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msjhord
January 1st, 2016, 02:47 AM
I have been told "Fire in Fiction" is a good read, which I'm currently working on that. Any others to recommend?

Riis Marshall
January 2nd, 2016, 10:31 AM
Hello M

My suggestions are: Build a bookshelf that includes, at least, two big paper dictionaries: British English and American English; a Thesaurus; a couple of style guides: maybe Chicago Style, and Strunk and White; a collection of grammar books: perhaps Gower, Fowler and Oxford English, and finally at least two of your choice on the use of our language. My current favourites are Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Alicia Rasley's The Power of Point of View.

Next add some of the classics such as Poe, Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Melville, Conrad, Joyce, Bradbury, Vonnegut, King, Rankin and about a million others you might name.

Finally, fill your third shelf with books - old and new - in your chosen genre, whatever that is.

Perhaps the most useful references are five suggestions: (1) write every day, (2) read every day, (3) post your questions and comments here a couple of times a week, (4) never listen to anybody who tells you your writing sucks and (5) never surrender when what you write comes out, in the words of a recent poster: 'dumb'.

All the best with your writing.

Warmest regards
Riis

Ariel
January 2nd, 2016, 03:25 PM
Depends on what you write (I have books about writing poetry because--surprise--I write poetry). I'm currently reading Stephen King's "On Writing."

J Anfinson
January 2nd, 2016, 05:41 PM
I've read a lot of how to books, but honestly the thing that's helped me the most is to just read a lot. Not only read, but analyze the books I like best line by line to figure out why they worked so well for me.

msjhord
January 2nd, 2016, 08:15 PM
I have "On Writing" as well. Got it for free from someone who was trying to unload it. I will definitely take all of this into consideration.

Honestly, the only Hemingway I have ever read was in middle school. Yeah . . . I hate to admit that, but it's true. I have had an aversion to his writing since because I bombed two tests on excerpts of his work in our lit books. But, I may just have to get over old self haha!

Ariel
January 2nd, 2016, 08:33 PM
I agree with most of what Steve King has to say and most of that is "get over yourself and write."

I also agree with Riis. Have a good dictionary on hand and invest in Strunk & White's "Elements of Style."

msjhord
January 2nd, 2016, 09:10 PM
Well, I think it's taken me a long time to get over myself. I will be 40 this July and I think I have done a ton of emotional/mental weight shedding these past couple of years. Swapped them for more physical aches and pains, haha, but I will take those over the other ones any day of the week.

Thank you all for your input thus far. And, by all means, share if you have anymore. Or feel free to PM me.

jennifer (that's what the "j" in msjhord stands for)

Sam
January 2nd, 2016, 09:45 PM
The only reference you need is a dictionary, thesaurus, and as many books you can get your hands on.

I would advise against how-to books. They all give different advice that doesn't suit everyone.

Patrick
January 2nd, 2016, 10:01 PM
Jennifer. What are you looking to write? The only author on Riis' list (of course he did not mean it to be exhaustive) I could get on with was Joyce. I recommend developing a good throwing arm so you can frisbee books into the bin. There is great catharsis in the practise.

In order of importance to me: the Bible, Homer, Milton, Dante, Joyce, Tolkien, Edward St. Aubyn, Blake, Emily Bronte, Evelyn Waugh, Harper Lee, Charles Portis (True Grit), Hilary Mantel. Then there's a tonne of writers who have all had an influence on me, particularly when I was younger, including CS Lewis, Philip Pullman, JK Rowling, etc. When I was a child I devoured books, now I mostly study them. It's quite a sad transition, but I've always been more of a writer than a reader. I am invariably relieved when I don't feel I have to read something.

And how could i leave out Shakespeare! He's very close to the top of the list in influence. Poetry and plays are as important as the novel, imo. Poetry is not such a clumsy form like the novel, and plays teach you how to perform and make you realise your characters must perform for the reader in your novel.

Blade
January 2nd, 2016, 10:35 PM
I've read a lot of how to books, but honestly the thing that's helped me the most is to just read a lot. Not only read, but analyze the books I like best line by line to figure out why they worked so well for me.


The only reference you need is a dictionary, thesaurus, and as many books you can get your hands on.

I would advise against how-to books. They all give different advice that doesn't suit everyone.

I would agree generally; reading is the best teacher.:onthego:

I think if I read a how-to book at the this point I would be thinking in the back of my head "I wonder what the forum people would think of that"? Dialogue is a good teacher as well.:cookie:

msjhord
January 3rd, 2016, 03:14 AM
So, back to my first love, eh? Reading!

J Anfinson
January 3rd, 2016, 04:00 AM
So, back to my first love, eh? Reading!

Yes. But at the same time try to understand the tactics writers use within a story. Look at how they created certain effects and steal them for your own use. I'm not ashamed to say it, I steal from everyone if I like it.

msjhord
January 3rd, 2016, 04:26 AM
So, is there a key to greater tactic understanding? I DO NOT want to overthink it, of course. Just be more observant of a reader.

