Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How to Write A Novel 10: Resources

Quote: “Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?”
~Taylor Mali “Totally, Like, Whatever, You Know?”

Song playing: 9 Crimes by Damien Rice

Steve Jobs is at it again: he’s controlling my iTunes. The songs that keep coming up no matter how many times I reshuffle are: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey (one of the greatest bands EVAR), I Could Fall in Love by Selena, What Shall We Die For? From the Pirates of the Caribbean Three soundtrack, Flood by Jars of Clay, and Wave Wet Sand by Ace of Bass (I can feel you judging me). This is my mermaid book playlist too, so don’t blame it on the playlist.

(I would post a picture of iTunes right here, but I don’t want to get sued by Mr. Jobs. So just use your imagination.)

Today, Michael Emeritz has a hysterical video on his blog. You should go check it out. I’ll wait…

Funny, right?

It's a poem by Taylor Mali, animated by Ronnie Bruce. It’s about how people no longer talk with conviction. I blame the nit-pickers for this phenomenon. I can’t tell you how many times I gave an opinion on some forum only to be lambasted by people who “don’t work that way”. Even on my own blog, every time I say “everyone does XYZ” or “it works best this way, usually” I feel like I am tempting fate, and the TWO people in the history of history will crawl out of the Internet to teach me the folly of my ways. So! When I say “my opinion” or “most people” don’t think it’s because I am not sure of what I speak—I wouldn’t be blogging about it if I didn’t—but my attempts to recognize that not everyone happens to share my opinion (for some reason ;) ).

Overall, I agree with the message: speak with authority. Go out on a limb!

So we near the home stretch for my How to Write a Novel series. Today we’re going to talk about the resources a writer has in their arsenal, right next to the grammar gun and the adverb napalm.

All writers, both unpublished and published seek to find ways to hone their craft. Writing is rewriting. At the heart of writing is communication. You are communicating your ideas to the reader. The goal is to communicate this in the best fashion possible. That’s why trying to improve your knowledge of grammar, spelling, punctuation, story structure, voice, characterization, and more is in your best interests.

I like to think of it as a journey, and honestly it surprised me whenever someone expects to just be good at writing. I’m not talking about talent, and inspiration and art. A painter practices his art, a trombone player practices his music, why do so many writers think they don’t have to practice their writing?

I think it’s because just about everyone knows how to write. Even the office warrior stuck in his cubicle writes missives and memos to his coworkers and bosses. It’s a technical part of daily life. The real test comes when someone can write well, or if they can spin an interesting story. That’s where us writers come into play.

I have found the following resources helpful to me on my journey to improve as a writer. These books and articles might not be of use to you, they may be too advanced, or you may have out grown them. I noticed as I go through various stages of writing, certain books speak to me more. A year ago an article would have been informative, but if I have already passed that point, the article will merely reiterate what I already know.

But there are a few books that I find myself going back to again and again because the advice they hold is timeless, and useful for beginners as well as veterans.

1. Websites

Holly Lisle’s website has tons of articles. She is a fantasy author, but her articles aren’t just for fantasy writers. I would recommend checking them out. I especially enjoyed her article on “Finding Your Themes”.

(again, I apologize for the crappy linkage on my blog, the link dohitchy isn’t working)

Jim Butcher’s LiveJournal really shed some light on simple, yet essential characters building and scene structure. Plus, they’re fun to read. I highly recommend checking this out.

This site is mostly geared towards science fiction and fantasy, but it too has a lot of articles that all writers would benefit from, like a technical article about how to make sure you don’t get eaten alive by taxes at the end of the year.

This site has the best article on worldbuiling I have ever seen.

2. Books

*The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
by Noah Lukeman
A editor’s look at why they reject manuscripts. If you keep getting rejected I suggest you look at this book. Lukeman covers the gamut from presentation to use of exclamation points in this handy novel.

*The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Your Fiction to Life
by Noah Lukeman
I look at this book at least once a week to check something. Not just about plot, but characters as well. Lukeman has three full chapters devoted to the inner and outer characterization. He talks about suspense, conflict, and character journeys.

*A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
by Noah Lukeman
Finally! A grammar guide for creative writing! I love this book. Lukeman talks about all major forms of punctuation and why a writer might use one over the other. He covers matters of style, and has exercises at the end of each section for you to try out with your own writing.

*Stein on Writing
By Sol Stein
Stein, an editor and writer, covers all aspects of writing from grammar, cutting the flab, character development, dialogue. It’s packed full of information and easy to use suggestions.

*Writing the Breakout Novel
By Donald Maass
An invaluable tool before and after you write a novel. This book assumes you already have a manuscript written, but I like to use some of the exercises to develop the plot ahead of time. This book teaches you have to be your own book doctor by systematically going through your manuscript and fine tuning the conflict, character development, sense of place, setting, and many other details.

*How to Write a Damn Good Novel I and II
By James N. Frey
Both of these books cover the basic and more of writing. Frey talks in a casual manner about writing, characters, motivation, premise and other pieces of writing. It’s like having someone sit in a chair and give you the inside scoop on writing.

*Careers for Your Characters
by Obstfeld and Neumann
Very useful book talking about loads of different professions for your characters, separated by industry. It mentions schooling, money, and even some “buzzwords” someone in that profession would know.

*On Writing
Stephen King
The first how to book I ever read on writing was On Writing by Stephan King. His voice touched me, and gave me courage to go on. His writing advice is clear and to the point, and I especially enjoyed the personal section. A book on why, not just how, to write.

I will probably mention other books once I read through the books I just ordered, but I wanted to keep this list short and sweet.

3. You

Other writers. Other writers have helped me on my journey as much as any book or website. Knowing that I am not alone in my journey and struggle helps me get through the rough nights when the words won’t come. So pat yourself on the back, because I appreciate it. Without you, I am just a voice quacking in the void.

So there you have it. A sort of comprehensive guide for resources for writers. How about you? Any websites and books you feel were instrumental in your growth as a writer?

1 comment:

  1. Woo-Hoo, new books to read! A few books that helped me along were the "Elements" series from Macmillian, "The 36 Dramatic Situations" by Georges Polti, "Poetics" by Aristotle, and the Random House Thesaurus.