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books on writing: your favorite?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

books on writing: your favorite?

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed September 5th, 2012, 3:10 pm

Although I am posting this because I want to know everybody's favorite, (and why, please :) ) I have another agenda here: I have forgotten the names/authors of two books I liked very much and loaned out (never to see again). The first was the one featuring the use of scenes and sequels.

Right now I am reading Wired For Story, which is very interesting because it refers to brain research in crafting a novel. Most of what is in there I already knew, but it is nicely organized and one of those 'reinforcer' books, where you read and say, "There, I KNEW I was right about that."

I have a stack of others on my shelf. Some are great. Some are decent. I've given an equal number away as useless. The information in them has all run together in my aged brain.

Hopefully all of you will help sort it out again?
Thanks.

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Wed September 5th, 2012, 3:38 pm

For practical advice:

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress from the Writer's Digest series. Nancy used to have (still has?) a regular column in Writer's Digest. She gives practical, pragmatic advice with lots of examples on how to shape up a manuscript and deal with the problems that crop up in the various parts.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. The subtitle tells it all: "Insider advice for taking your fiction to the next level."

Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin "Exercises on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or Mutinoun Crew." I'm a huge fan of Ms. Le Guin and her book on writing contains practical advice and exercises from her workshop on short story writing.

For inspiration:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King both deal more with the evolution of the author as a writer than practical advice, but inspirational stories.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
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R.W.Ware
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Post by R.W.Ware » Wed September 5th, 2012, 8:07 pm

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham (Who as taught by Swain, and expands his work)

Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman (The original big money agent breaking his clientele's work down. Maass basically followed Zuckerman, and updated a little.)

Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction: Passion Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass expand on Zuckerman's book, but they are good in their own right, and well worth the read.

The War of Art, Do the Work, and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield (and, for me, like Stephen King's On Writing, though a little more focused on breaking the blocks which regularly crop up.)

Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys, (A short pamphlet, but good for beginners.)

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Spider, Spin Me a Web and The Liar's Bible by Lawrence Block.

The Craft of Writing Science Fiction by Ben Bova

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (A screenwriting guide, but very helpful in writing--though it may ruin a few movies for you for a time)

Story: Style, Structure, Substance and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (I've had this personally recommended by some bestselling authors, who claim everyone who's anyone has read this or attended one of his classes. I find it a little dry, but oh so informative.)

I have been highly recommended to read the following:
Writing Popular Fiction and How to Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean (R.) Koontz

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

That's off the top of my head.
Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. Never allow thoughts of gain lead you into the pursuit of evil. Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender. It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found.

--David Gemmell, The First Chronicles of Druss The Legend

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R.W.Ware
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Post by R.W.Ware » Wed September 5th, 2012, 8:45 pm

And there are those who might find this interesting: Bernard Cornwell on writing.
Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. Never allow thoughts of gain lead you into the pursuit of evil. Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender. It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found.

--David Gemmell, The First Chronicles of Druss The Legend

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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Post by Alisha Marie Klapheke » Wed September 5th, 2012, 9:20 pm

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed September 5th, 2012, 10:44 pm

Thank you, R.W. Ware! The one I was looking for was Swain's book.
I had not heard of the one by his mentor. Does it have enough extra to be worth the read?

Has anybody read Persia Woolley's book on writing Historical fiction?

James Alexander Thom also wrote one specifically for Histfic. I kept it, although I was not all that impressed. What stuck with me was that he wanted writers to be completely accurate, and although that is nice enough, research can kill a novel in the hands of a clumsy storyteller. Although different readers have different levels of tolerance for detail, fiction is for entertainment first.

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R.W.Ware
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Post by R.W.Ware » Thu September 6th, 2012, 12:13 am

I like Cornwell's theory on Historical Fiction, story first, then tweak the verisimilitude.

Dwight V. Swain was the teacher, Jack Bickman the student. What I've read of both, Swain was the more readable.

I have James Alexander Thom's The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction by Persia Woolley and How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson. I can neither recommend nor decry them, as I haven't had the opportunity to read them yet.
Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. Never allow thoughts of gain lead you into the pursuit of evil. Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender. It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found.

--David Gemmell, The First Chronicles of Druss The Legend

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Thu September 6th, 2012, 4:23 pm

[quote=""MLE""]Has anybody read Persia Woolley's book on writing Historical fiction?[/quote]

I picked up How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction fifteen years ago and really liked it. I still have it on my shelf, but don't know how well it stands the test of time. I'll do a scan and report back. She was at the HNS conference with us in San Diego, but I didn't get the opportunity to chat. :(

Just checked on Amazon and it looks like it's OOP. No Amazon copies, just secondary sellers.
Last edited by fljustice on Thu September 6th, 2012, 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu September 6th, 2012, 6:21 pm

Persia is in our local chapter of HNS and she never misses a meeting, so I chat with her quarterly. But I have to admit I haven't read any of her books.

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Post by Margaret » Fri September 7th, 2012, 12:28 am

Has anybody read Persia Woolley's book on writing Historical fiction?
It was reasonably good in its time, I think, but more for beginners than for writers who already have a fairly good grounding in fiction writing and want to extend and fine-tune their skills and apply them to historical fiction. As I recall, its strong point was research. Since she wrote it, the internet has dramatically transformed the process of researching historical fiction. Of course, the other methods of research she writes about - travel, specialized history books, etc. - remain important.

As far as I'm concerned, no one has yet written the definitive book on the really nitty-gritty details of writing historical fiction: how to choose a language style (modern slang? forsooth-speak? something in-between?), how to balance historical detail and storytelling (Lindsay Davis's most recent novel, Masters and Gods, has reduced one of my guest reviewers to a state of frothing rage because of the overabundance of historical data and sparseness of story), when and how to sacrifice strict historical accuracy in the interest of telling a coherent and absorbing story, and other problems specific to historical novels. I have a copy of Myfanwy Cook's Historical Fiction Writing: A practical guide and tool-kit, published in 2011, which addresses a host of these types of issues, but in a way that stresses writing exercises. To me, it seems more geared toward use as a textbook in a writing class than for a writer working on a specific project. I'm not sure how widely available it is - it's from a U.K. small-press publisher.

My favorite writing books, none of them specifically targeted to historical fiction, are:

Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel
Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages
Noah Lukeman, The Plot Thickens
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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