1. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    "How-To" books for novel writing.

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by StormWarrior, Aug 5, 2008.

    Has anyone read one of these? Do you think it's necessary, or maybe even necessary to have formal training?

    Anyone recommend a good "How to write a novel" book?

    How did you learn to write?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sorry, I don't know any how to write books, but I will tell you how I learned. I read good books from good authors and learned from them. I believe Faulkner's advice was something along the lines of reading both good and bad books. That way, you learn from the masters and also learn about mistakes authors make.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    StormWarrior,

    There are a number of books out there that may be of use to you. On Writing by Stephen King, or How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Character & Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writring) by Orson Scott Card come to mind.

    Depending on where you are at with respect to your writing and story telling ability, they may work for you. However, I would not collect/read more than one or two, because that is enough to orient you, offering direction, plus there is not a secret forumula or process or pattern or technique that will guarentee success. If there were, it'd be out there already, wouldn't it? Or at least the book that produced it would be well known and unquestioned.

    If you're going to spend money on books for research, spend it on those that will provide background information for your novels. If you're going to write about Medieval warfare, maybe Faces of Battle by John Keegan or How to Make War by James Dunnigan if you're focusing on more modern combat as a place to start. If you're writing historical pieces, tombs focusing on society, clothing, and customs of that time period would be handy. Maybe borrow them from the library (including the books on writing).

    These would be supplemented by what information you can find on the internet (and be careful of the source's accuracy). And there is a lot of advice on writing on the internet to supplement (or even replace) any of the books you might obtain. It's an individual choice.

    Other than that, reading and paying attention to how things are done by the author...reading in the genre and maybe even a bit out, will pay dividends.

    That's my opinion.

    Terry
     
  4. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    After taking basic english(writing/composition/grammar/analysis) classes in school, the majority of useful doings involve writing a lot, and some critiquing. You can read a book or two, or a few articles, but after that, it's reading and writing(fiction, especially in your chosen genres) all the way. Most writing books are from the point of view of whoever wrote them, and the responsible ones should leave some sort of mention that their methods or ideas don't work for everyone.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well said. Like any discipline, there are some basic commonalities, but after that, each of us tends to part ways in what works for us.

    Some people need a super-structured method, others need to let their inner voice flow at its own pace.

    Some need to start at the beginning and work their way through, others find that their muse drops them right in the middle of their story and they work their way in both directions.

    None of the aformentioned is either right or wrong, it just depends on what works for you.
     
  6. Rabid Fox
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    Rabid Fox Member

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    "On Writing" by Stephen King is a must-read in my opinion, even though it's less a "how to" than it is a memoir of what his early career was like for him.

    As for a step-by-step guide? Hmmm, I recall reading one titled "A Novel Writer's Toolkit" from the WDBC a couple of years ago. That had some useful fundamentals in it that I was unfamiliar with at the time.
     
  7. Butler
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    Butler Member

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    There are a lot of books focusing on genres or even on certain aspects of writing, like character or plot building. I was tempted to buy this huge book all about names and their meanings because I'm not good at naming characters or places, but it was expensive and I could probably find the same information online if I looked hard enough.

    I recommend The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel by Tom Monteleone. It's easy to read and covers what you need to know about novels, genres, writing, revision, and publication. Maybe it doesn't have all the information, but it's a good book. The fact that it's written colloquially makes it easy to get through.
     
  8. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Some people swear by Stephen King's book, simply because he's Stephen King. I'm afraid I don't kneel at that shrine.

    Apart from books on punctuation, grammar, usage and other formal components of writing, I'd avoid the whole "How to write a novel" class of books. Most will containg some great advice, quite a bit of "Nyeh" advice, and even some "Ya gotta be kidding!" The trouble is, until you already have a pretty good notion of these guidelines and the thinking behind them, you probably won't know the great advice from the stuff you should enriching your garden's soil with.

    Your reading time is better spent looking at the actual writing of authors you admire, and deciding what of that works best for you. Don't just imitate everything that author does, though. Even great authors stumble, and it pays to read critically enough to be able to say, "This part could have been better, and here is how and why."
     
  10. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Ooops I missed the questions.

    I have not, but I am sure there are people that have.

    Not really, it is a matter of skill. Training is a means by which you can gain said skill so it is helpful and highly recommended.

    It is necessary to read a "self help" book? Not at all. but like formal instruction it might be helpful.

    in school, slowly, over time.
     
