I'll skip the "don't buy" ones. For me, there are far too many to list.
On the MUST buy list --
Jack Bickham's SCENE AND SEQUEL ***** difficult to really understand but one of the few books that actually talks about how to write stories -- the difference between scenes and sequels, motivation and response in the actual text, stuff like that
Dwight Swain'S TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER ***** Bickham’s mentor and like a different view of the techniques Bickham tries to explain
SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne and King ***** especially the chapter on “beats”
THE 3RD ACT by Drew Yanno ***** definitely for more advanced writers -- an involved discussion of how to develop the END of your story (Screenwriting text, but what he discusses is absolutely critical to novels and short stories also)
Card's already mentioned *****
STORY by Robert McKee ***** (another screenwriting text, but most of it is about how to form stories)
STORY SENSE by Paul Lucey ***** (and yet another screenwriting text – this one covers parts of storywriting that McKee doesn’t. You need both books.)
20 MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM by Ronald Tobias *** a good book that gets into really discussing the major plots and what the underlying steps are in their creation
SUSPENSE IN THE FORMULA STORY by George Dove *** -- it’s about mysteries and mystery composition but has some very insightful material that applies universally like the difference between “peeling an onion” type of story and “rolling a snowball” story
BETWEEN THE LINES by Jessica Morrell **** good but not quite on the level of some of these other books. A good one for a new writer or an intermediate one
THE ART OF PLOTTING by Linda Cowgill *** I’m currently studying this one. Once again, a screenwriting text. It’s not as easy to get the insights pinned down as in the other screenwriting texts, but it has helped firm up some of notions about plotting stories
[This message has been edited by arriki (edited November 20, 2009).]
Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers is pretty good. It is based on the ideas presented in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
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How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them - A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman (A-B) (5) - It's like a blind critiquer who'll sit on your desk all day long. Many of the mistakes apply to short fiction, as well.
The Joy of Writing Sex: A Guide for Fiction Writers by Elizabeth Benedict (A) (4) - I would rate this as a 5, except the book's examples might be too graphic and varied for some households/offices. If you're even considering the possibility of one day writing a sex scene, or alluding to one, then this is a great resource.
[This message has been edited by aspirit (edited November 20, 2009).]
The most-valuable books I've found so far are: Hands down:
Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (5; B and A) (This book was full of epiphanies fro me.)
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (5; B and A) (This book was full of epiphanies for me.)
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. (5; B and A) (This can be found for free, online here)
Also good, but not "essential":
Writing for Story by Jon Franklin (Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner) (4; B and A)
On Writing Well by William Zinsser (4; B mostly, but A, too)
Writing the Novel from Plot to Print by Lawrence Block (4; B and A. Similar to Character and Viewpoint, even shares striking resemblences.)
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block 4; B and A)
On Writing by Stephen King (5: B)
Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys (4; B)
Plot and Structure James Scott Bell (3 & 1/2; B)
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card (5; B)
I also feel that anyone who isn't receiving David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants in their email (considering it's free and he's been a WotF judge for years) is missing out on another great Beginner and Advanced resource--though it is geared toward the advanced writer.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited November 21, 2009).]
I guess the point was to list them anyway and give your personal rating of the book. That way someone reading this thread can see, for example, that ten people have a particular book and they all rate it highly.
Perhaps extrinsic can do some stats when we have enough of a sample!
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited November 21, 2009).]
Truth to tell, I usually only got a little here and a little there out of writing books. Either they weren't clear---or I was incapable of learning from them. I'm not sure which.
Still, the little here and little there did give me a few things to help move things along...often they taught me how to take apart the stories of others, and that probably helped me put my own stories together.
It's hard to single out one favorite among many, but probably my favorite was Dean Koontz's How to Write Best-Selling Fiction. Though I've never been much of a fan of his work, I found the book had a lot to offer, as well as being highly entertaining. (Never had a copy myself, though...I took the copy out of the library about a dozen times.)
I'll rate it a "5."
Some of your titles I've read, some I haven't...the title The Joy of Writing Sex intrigues me enough that I hope I remember it the next time I'm book shopping...
thanks inarticulatebabbler for the mention of David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants....i signed up
edited to add:
thanks also skadder for this discussion, I plan on picking up OSC's books on writing this Christmas...I have none to recommend at this time, I haven't had the best of luck with books about writing, finding the most helpful advice on websites such as this one!
[This message has been edited by LlessurNire (edited November 21, 2009).]
I bought a slew of books for my birthday and haven't made my way through all of them. If you read these books close together, I've found a lot of overlap.
