A Manual Of Writer’s Tricks, David L. Carroll — a great idea generator

Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card — How to invent, construct and animate vivid, credible characters and choose the best eyes through which to view the events of your short story or novel

Creating Characters, Dwight Swain — great advice for beginners and for experienced writers

Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight Swain — teaches the bones of story structure

Story, Rober McKee — get the CD, or take his workshop, the book is so dense it’s very heavy going, but there’s a tone of great story structure basics here

Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life, Elizabeth George — Fabulous book, but will be more useful for an experienced writer to take her writing to the next step

On Writing, Stephen King — simple clear advice on keeping writing simple, clear and powerful

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King–a book I still keep right beside by desk and these days every writer needs to learn how to edit her work.

How to Write Romances, Phyllis Taylor Pianka — the basics of the genre

The Art of Fiction, John Gardener — wonderful writing about writing

Just Beachy

Guest blogging over at

The sand is as dazzling white as promised, the ocean as blue, and while there is much discussion of futures and publishing and brave new digital worlds, the refrain I hear echoed time and again is, “Write a good book.”  That is the one unchanging mantra from both traditional publishers and ‘digital first’ (a new buzz word and way more sexy than e-published, which is a mouthful, but does that imply ‘print last’?). 

Write a good book.  Easy words.  Hard task.

Which, of course, is why all of us are sitting here, trying to figure out how good is good?  And what do you do next these days?  The paths are many to get a good book out there and into a reader’s hands.

Print’s still around, of course, and going to be here for a bit, and it still has more allure, despite the cool new moniker of ‘digital first’ (and I do like the name ‘the Big Six’ for the NY publishing house, but the concensus is that that number’s going to be all over the map very soon).  Anyway, print is still a way to go if you don’t want to fuss with your own covers and you do have an idea that could kick into high gear with the right marketing machine.  And it’s got that lottery ticket allure that maybe you’ll hit the best seller list.

Then we have the ‘digital first’ publishers, our modern small publishers, who still have good things to offer, and Kindle is kicking these folks into high gear and Nook looks to do more, and this will be the Christmas for e-readers.

Beyond that is the world of self-publishing, which has good points (as in pocketing the money direct), but it also has its hard work — editing and covers and cover copy are all now in the author’s hands, a double-edged sword if ever, since it’s all your fault, too, if done badly.  But there are possibilities, and the stigma, while still there, is probably going to go away as more really good books actually come out of this area.

Which brings us back to the mantra–“Write a good book.”

Self-pub, digital first, print–they all demand the same thing.  A strong story, compelling characters, writing with a certain flow and flair.  You need a story worth telling, a tale that captures the imagination, something, as Kurt Vonnegut once put it, that doesn’t waste the reader’s time.  Oh, and a fair price point doesn’t hurt, either.

It’s comforting that some things never change–like the desire to have a good story.  And it reminds me what’s really important–which is to get the words on the page, and to keep working on improving my skills at doing so.  Conferences are always fun, but not as much fun as getting the words right on the page.