1. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    Books on Writing

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Kratos, May 22, 2008.

    [Not sure if this goes here...]

    I'd like to get some books on writing. I've looked through some books and they seemed pretty helpful, but does anyone have any particular books that helped them? I know everyone has their own opinion, and some of you don't like using those books, but I think they'll help me.

    Thanks in advance. :cool:
     
  2. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card is one of my favorites.
     
  3. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Yup, I agree, Orson Scott Card's book is one of the better ones around, and it's not expensive either. Off the top of my head, others worth a look are: The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, by Jack M. Bickham, and Make a Scene by Jordan E. Rosenfeld.

    Bickhams '38' book is cheap, and quick to read, yet it does have some good pointers in it, although admittedly if you already know a little about writing, you might find you're familiar with half of his 38 suggestions.

    Rosenfeld's Make a Scene book is somewhat different to other books on writing, which makes it stand out. It examines the structure of scenes, with the 'whats and whys' of the things which go on in a scene, so it's one of the better books to point out how to tackle things such as sub plots, sub texts and things of that nature. Certainly a cut above the average 'how to write' book.

    Because I had to develop several writing and editing courses (which I present from time to time), I've looked into quite a few of those 'how to write', types of books, as people occasionally ask me for recommendations. As such, I usually have a couple of broad suggestions for people when they do. Two of these, one for copywriting and the other for fiction, are the ones from the 'For Dummies' series of books, specifically: 'Writing a Novel and Getting It Published for Dummies' and 'Wrtiting Copy for Dummies'. The titles of the books don't do anything for your ego of course, but if you can get past that, they are actually very well structured and useful books, which impart a lot of worthwhile information, so there is no doubt that they will help you improve, because they cover almost every aspect. They also have the virtue of being books that you can 'dip into' rather than being forced to read them all the way through, as they feature excellent cross-referencing. I've found that these are slightly better than the similar 'Idiots Guide to' series, which also offers titles on writing skills.

    I'd avoid the 'you can write a novel' type books if I were you, they are often padded out with obvious stuff on three act structures, unities and other common knowledge, in addition to relying on annoying 'pep talks' and useless information such as 'don't give up' really? never would have figured that.

    One other thing to try, is to go to amazon.com and do a search for stuff on writing, read the reviews, but also, look for books with the 'Look inside' option, which allows you to check out a few pages. Any decent ones will not be afraid to show off their contents, and you can see whether the approach of the thing is something 'up your street'. Orson Scott Card's book is among the ones you can do that with by the way.

    Al
     
  4. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    As a writer, the only books you would ever need are as follows:

    On Writing - Stephen King

    Elements of Style - Strunk and White

    Writer's Market.

    A dictionary.

    Every other book on the market is BS. I suppose you could throw Orson Scott Card's Character & Viewpoint in there, or How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction if that's your cup of tea.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I write Science Fiction and the books I use are:

    Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

    Aliens and Alien Societies by Stanly Schmidt (edited by Ben Bova)

    and yes...

    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction


    Pretty pedestrian as resources go, but I find they grease the wheels of creativity from time to time.
     
  6. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I had checked out the Orson Scott Card book on Amazon, and I really liked it.
     
  7. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    I'd recommend On Writing by Stephen King. The book is mostly a memoir by/about Stephen King and not so much on how-to write. Even so, there is some solid writing principles displayed in the book that I personally found helpful.
     
  8. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    Stephen King's autobiography/instruction book, of course, for reasons stated above.


    I also like 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Ronald B. Tobias. It gives you an overview of the most common plot types and how they work, along with some sometimes surprising examples. It also points out cliches and how to avoid them, and how to keep originality in your work.
     
  9. The Dark Writer
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    The Dark Writer Member

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    I went to the Local library to look for some as well, but i couldn't find any.
     
  10. hellomoto
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    hellomoto Contributing Member

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    Yeah, they aren't really popular among libraries here in Australia.
     
  11. La Flauta
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    La Flauta New Member

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    A dictionary is your best friend. Those are very lovely books, you know? And to think when I was in elementary school I didn't like them...

    As for other books, I don't think you need them. But then again, I haven't gone about buying writing books. I'd prefer that you sit down and write rather than look through a book about writing. Develop your own style and habits and tricks, though words of wisdom may be worth a trip to the library for the fun of it.

    I personally find reading a novel more helpful and inspiring than reading a book about writing a novel.
     
  12. fantasywriter
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    fantasywriter Contributing Member

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    Character's and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card, is an amazing book, and I constantly look over it when writing.
     
  13. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Stephen King's "On Writing" makes an interesting read. There are also a ton of books out there on everything from scene and structure to character development and writing dialogue. Check out your local library for writer's digest books.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Personally, I'd steer away from King's On Writing, or at least be perepared to take it with a very large grain of salt.

    The classic The Elements of Style by Strunk and White may not be the most entertaining read, but it contains solid advice in a small volume.

    I also like the Scott Foresman Handbook for Writers and The Little, Brown Handbook as general grammar and punctuation guide. The Chicago Manual of Style is more detailed than the others, so it's not as easy to sort out your answers, but it's very detailed in its recommendations. I'll often find an answer ther that I have trouble locating anywhere else.
     
  15. Orianna2000
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    Orianna2000 Member

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    A List of Good Writing Books

    Over the past two years, I've invested in quite a stack of "how to write" books. Most I bought secondhand, through Amazon, for much less than the retail price. Some were helpful, and after reading them I noticed an immediate improvement in the quality of my writing. Others only rehashed what I already knew, or were too dense in style to be able to easily read and understand. (Personally, I didn't find Orson Scott Card's book very helpful. It was okay, but he tends to go on about things that have little to do with the subject, so I found myself skimming to find the informative bits.)