I found the First Five Pages by Noah Lukemanto be an enjoyable read, but my favorite remains Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I found it an A - A.
I'm in the middle of Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. It's up there too along with Characters and Viewpoint by OSC.
Two things that have given me some good perspective. I signed up for David Farland's A Daily Kick in the Pants and Writing Excuses podcasts. The are an A for beginners and probably a B or C for experienced.
[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited November 21, 2009).]
On Writing- 3 Between the Lines, by Jessica Morrel- 4, but worth the read. Anatomy of Story, John Truby- 5 Style, any version, by Joseph Williams- 5 Much better and more detailed thant Elements of Style.
Here is one, though old, is very useful and free. Like Style and Elements of Style, it deals with writing clearly.
Scene and Sequel and MRUs by Dwight and such is very helpful, but they make it difficult to understand. So I put together a video series that explains it in an easy to understand way. People love it so far.
I discovered on my own a long time ago the key to understanding "scene" and "sequel" is that a scene is a scene the point of which is an action (John shoots Tony) whereas a sequel is a scene the point of which is a decison (John goes through the decision process of deciding to shoot Tony).
Action scenes have goal - conflict(development)- disaster(scene point made) parts This is where the Motivation-Reaction stuff comes into play
Sequels are all about the steps to making a decision
EMOTION of some sort triggers making the decision REVIEW is about considering what leads up to the decision ANALYSIS is looking for ways to accomplish what is wanted - pros and cons or various plans or alternatives DECISION is making the decision
Sequels CAN be meditative OR dramatized. They are sometimes difficult to differentiate from actual scenes. They advance the story but with a DECISION, not an action.
There is a lot more to scene and sequel. Lots of variation but this the heart of it. The bedrock. The foundation.
[This message has been edited by arriki (edited November 22, 2009).]
All the books on writing I have read and found useful have been mentioned here so I thought that I would add to this list the Podcasts on writing I find useful. You can download them from the links that I provided or directly from the Itunes store online for free.
www.sff.net/Odyssey/podcasts.html This is a very great resource for intermediate to advanced level writers. They are recorded lectures from various odyssy workshops from a variety of keynote and prolific guest lecturers. The lectures are categorized so you can snag one on a topic that you are interested in or one in which you feel that your writin may benefit.
The best thing about podcast besides being free is that you can listen to them on the commute to and from work or other times (like when you are washing the dishes) when you wouldn't be able to pick up a book.
www.stormwolf.com/thesecrets/podcasts/ This is Michael Stackpole's writing podcast which is very informative. He is a very sucessful writer and offers alot of wisdom. Although some of it seems irelevant to the newcomming writers, as he discusses alot of inside publishing information which doesn't really pertain to the unpublished.
This is the Grammar Girl Podcast. A good one a day that discusses grammar and usage.
I Should be writing podcast. This is another one I like to listen to weekly.
There are many others that yo can search by browsing the web or the Itunes store. Many are sorted into genre or other specialities, so I recomend finding ones you like or need.
Merriam Webster has an online Word of the day type podcast which is great for vocabulary building. I often get ridiculed for reading the dictionary so this is a good way to get a dose without hefting around a dictionary. My Ipod nano ways a few pounds less also.
I suppose I should honor the rating sytem imposed by the host of this thread.
Micheal Stackpole's "Secrets of Writing" 4A Murl Lafferty's "I should be writing" 4B Grammar Girl 5B Odyssey Writers Workshop 5AB American Writers.Com- Creative Writing Podcast 3.5B Grammar Grater 3B The Grim Reader's Screenwriting Podcast 2A Write That Script 4A Writing Challenges Podcast 3B
[This message has been edited by Phobos (edited November 22, 2009).]
Both of OSC's books, 'Characters and Viewpoint' and 'How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy' are excellent. 5B/A for the first and 5B for the second.
I've hesitated on buying other books because I don't want to get something that's a waste of time or worse, gives bad advice. With the list compiled here I'm going to pick a few that get repeated as very good and give them a shot.
With coupon in hand I'm off to Borders.
skadder, thanks for this posting and thank you everyone for your valuable input. It has turned out to be very fortunate timing.
I'm also finding Writing the Block Buster Novel by Albert Zuckerman to be invaluable about outlines (if you can handle a step-by-step process of going from rough outline to a polish). It covers what Writng the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass doesn't. Zuckerman's doesn't read as fast as Maass's, but it is excellent information, none-the-less. So, I'd also rate it a 5-A.
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