1. wangdering
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    wangdering New Member

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    Books on story writing

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by wangdering, May 25, 2008.

    Picking up this and that from the Forum is good but I felt that I need a systematic guide on story writing. Could anyone recommend such kind of a book on introductory level?
    Thanks a bunch.
     
  2. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    If you want a catch all book that covers everything, you could do a lot worse than the 'For Dummies' range of books, specifically, 'Writing a Novel and Getting it Published for Dummies'. Don't be put off by the title, it's actually very good, and not aimed at dummies at all. It covers everything from actual writing skills, to aspects of the publishing industry, so is a good one-stop-shop. But by its very nature of covering all bases, it might not go into enough depth in some areas you feel you need to learn more about, so be aware of that possible limitation.

    If you want something more specific that will go into greater detail, there are plenty of choices, although many of them are more like 'motivational books' with everything that such a handle implies, i.e. they are often full of useless padding advice such as 'hey! don't give up!' - Like you couldn't work that out.

    So, beware of those types, which are usually published under titles such as 'You can write a novel in (insert random number) days' etc.

    Ones that I can recommend are:

    John M Bickham's The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, which is a small book, you could easily read it in an afternoon, but it has a lot of good pointers, even if one or two of them are of the 'don't give up' ilk.

    Also worth a look, is Jordan E Rosenfeld's Make a Scene, which unlike a lot of other books is very clear on explaining stuff such as themes and sub texts. It does this by using well chosen examples of contemporary fiction in an easily understandable way. It's not perfect, but it is definitely among the better ones.

    Then there is the ubiquitous Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint - Elements of Fiction Writing. While he might be a bit of a Looney Tune in real life, this book by Card is well worth picking up if you want pointers on characterisation. It's not the only book he has published on writing, he's done ones on specific genres too, but if you get anything by him, this is the one to get.

    Needless to say really, but that is obviously not a comprehensive list, and even the ones I've listed may not be up your street in the way that they talk to you. So I'd certainly recommend taking a trip to a large well-stocked bookshop and having a browse, or if you can't do that, search on somewhere like amazon.com, read the customer reviews there (bearing in mind some may have been seeded by the publishers or even the author - usually easy to spot and sometimes amusing when you do spot them too - by the way, guilty as charged, I was asked to do that very thing when the publisher requested I write such a review of a book featuring my own work of fiction, I did it too LOL, and no, I won't tell you which one it is) and check out books which offer the 'look inside' feature. In addition to which, most of these titles can be picked up used from amazon, often for very little money, so check out the 'buy new and used' options on there. Funnily enough, I bought a book used from amazon yesterday, it cost one pence to buy (literally) and 2.75 to post it to me.

    Al
     
  3. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    It all depends on what aspects of writing you want to learn about. If you're interested in writing novels, "Your First Novel" by Laura Whitcomb and Anne Rittenberg is best hands down. If you'd like to concentrate on individual aspects, I'd go for the "Write Great Fiction" series, particularly Nancy Kress' "Characters, Emotions & Viewpoint".
     
  4. companionableills
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    companionableills Member

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    Ah, Lucy beat me to it - I love Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint.
    Another great one is How To Tell A Story by Peter Rubie and Gary Provost.
     
  5. Aurora_Black
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    Aurora_Black Contributing Member

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    Agreed, im actually amazed at how that Dummies series has everything, heh next thing you know:

    How to commit a crime and get away with it: For Dummies!
     
  6. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Funny you should mention that Aurora, because there is a book in the (comparable) 'Complete Idiots' series which was withdrawn because it revealed rather too much about matters concerning national security. If you don't believe me, see if you can find a copy of 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Submarines', you will find one, but it will be used, and you will be shocked how much it costs to buy it.

    Al
     
  7. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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  8. Aurora_Black
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    Aurora_Black Contributing Member

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    Haha thats completely ridiculous, no wonder bad guys know so muh about our working >< we have a guide to!

    I bet the Duke of Wellington had Complete Idiots guide on: How to defeat Napoleon

    Ok im done with the guide jokes now >< Sorry guys!
     
  9. wangdering
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    wangdering New Member

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    Al, thanks for the thorough advice!
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you don't mind my putting in my own two cents on the subject, i have to say that i never recommend any 'how-to' books for learning how to write [other than for screenwriting, where it's a must, due to the specialized nature of the art]...

    the only thing anyone needs to do to learn what makes good writing is study the masters... to write well, one must be a constant and discerning reader... to start, of the best works by the best writers of all time... and after you've absorbed enough of what makes great writing, you can then tell when you're reading something of lesser worth and see what to avoid in your own work, by checking out the stuff churned out by schlock writers who make so much money...

    and, of course, if that's your only goal, you can emulate them, instead of those others, whose work and fame will last as long as a sentient being can read...

    guess that's more 'n 2 cents worth... sorry!

    hugs, maia
     
  11. edens garden
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    edens garden Senior Member

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    I highly recommend Stephen Kings 'On Writing'. It gives you a lot of ideas (one that particularly helped me was not over using commas and adjectives) and at the same time is interesting enough to be a really good read.
     
  12. grrarrgh
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    grrarrgh New Member

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    Eden's Garden beat me to it. Stephen King's On Writing is great. Not only does it give you a lot of valid pointers, but it's a wonderful memoir of his writing career. I have it in HB, PB, and on my Kindle. :)
     
  13. HookshotManiac
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    HookshotManiac Member

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    On Writing Well by William Zinsser isn't half bad either.

    What about reading the how-to's and reading from reputed writers? ;)
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's fine, but you could get the same thing - one writer's perspective - by studying that writer's works/ The latter is probably better, because not everyone whow tells you "how" will follow his or her own advice consistently.

    If you follow this approach, choose an author whose works you admire for their writing, not just someone who sells well or writes a genre you like.

    For example, I enjoyed several books written by science fiction author James P. Hogan, but only because he put out some interesting ideas. I find his actual writing style simplistic and his characters shallow, so I would not choose a how to book on writing by him, if one existed. Nor would I read Stephen Kings book on writing, because as much as I feel he can spin a good tale from time to time, I find his writing varies widely in quality; some of it is downright annoying.
     
  15. Writer's Coin
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    Writer's Coin New Member

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    more books

    I too am a huge fan of On Writing, it gets me inspired every time I read it. But so does A Moveable Feast by Hemingway. Writing Down the Bones is also a good one.

    I guess I'm less into the "how to" books than the ones that are more philosophical and ruminative. Yeah I just dropped "ruminative" on you.

    If you want to see someone make any topic under the sun interesting, check out David Foster Wallace's nonfiction: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yet again, cog has spoken for me... and eloquently, as usual... thanks, kiddo--you're such a great time-saver! ;-)

    hugs, m
     
  17. wangdering
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    wangdering New Member

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    Speaking of Stephan King, he puts it in a short essay on writing that the only way to good writing is reading for four hours a day and then writing for another four hours.
     
  18. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    ^ I have to disagree with Mr. King there, I'm afraid. I think that advice is bull. No offense to him.
    Everybody is different. Some couldn't handle that much reading and writing in a day. Plus that extinguishes hope for the people who don't have the time to do that much. And I think it's a nonsensical idea, anyway. I doubt JKR, or TC, or JRRT ever put that much time in to each activity every day.
     
  19. wangdering
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    wangdering New Member

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    Lucy, it is reassuring to hear that, at least for someone like me, who enjoys reading and writing and want to improve on the skills but definitely can't spare that much of time on it. On the other hand, I guess there is some gem in Stevie's words: writing well, just like joggling a soccer ball well, is about practice and practice.
     

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