1. giant-insect
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    giant-insect Member

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    Desire recommendation for book on writing

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by giant-insect, Jul 23, 2016.

    I'm writing my first book and I think I could use a book on how to be a good writer. Granted, I could do a live and learn approach, which is why I'm subscribed here in the first place, but I thought it would be best if I tried to get my feet onto more solid ground.
    I did a search on amazon, it turns up a lot. I'm not certain what I might use or if there is something useful to me there (since writing has taken a number of forms over the centuries and depending on your audience).
    Also, if everyone writes like book X recommends then there will be a lack of verity.
    I'm writing what I plan to be a science fiction series.
    Thanks
     
  2. JD Anders
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    JD Anders Member

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    Interestingly enough, I think the best way to learn to write is to read. Not necessarily a "how-to" book, though. Instead, I'd suggest reading as much sci-fi as you can, noting what does and doesn't work or appeal to you, and then applying that information to your own writing.

    I haven't read any how-to-write books, but I would be worried that they lead to a stale, formulaic approach. Reading well and intently is the best way to improve as a writer while still crafting your own voice.
     
  3. Pindrop
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    Pindrop Banned

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    It depends what you are after, if you are after the basics, SPAG, tenses, POV, plot, pacing etc then I have read some great examples. If you know all that, then personally I would read some Steinbeck; genuinely I cannot think of a better master of the craft to learn from, personal preference though.

    EDIT: I missed the SF reference, but a good writer is a good writer regardless of genre. Examples of great Sci-Fi; Wells, Asimov, Iain M Banks.

    EDIT #2: I really should consider my posts before posting them. Part of SF is seamlessly incorporating exposition, which as Wreybies said, does not kill pacing. Asimov in particular achieves this, unfortunately he tends to write in third omniscient, which is not the spirit of the corporate publishing age.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. He did have a few pointers to mention that I still hold to to this day, like not naming your science fiction creatures meaningless "empty file" names that don't register in the mind of the reader. If the predator making its way towards Garfma serves the ecological niche of a shark in Garfma's world, then have Garfma yell "SHARK!", not "TWIZZLEBOP!" since twizzlebop means nothing and has no connection for your reader that you won't have to tediously explain out, thus killing your pacing in that moment.

    Stuff like that.

    But I agree with what you've already made mention, that beyond some basic pointers, holding to someone's How To Write tome as though it were a religious text is a serious mistake for any writer.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The writing books I have lining my shelves all have different virtues. (The ones that didn't help me much or at all were subject to a clear-out a while back.) I didn't read any of them till after I finished writing my first draft and got my first tranche of feedback from betas, so I came late to that game. However, I found them a source of very valuable information when it came to editing and taking a second look at what I'd written, and understanding what I'd written.

    Is there a particular area of your novel writing venture that concerns you?

    Here are four of my favourites:

    My number one favourite, mainly because it inspires me and makes me want to get started writing, no matter what stage I'm at is:
    The Novelist's Guide - Powerful Techniques for Creating Character, Dialogue and Plot, by Margret Geraghty
    (this may be out of print, but is certainly available through Amazon's used book sellers)

    The 1992 edition of: The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing - Practical advice and instruction for creating the novel—from first idea to plots and subplots to outlining and writing to contacting and working with ideas - from the editors of Writer's Digest
    (there are other editions of this book, but this is the one I use most often. The contributors are nearly all well-known authors, so you get a variety of approaches, which is one of the book's main strengths.)

    The 28 Biggest Writing Blunders (And How to Avoid Them) - Give your writing spark and spontaneity by not: writing for your eighth-grade teacher - complicating the obvious - being a slave to a grammar guru - overusing your thesaurus - getting tied up in a sentence straitjacket - getting tricky and jazzy with style - by William Noble
    (As you can probably guess from the jacket blurb quoted above, this is not a dry, dull book. In fact it's a hoot to read, but gives its information in a down-to-earth way. I love this book.)

    And another book that is more inspirational than it sounds: Story Trumps Structure - How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking The Rules, by Steven James
     
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  6. giant-insect
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    giant-insect Member

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    Yes.
    First is grammar. It's not that I'm no good or that I hate it, it's that my schooling was poor here.
    Second is the fact that I find myself mixing more flowery prose with far more strait sentences.
    Third is that I've never written before and I'm the type of guy that prefers to be good at something before putting out a finished product (which I think is great), into the hands of reads who can clearly see that I'm a brainless NOOB who though he was something special.

    I've read a bunch of online tips, but most are on things that I already know.
    Would it help if I submitted my work for review and then asked where my rough edges are?
     
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  7. Pindrop
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    Pindrop Banned

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    There is nothing better than having someone read and respond to the specifics of your work.
     
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  8. giant-insect
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    giant-insect Member

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    Ok then
    Ok. Problem resolved until later.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, it would. But make it clear in the introduction to what you post that you're doing it in order to pinpoint the rough edges. That way people will tackle the critique in the most helpful way.

    It sounds as if you are mostly concerned about grammar issues, sentence structure, etc, and not so concerned about story structure, character development and other story construction issues? If that's the case, of the four books I recommended, the one entitled The 28 Biggest Writing Blunders, by William Noble, might be your best bet.

    You are quite right to realise that you will struggle to become a writer if your grasp of SPAG isn't good. Being able to use grammar correctly and string coherent sentences together are basic requirements for any writer. So do what you can to 'study up,' and above all ...read. Read a lot. The more 'good' grammar you're exposed to, the more naturally you'll pick it up.

    This below is the most helpful website I've ever run across for grammatical issues. Not only does it explain them very well, but gives you excellent interactive tests to take after each section. These tests help you practice using each of the subjects covered, and being able to practice is VERY useful.

    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/exercises/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_41.htm
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
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  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've purchased two, both recommendations from members here. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain is supposedly excellent, although I've not read it yet (I only bought it about 18 months ago). And Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obsfeld, which I have read and can assure you is excellent!
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My favorites are the two by John Gardner: The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist. These are not beginner's books; they won't help you through basic grammar issues, etc. Gardner assumes you've already mastered that material. These books are about achieving what Gardner refers to as mastery. By that, he means using techniques he discusses to express character, plot, and - mostly - theme.

    I find Gardner's books very inspirational.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    On Becoming a Novelist is my newest writing book acquisition. I got it a couple of months ago and have read it all the way through. I think it's an excellent book, but it isn't for beginners. Or if it is, it's not any kind of formula for teaching a beginner how to write. It's more a discussion about what writing entails, and what to think about while writing. I'll probably re-read it soon.
     
  13. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I really like the advice articles on Ellen Brock's site, and it's free: https://ellenbrockediting.com/

    Can't help with actual book recommendations.
     
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  14. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    I'm currently reading the Write Great Fiction series.

    Also I've read Writing Fiction for Dummies, which was EXCELLENT.

    I've got a few more I haven't gotten too yet.
     
  15. giant-insect
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    giant-insect Member

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    Free online materials is fine, I've located a bunch myself. I've noticed, sadly or not, that you normally learn the most from real paper though.
    You understood correctly.

    Thanks, all!
     
  16. Opal Rose
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    Opal Rose New Member

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    I've read a lot of books about writing, and my favourite is How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method.
     

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