  11. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    I had a lot of influence from books that cover writer's conference. I'm usually unable to attend because of work. My favorite would be The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction
    by Barnaby Conrad, Santa Barbara Writer's Conference
    . I think there are used copies available, since it's out of print.
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    I look at it like this there are things you you are meant to do and things that you can do. I write because I love telling stories. Even as a child I told stories to others to make them laugh. When I found out how much writting is required for writting I never blinked an eye

    I tried to go to school for art though when i first went to college. When I found out how much art work they expected you to produce I realized that I could not do it. Yes I can draw and paint but to do it that often I would hate

    Be sure you really want to write before you do. You do not want to be left frustrated.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not me... though i've taken a look at a few, in my role as mentor to aspiring writers...

    absolutely not!... the only books one needs to learn how to write novels are novels by the best novelists of all time...

    from what i've seen out there, i doubt a truly good one exists...

    by READING constantly and copiously, ever since i could first hold a book in my hot little hands...
     
  14. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    "Necessary, or maybe even necessary"...? :redface:

    I think it might help, especially with those people who don't find writing to come to them as easily as some others, but I don't think it's always necessary. I learned most of what I needed to know about writing from paying attention in English grammar classes, and from reading fiction and writing stuff of my own. Yes, most of the early stuff I wrote was junk, but that just helped me learn how to do it better later on. Trial and error.

    I won't recommend any novel-writing books because 1. I don't really know any and 2. different methods work for different people; I wrote an online "how-to" on writing novels and even though it helped me with one, I honestly don't use it for most of my writing! How-tos work for only some people, not everybody.

    By writing. :)

    That's really the only sure way. You can read as many books and study as many techniques and take as many classes as you want, but only writing itself can truly teach you how to write. Witness all the other kids with me who attended the same classes I did yet can barely even string a sentence together or spell correctly. They probably didn't pay attention because they didn't consider it important, but I heavily doubt they spend any time writing, either!
     
  15. InPieces
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    InPieces Senior Member

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    I don't believe in reading how-to books about writing. I haven't read one, and I don't think I will. Writing is subjective, and why would I read a book by someone who has already come up with their own trick of writing and attempt to copy it? (eg. Stephen King). My best advice for learning 'how to write' would be to read. Read. Read. READ. Read some more. Maybe take a grammar course through a school, or there are many free ones online. Read articles on creative writing and maybe take a course. Most importantly, I cannot stress this enough, READ THE GENRE you are writing. Don't copy the material you read, but see what works in the piece and why it is so popular.

    Just my two cents,

    ~ InPieces
     
  16. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    This is a problem for me though. I don't think the novel I want to write is any particular genre. At first I thought it would be fantasy but it has turned out not to be. I don't know what it is.
     
  17. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's it about?
     
  18. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    So far (although it keeps changing) it's about a (fantasy) land where people from the southern continent are moving to the northern continent, and changing it drastically. It's about the northerners' fight to get the southerners out and keep them out. The thing is, I don't want the politics to be the main story. I want that to be the backdrop to the characters' personal lives. It will have to be part fantasy, because I need a few things to happen which (at this point in time) can only be explained by magic.
     
  19. InPieces
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    InPieces Senior Member

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    At this point, what you've explained seems like pure fantasy to me. Maybe not high fantasy (like Lord of the Rings), but it sounds like fantasy from what you said. If you want, you could send me a snippet to be sure.

    ~ InPieces
     
  20. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    hell it sounds like "What if magic were real during the civil war." Now that would be cool
     
  21. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Hi, Stormwarrior. I've got a library of these books, and every time I look over them I feel the irony that some writers have made a small fortune off my misfortunes in the writing field. Lol.

    Although I feel there's some useful things to be learned from these kinds of books,I take everything I find within their pages with a grain of salt. For one thing, too many of them are contradictory. For another, many of them promote a formulaic approach to writing that I don't necessarily agree with. Many will give you a lot of "do's" and "don'ts" that frankly sound more like the opinions of the individual authors than anything else.

    The good ones do, however, raise some interesting thoughts, so I don't think there's any harm in reading them, so long as you don't take every word as unalterable law.
     
  22. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    I haven't started writing the actual text yet. I don't want to start until I have the plot worked out totally, because it keeps changing.
     
  23. InPieces
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    InPieces Senior Member

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    Then, if the plot is ever changing, the best thing to do would be to write just to see where you'd end up.
     
  24. StormWarrior
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    StormWarrior Member

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    You think so? Any time I have started writing without the plot being worked out first, I have always ended up discarding my efforts because I realised the story would not work!
     
  25. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    I think your first instinct was best: Outlining. If that's what you meant by this post

    You seem to not like hitting a dead end, so maybe that's best for you.

    I'll have to agree with another poster said about taking how-to book knowledge with a grain of salt. Most of the people who write these How-to books will all but tell you that in the introduction pages. This is the reason why I will only read up on the ones that cover writer's conferences. Writer's conferences inspire you to write instead of giving you the step by step process. Writers shouldn't have to be told, This is the formula, now hop to it! , but if you're just looking to be inspired to write plot/characterization/etc., I'm sure there's no harm in reading how-to's.
     

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