1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    What writing books did you enjoy?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Magnatolia, Jan 26, 2014.

    Hi guys,

    I thought I'd get a thread going to tell everyone our recommended books on writing. For me I like books that explain 'why', give practical examples and exercises.

    I have lots of books on my kindle account so am starting to actually go through them and learn. I downloaded one called 'Story Engineering' from a recommendation. Really liking it so far. It breaks stories down into six 'elements'. Only on the first element which is concept but it goes into an explanation of the difference between theme, idea, concept and premise. A concept is usually a 'what if' scenario.

    Idea -> Concept -> Premise.

    Example:

    Idea - I want to write a book about a soldier trying to get back to his family from the war
    Concept - What if a soldier discovers that his CO has been selling secrets to the enemy forces, and now needs to get back to his family before they're killed?
    Premise - A soldier is made out to be a traitor by his CO and must escape both his comrades and the opposing enemy to reach his family.

    Just the idea of using 'what if' to create compelling story was incredible for me. I feel it also allows for multiple options. You can 'mind map' the possible what if scenarios. I just thought of a great what if for the above scenario while I was typinh. What if the soldier was injured by a proximity mine, and while he's in the infirmary he overhears his CO talking about selling secrets. This then suddenly adds to the drama because he can't get away as quick. He's less mobile, maybe in a lot of pain, runs out of meds etc.
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just love the books on writing by James Scott Bell. ("Conflict and suspence", "plot and structure", "revision and self editing" and the most recently I think, "Self-publishing attack") They are always full of examples to illustrate how to practise the things you learn on your own project. I've learned a lot by reading them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
  3. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I'm assuming Self-publishing Attack is about how to self-publish successfully? If so, that one sounds interesting.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes! :)
     
  5. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & Rennie is a must have for any novelist.
     
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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    I'm not a believer in how-tos for learning how to write, as they more often do more harm, than help beginners... so i advise my mentees and clients to avoid them and learn instead from the works of the best [not 'most popular'] writers of whatever it is they want to be writing themselves...

    but for pure inspiration, james j Kilpatrick's 'the writer's art' has no equal, imo...
     
  7. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    My Contentious Thread alarm went off last night and I see it's this one here.

    I have taken to reading many of these books. Each seems to have a fairly broad selection of fiction that they explicate bits of information from. I then read some of those novels to get a better sense of what they are talking about. Some are commercial and some are literary. I'm learning.

    Most recently I read the oldie How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. This one was a skimmer. I found him a bit of a blowhard. I did go out and read Ender's Game afterwards, but in one of the few instances, I found the movie better. Perhaps an upgrade in technology WRT the movie.
    Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress is very good.
     
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  8. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing is self-evident: writers love to write about writing.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If I had to dump every non-reference writing book in my library except one, the one I'd hang on to would be The Novelist's Guide: Powerful techniques for creating character, dialogue and plot, by the British author Margret Geraghty.

    On the surface, it looks like any other comprehensive but readable guide to what it takes to write a novel, but what this book has, that keeps me coming back to it, is the ability to inspire. I always go away from reading a chapter or two feeling brimful of ideas about my own novel.

    She includes lots of 'relaxation and visualisation' exercises, which I just don't do. But when she gets into what makes a book memorable, what makes characters tick, how to convey emotion, etc ...this book does it as well as any. And better than most.

    I think it's an out-of-print book, but it's available through AbeBooks and Amazon as a 'used paperback.'
     
  10. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    My books tend toward the medium of screenplay.

    "Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting" by Robert McGee.
    "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps Toward Becoming a Master Storyteller" by John Truby.

    I have two books on sentence construction that I think more geared toward writing:

    “It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences” by June Casangrande.
    “Building Great Sentences” by Brooks Landon. This is the transcripts from a "Great Courses" lecture. You can get it on video, but I want to have the words in front of me.

    Then there is the necessary books on grammar.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
  11. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    For the basics, the nuts-and bolts, either Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer, or Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure (often available through the local library system) are filled with things that make you say, "Why in the hell didn't I see that for myself." For style issues, Sol Stein on Writing is excellent (as is his How to Grow a Novel), as is the agent's eye view of the business that Donald Maass provides in his books, though it's best to develop an understanding of the basic structural issues of fiction for the printed word, first and build on that.

    For a more gentle introduction to writing structure, Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation and Conflict is excellent, and a warm easy read.

    For a quick, and cheap introduction to the basics, the audio recording of Dwight Swain's all day workshops on writing and on character building can't be beat. They're worth the $6 cost for the anecdotes he provides. I especially like the story of how he used to lock students into his office until they came up with ideas on how to kill people with a doorknob.
     
  12. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I love all the hero's journey books.
     

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