Monthly Mash-up: 10 Writing Craft Books And Blog Posts

April 28th, 2012

writing craft books and blog postsThere are so many great writing craft books and blog posts out there I just had to do my first monthly mash-up focusing on those. The following are some of my favorite books, in no particular order:

Writing craft books:

  1. If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland — Brenda shows us that no writing is absolute crap. In fact, she challenges us to write the worst piece possible, then goes on to show how in even the worst there will be a few gems. She tells us cherish the quiet moments because that is when our stories are percolating.
  2. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell — James walks us through the four act set-up, character arc, various plotting methods and a myriad of other techniques that make writing more efficient (if you’re a plotter, that is). Pantsers can find great information in this book, as well, with questions to ponder either before or after the first draft and different methods of revising once the draft is complete.
  3. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks — Larry explains the six core competencies of concept, character, theme, story structure (plot), scene construction and writing voice, showing us why each of these are important to writing a great story. He also breaks structure down into easily understandable points and gives an idea of how to judge the length of a potential story.
  4. The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes — Ralph helps writers understand that we are not alone in our fears. He gives anecdotes of how famous authors coped with that fear, even encouraging each of us to develop rituals that help get us through the fear of setting words on the page (or screen).
  5. Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell — From redefining failure and success to learning how to embrace failures, John shows us that making both small and monumental mistakes is something to strive for rather than try to avoid. If you’re worrying about falling on your face as a writer, especially as an indie, this is a great book for learning how to accept failing as part of becoming successful.

Writing craft books aren’t the only place to get great information. There are hundreds, perhaps millions, of great blog posts with exceptional advice on how to be the best writer you can be. Here are just a few:

Writing Blog Posts:

  1. Do You Judge A Book By Its Cover by Diana Murdock — Diana gives us a peak into how she chose the cover of her book, Souled.
  2. Tips for Writing Back Cover Copy a guest post by Roz Morris on Jamie Gold’s blog — Having trouble condensing your entire book into a couple of paragraphs? Roz has some tips on what do to and what not to do to capture your story and make readers want to snuggle up with your book.
  3. Saying ‘No’ — A Successful Writer’s Must by August McLaughlin — If you’re struggling to get any writing accomplished because others think you can drop everything to help them, the August has some great ideas on how to set boundaries.
  4. Ask the Editor: How can I cut back on the abundance of pronouns in my writing? by Kira McFadden on Novel Publicity — Having problems with an abundance of he/she/it? Kira shows us how to rewrite passages to limit the number of pronouns used.
  5. 7 Setting Basics That Can Bring a Story to Life by Jody Hedlund — Setting can really bring a scene alive and move the plot forward if we use it properly. Jody gives us 7 ways to make setting almost a character in itself.

These are 10 of my favorite writing craft books and blog posts. I have hundreds more because I’m a craft junkie, as Jillian Kent said in her guest post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog. (Psst… That’s #11. :D) I’m always looking for more blogs to read and books to buy on the craft of writing, so, if you have one you love, please share it in the comments. Happy writing!

Writing in the Face of Fear

February 11th, 2012

I’m getting ready to re-vision my blog. By that I mean I’m going to take a short break to brainstorm some great ideas for future posts. I want to make this a place you can stop by to pick up handy tips and inspirational messages to help you in your day-to-day life, as well as catch a weekly laugh.

That being said, I don’t want to just leave you high and dry while I work up a new plan, so I’ll be re-posting some of the best from the last year. Enjoy!

Writing in the Face of Fear

In his book The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes tells us that every writer worth his or her salt has a fear of writing.  It’s not just a fear of being rejected by a traditional publisher, although fear of rejection often causes the would-be author to become what Ralph calls a “trunk writer” (someone who writes something, then puts it in a drawer or “trunk”).  There’s also the fear of the blank page (or blank screen).  We writers give it the nice euphemism of “writer’s block,” but more often it’s fear.  What if I can’t come up with anything?  What if I do and it’s crap?