    The ones that made a significant impact in my writing are:

    * Dialogue by Gloria Kempton (Advice on how to make dialogue sound realistic, how to balance it with narrative and action, how to use it to set the mood, advance your plot, describe your characters and settings, reveal backstory. One of the "Write Great Fiction" series.)
    * Description by Monica Wood (The difference between showing and telling. How small details can make a huge difference in the story, and how to engage all the senses in setting a scene. One of the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series.)
    * Plot by Ansen Dibell (How to know if your idea will work as a story, how to insert subplots, build scenes, and use patterns to add depth to the story. One of the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series.)
    * Beginnings, Middles, & Ends by Nancy Kress (How to write the beginning so that it tells what needs to be told and hooks the reader; how to write the middle so that the story stays on track and characters develop fully; how to write the climax and denouement so that the end is satisfying to the reader, and it stops in the right place. One of the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series.)
    * Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress (How to describe characters without the novice approach of using "height/weight/eye color/hair color"; the importance of naming them, choosing their vocation; how to deal with dreams, personal thoughts, and attitudes; how to determine POV; how to create secondary characters that enhance the story and advance the plot; how to make the characters grow and change during the course of the story.)
    * Between the Lines: The Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing by Jessica Page Morrell (Covers a large number of subtle but important elements: backstory, subplots, cliffhangers, epilogues and prologues, foreshadowing, epiphanies/revelations, themes/premises, pacing, and tension.)
    * Worlds of Wonder by David Gerrold (How to write sci-fi & fantasy, but so much more than that. How to build utterly realistic, believable worlds and aliens; the difference between sci-fi and fantasy worlds; how to use metaphors, symbolism, and themes. Not only does it teach you these things, but it teaches you how to reason on your own, so you can do it by yourself. It also inspires your brain in new directions, and presents solutions to problems you might not even have known existed in your story.)
    * Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King (Covers all of the common mistakes made by inexperienced writers, and then some. Explains how to show, not tell (something I'd been told for years, but never truly understood until this book), how to keep POV consistent, how to use interior monologue to convey emotion, how to keep dialogue, exposition, description, and action balanced, and much more.)
    * Revision by Kit Reed (Explains the different ways a writer revises (based on personality); how to look over your story with revision in mind--how to know what to keep and what to edit, and most importantly, when to stop. One of the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series.)
    * A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman (Goes into detail about punctuation. Not just the grammatical aspects, but the artistic aspects, and how using specific punctuation can significantly add to the quality of your writing. In particular, a lot of writers are unsure how to properly use ellipses, dashes, and semi-colons, so they either avoid them altogether or use them improperly. This book shows the right way to use them, and how using them can enhance your story.)

    Also helpful were:

    * Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer (More intuitive layout than a standard thesaurus--so much easier to find the word you're looking for, especially if you blank out and can't think of any synonyms, only a vague concept. Words are grouped by associations, rather than based on their common definitions. You can look up a subject and find a list of words related to that subject . . . such as fabric. For example, if you look up "fabric", you'll find an extensive list of all types of fabrics, such as cotton, linen, brocade, jacquard, etc. Whereas if you looked up "fabric" in a traditional thesaurus, you'd only find synonyms like "material" and "fiber".)
    * Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman (A basic grammar book, very useful to have around.)
    * Time Travel: A Writer's Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel by Paul J. Nahin (One of a series that explains the science behind common sci-fi themes, such as time travel, alien life, space travel, etc.)
    * The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy (Vol. I) edited by Darin Park and Tom Dullemond (Covers everything from creating worlds and races, to avoiding clichés, and even vital details such as medieval food, clothing, medicine, weapons, armor, combat, religion and mythology. There are two more books in the series, but I haven't read them yet.)
    * On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels (Everything you want to know about crafting a romance novel, or just inserting a little romance into your story. Includes tips on creating sexual tension, making things believable, and how to do love scenes that aren't clichéd and over the top.)
    * Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost (A little bit of everything, but focuses on the wordsmithing aspect of writing. How to develop your own style, how to use grammar to your advantage, how to provide unity in writing style, and much more.)
    * Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham (The anatomy of a scene, how to break a story up into a series of scenes, what each scene needs to include, how to link scenes together, how to use scenes to adjust the pacing and tension of the story. Overall, it's a bit too controlled for my taste, but it still offers helpful advice. Part of the "Elements of Fiction Writing" series.)
    * Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser (The creative aspect of writing: how to let the creativity flow by letting go of the internal editor and critic, to merely write with the intention of editing later; how to harness daydreams to help you plot; how to avoid procrastination; and several tips on making your writing more effective.)
    * Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell (This offers the highlights of all the previous books in the "Write Great Fiction" and "Elements of Fiction Writing" series, devoting a chapter apiece. Works well if you need a quick refresher of what you've already learned. Part of the "Write Great Fiction" series.)

    Ones that did not help me so much were:
    * The Marshall Plan Workbook: Writing Your Novel From Start to Finish by Evan Marshall (Uses a formulaic approach to writing that I found much too structured and limiting.)
    * How to Write a (Damn) Good Novel by James N. Frey (Touches a little of everything, so there isn't much information on any one subject. Also, some of his advice is laid out as "must do" when it really is a matter of personal preference.)
    * Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle (Not useful only because it gives the same information as the other "description" book, but in a way that isn't quite as clear.)
    * Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (Again, because it gives the same information as the previous "plot" book, only not quite as good.)
    * Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (Some useful information, but it's hidden in-between pages and pages of non-relevant material. The "characters" book by Nancy Kress (listed above) is much easier to understand, covers more information, and gets right to the point in an incredibly helpful way.)

    More information than you ever wanted to know, eh? ;) Elsewhere I've written reviews of some of these books. If anyone's interested, I can add those here (or in their own thread, whichever).
     

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