Pluralized
January 3rd, 2016, 04:34 AM
I have "On Writing" as well. Got it for free from someone who was trying to unload it. I will definitely take all of this into consideration.

Honestly, the only Hemingway I have ever read was in middle school. Yeah . . . I hate to admit that, but it's true. I have had an aversion to his writing since because I bombed two tests on excerpts of his work in our lit books. But, I may just have to get over old self haha!

On Writing is excellent, mostly because it gives such insight into King's process and fascinating details about his accident (when he was walking down the road and struck by a van). The biggest takeaway for me was how much he reads and what importance reading 3-4 novels a week has on his creative engine. There are other good bits layered in regarding the actual mechanics of writing, but they're tilted toward his proclivities and won't apply to everyone.

Another couple of interesting books if you're inclined are How Fiction Works (James Wood) and Writing a Novel and Getting it Published (Nigel Watts). Just breezy how-to stuff, which can be referenced over time.

Novels are good, but so are short stories. Anything that gets your mind wrapped around how the lens of narration works, how POV can be manipulated, how structure looks in the real world. Go read some of the Best American Short Stories (http://www.amazon.com/Best-American-Short-Stories-2015/dp/0547939418), maybe balance that with some of the old classics like To Build a Fire (http://www.jacklondons.net/buildafire.html), The Monkey's Paw (http://americanliterature.com/author/w-w-jacobs/short-story/the-monkeys-paw), The Story of an Hour (http://americanliterature.com/author/kate-chopin/short-story/the-story-of-an-hour), etc. This isn't just some blow-hard on a forum sprinkling advice from on high, this is the real stuff that works and lives and breathes. Find Bradbury, too. Bradbury is so digestible, so wonderfully textured.

J Anfinson
January 3rd, 2016, 02:38 PM
So, is there a key to greater tactic understanding? I DO NOT want to overthink it, of course. Just be more observant of a reader.

Not that I've found but there might be. I just look at it like osmosis. Absorb what I can for my own use. And yes, short stories are also important if you want to write those. Not only what Pluralized said, but I think there's plenty to learn from King, McCammon, Straub, Matheson, Ketcham, or any other best-seller of short fiction. Read everything.

msjhord
January 3rd, 2016, 05:03 PM
So noted! Thanks, J!

voltigeur
March 5th, 2016, 03:07 AM
One book I would Highly recommend especially with what I see submitted here.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

It talks about what makes a story good. So many writers jump in without raising stakes and without structure to the story.

I found this book extremely helpful with the vary beginning of the process.

Jack of all trades
March 7th, 2016, 07:55 PM
Read what you enjoy and write what you enjoy. You may be surprised that others like it too. And have your work read by those who are not writers or wanting to be writers.

Terry D
March 7th, 2016, 09:46 PM
Reading develops your inner 'reader's ear' which hears how the prose flows and what good pace is like. So, reading is the best tool, IMO.

I find reading the dread 'How To' books helpful. Not that I think there is a formula for writing, but I like reading what successful writers feel is important for their work just as much as I like reading what other forum members find useful. One author who hits the mark for me is Lawrence Block, the author of Eight Million Way to Die, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and dozens of other novels. His opinions on writing fiction are very pragmatic, and are simply stated as what he has found success with, and what he has experienced. Some of my favorites are Spider Spin Me a Web, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, and Writing the Novel from Plot to Print.

J Anfinson
March 7th, 2016, 11:49 PM
How To books mostly make my eyes glaze over. Sometimes there's good stuff to be found but a lot of it is so opinionated and formulaic that it puts me to sleep. One that I found entertaining was How Not To Write A Novel.

LeeC
March 29th, 2016, 02:48 AM
I'm not into how-to books, finding many like the instructions for assembling something :-) Kinda defeats the idea of artistic expression.

Writing is more finding your own voice that others are interested in. How you get there, to me, is by reading both widely and extensively. As you do, keep tabs on the authors that engrossed you the most (regardless of genre) and those that didn't. Then read the former again trying to work out the stylistic and literary devices that made them interesting, regardless of storyline.

The key is finding a large selection of writing that interests you, so you can develop your own voice, one that you're comfortable with. Settling into what you're comfortable with, refined by critiquing as on our creative boards, builds your assurance and leads to reader interest. In other words, if you're a serious reader then you develop the grounding to be a serious writer. Something that's not easy for the fast-track crowd to swallow is seems, judging by the many books I skip over.

Whatever direction you go, be aware you'll never please all, so put your effort into what rings a bell for you. I'm partial to authors like Mark Twain and Garrison Keillor, among others, and the wife abhors the two.

If you're into the realm short stories/flash fiction, then a book I'd recommend adding to your reading list is Oliver Buckle's A Read For The Train. It has a well rounded selection of storylines and is written in an accomplished, classic (to me) style. Lots to learn from therein.

There are also other fine authors here like Terry and Jen, to name just a couple, that you might look into. The advantage is that those you're interested in might answer detailed questions more easily than authors less accessible.

Disclaimer
Caution: reading is injurious to ignorance :-)