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books on writing: your favorite?

Got a question/comment about the creative process of writing? Post it here!
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
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) » Fri September 7th, 2012, 1:05 am

I used to have Lukeman's The First Five Pages. But it was one of the ones I got rid of, because it is entirely geared to getting a publisher or an agent, and I passed on that system when I realized it was vanishing faster than I could learn to write for it. So I just settled on learning how to hook the reader, and frankly, they won't give you five pages. You get one page to hook them, and then they're off to another screen. As in, ebook, because that will be the dominant way that stories are consumed in less than five years.

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Shield-of-Dardania
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Joined: February 2010

Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Fri September 7th, 2012, 9:59 am

[quote=""MLE""]
Although different readers have different levels of tolerance for detail, fiction is for entertainment first.
[/quote]
You can say that again.

When I go to a bookstore as a reader and I pick up a novel from the shelf, HF or whatever, I want entertainment. If I'm looking for a factual document, whether history or otherwise, I'd go to the library.

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Justin Swanton
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Location: Durban, South Africa
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Post by Justin Swanton » Fri September 7th, 2012, 1:22 pm

I found John Braine's On Writing a Novel first-rate for general advice on producing good fiction - I've applied a lot of it to my own writing largely because it is full of common sense. Braine himself made the big time with Room at the Top but went downhill from there and eventually could hardly earn a living from his writing.

At the end of the day the number one consideration (for me) in good writing is: what do you have to say? Is it worth reading about? Funny how that rarely gets covered in the how-to books.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
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) » Fri September 7th, 2012, 2:34 pm

Justin, I think you would like The Moral Premise, which is a study of blockbuster screenplays, it is true, and unlike books, people rarely consume only part of a film once they are in the theater. Still, the word-of-mouth recommendation machine only runs if the story resonates with the receiver after it is done.

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Justin Swanton
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Location: Durban, South Africa
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Post by Justin Swanton » Sat September 8th, 2012, 9:02 am

Very interesting. I read the pdf summary by the author. He makes some very good points. This for example:

Every physical action taken by a human being (except those automatic responses like breathing) is preceded by a psychological thought. While a film director can only tell a story through what is seen or heard, all of the action began from something invisible—a character's motivation, or what the character thinks is important. And what a character thinks is important is totally based on that character's moral values. You might think of "motivation" as the contraction of "moral activation" or moral action. When an actor asks the director, "What is my motivation?" he or she is asking, "What's psychologically important in my character's life that would cause this action?" In short, physical action is always caused by moral thought. This is even true in "pure" action movies, which I explain in the book.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

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fljustice
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Joined: March 2010
Location: Brooklyn, NY
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Post by fljustice » Sat September 8th, 2012, 6:06 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]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.
[/quote]

Re Persia Wooley's How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction, I did a quick scan and agree with Margaret, it's not bad for a beginning writer, but needs updating.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Sun September 9th, 2012, 11:41 am

Must admit I don't use them. If I start reading technique books then I begin to feel all inadequate and confused - which is barmy because I'm a full time writer earning a living wage at the day job. I'm an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' author!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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LoveHistory
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Location: Wisconsin, USA
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue September 11th, 2012, 3:00 pm

[quote=""EC2""]Must admit I don't use them. If I start reading technique books then I begin to feel all inadequate[/quote]

Same here.

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Matt Phillips
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Post by Matt Phillips » Wed October 3rd, 2012, 5:45 pm

For practical advise - not just what your writing should accomplish but how to accomplish it - I really recommend Larry Brooks's Story Engineering and his website, storyfix.com. His storytelling model will strike some overly formulaic, but it's akin to Robert McKee's Story, which someone else mentioned, and he makes a convincing case for why the elements and structure he prescribes work - amid vast variations in execution - in virtually every successful novel and movie ever produced.

I'd also recommend Jordan Rosenfeld's Make a Scene. She describes different types of scenes - action, contemplative, climatic, opening/closing, etc. - and what their missions should be and how to use dialogue, action, setting, etc. to accomplish those missions.

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