Since perfecting the craft of writing is a life-long learning process, the list of writing resources below contains information that might be helpful. Just a word of caution, however. Don’t spend so much time reading about writing, that actual writing gets neglected.
What won’t be listed here are writing resources with messages like ‘do it my way and you’ll be published in a week’ or ‘follow this one simple step that I alone created and you’ll be on the New York Times bestseller list tomorrow’. Why not? Because each writer must discover what works best for them. Some writers outline, some write organically, some write to music, others to silence, some write at night, others before dawn. No way is wrong. And the only right way is the one that allows the writer to capture words and ‘lay them on a bed of paper’ as a poet-friend once said.
How does a writer find what works? By writing. By struggling one day to finish a sentence, to spending the next with words flowing so fast the writer forgets to breathe and ends up spent and exhausted. Of course, as all writers eventually find out that it may work to write at night, a month later nighttime writing is a dismal failure and morning writing suddenly takes over. Sometimes, each individual story demands its own way of being created.
With that said, books on writing can help. Want a prologue? Read the chapter in ‘Between the Lines.’ Jessica Page Morrell won’t say how to write one for success; she’ll explain why a prologue works and why one doesn’t. The writer will learn, gain tools, and walk away able to make his or her own decision.
Here are resources that have aided Lisa’s growth as a writer. Their pages are highlighted, well-thumbed, and still in use.
This list of writing resources is in no particular order.
Storycatcher, (Christina Baldwin) This book is described as ‘making sense of our lives through the power and practise of story’. It’s focus is more for those who write memoirs or journal, and has a strong slant toward the tradition of oral storytelling. But with that said, I bought it for the cover (seriously!) and did find some passages that resonated with me. A friend who is a poet and who journals found this a beautiful book that was perfect for her.
Between the Lines, (Jessica Page Morrell) This book is my all-time favorite. I tire of books on writing that simply say, ‘do it my way and you’ll be published’ or books that paint the art of writing only in large brush strokes. This book captures the more subtle aspects of writing, the fine points that turn a work of art (to continue the analogy) from a paint-by-number piece into a masterpiece. In particular, the sections on prologues and epilogues, how they work and why they fail, is very well done.
Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches, (Jessica Page Morrell) Very good book on building believable villains. Instead of simply giving the writer a list of personality traits for an antagonist, this book goes into depth about the ways to keep the bad guy (or girl) from simply lying on the page, flat, one-dimensional, and cardboard.
On Writing, (Stephen King) Part memoir, part craft, Stephen King manages to make you laugh, even when talking about grammar. His stories about the early days of rejection slips stuck on nails in his wall are encouraging for all writers. And his opinion on writer’s conferences (do you really need a tag stuck to your chest that says ‘writer’ to make you feel like one?) has saved me lots of money. Now I stick to smaller conferences with more focused courses, and have benefited from that. This book is good to read for picking up tips on writing, but more enjoyable if you are a Stephen King fan. Warning: he writes the way he talks so don’t pick this book up if you are offended by cuss words.
Baby Name books. Okay, had to throw this in. I don’t know how many times people have asked for ideas for character names. Personally, I love Baby Name books. These days of course, you can look on-line and narrow the search to fit your character (ex.: Celtic, Hispanic, Scandinavian, etc.)
Don’t Murder Your Mystery, (Chris Roerden) Chris is not only a very nice lady, but an author who has great suggestions for writing mysteries. Not only does Chris list what not to do, she shows how to avoid the mistakes that get manuscripts tossed by agents and publishers. And she does it all with a light humor that makes reading the book enjoyable. I also think that this book would be a benefit for writers of other genres besides mysteries.
The Forest For the Trees, An Editor’s Advice to Writers, (Betsy Lerner) A great book written from the perspective of the editor rather than the writer. Betsy Lerner shows what makes editors toss manuscripts, and also shows ways to avoid those writing problems. While this is a very informative book, and worth reading in order to improve your self-editing, I admit to a slightly malicious enjoyment when reading samples of some of the things people have submitted for publication. Betsy is very blunt about why certain submissions fail, and I enjoyed feeling smug, thinking ‘I know not to do that!’. Of course invariably, that smug reaction then gets humbled by seeing samples that include words I’ve written the same way…