Brenda Ueland has an answer to that in her book If You Want to Write.  She says it doesn’t matter.  She dares each of us to try to write the worst story we can because she believes even in the worst we can find great stuff.  Brenda cautions the would-be author not to get too hung up on technical details of writing and encourages us all to put something of ourselves into everything we do.

While I agree with Brenda on both parts, Independent Authors do need to make each work as flawless as possible before going to print.  It’s impossible to get anything perfect, but it is possible to make everything the best you can.  Ralph gives several suggestions on how to do this in The Courage to Write. Another good source for things to look for is Edward C. Patterson’s eBook Are You Still Submitting to Traditional Publishers? When it comes to technical aspects such as punctuation, my favorite resource is The St. Martin’s Handbook.  If you plan to freelance for magazines and newspapers, you’ll probably want a recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.

Knowing I have several good resources at hand helps me face the fear of writing, but I still find myself frustrated by the blank page on occasion.  Ralph points out that many great writers have what he calls rituals to help them get started.  Having a ritual may seem like a waste of time (sharpening 20 pencils before writing like Hemingway did certainly qualifies in my mind), but if it’s what gets you in the right frame of mind then it’s worth the “wasted” time.  Personally, I know I can’t string more than two words together without having my desk relatively cleared of clutter and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea at hand.  Whatever you need to do to psych yourself up to write, do it.  Just don’t let your ritual become an excuse not to write.

Although I won’t go so far as to say embrace your fear, I will say that knowing the fear is there for your fellow writers can be a comfort.  You’re not alone.  Remembering that and having a few good resources at  hand makes writing a little more enjoyable and a lot less frightening.

How do you face your fears?

Sandwich Critiquing: The Art of Constructive Criticism

November 5th, 2011

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

editing photoYou’ve been asked to read a friend’s manuscript. After dutifully plowing through 100 pages of less-than-perfect, sometimes entertaining, but often difficult to understand prose you’re left with one question: how do you tell your friend her manuscript needs a lot of work?

Refuse to play…

Unless you really don’t care about hurting your friend’s feelings and possibly losing a friend, this can be a very tricky situation. I know several writers who refuse to read other people’s unpublished works for just that reason. Yet, it seems crueler to me to let a friend send an unpolished manuscript out knowing you could have helped.

Give ’em a sandwich…

Enter the sandwich method. I don’t know who first came up with the idea, but I say, “God bless ’em,” because it makes giving (and receiving) constructive criticism a lot easier on the old ego. Simply put, the sandwich method gives the criticism “sandwiched” between bits of praise.

I can hear my husband saying, “So I can say ‘I like your hair. Your characters stink, but those jeans are really slimming on you.'”

Uh, no. The praise has to come from something in the manuscript.

Praise what?!

“But, Virginia,” you may be whining, “it’s nothing but sentimental drivel and inane cliches!”

That may be; however, as Brenda Ueland says in If You Want to Write, even in the worst writing there is something of value. You may have to look hard, but it is there.

Be specific…

As for the actual criticism, it’s always best to be specific. Telling someone their story didn’t hold your attention doesn’t cut it. Why didn’t it “hold your attention?” Was there too much description? Were the characters two-dimensional and uninteresting? Perhaps the sentences were too long and rambling. Be specific.

Heap on more praise…

Last of all, be sure to end with some more praise. I like to point out something good in the work I didn’t mention before. Sometimes all you can do, though, is reiterate the praise (using different words, of course) that you already gave. Either way, I tell the manuscript’s author that it has potential because I honestly believe everything has potential. Some things just need a lot (and I’m talking about a whole overhaul) of work.

How do you approach giving a friend constructive criticism?

Photo by TheCreativePenn

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Catch up on the adventure with other books in the Malkin series.

Apprentice Cat CoverApprentice Cat available in paperback and for KindleNookKoboScribd and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Also available as an audiobook on AudibleAmazon and iTunes.

 

 

Journeyman-Cat15percentJourneyman Cat available in paperback and KindleNookScribdiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

Audiobook coming soon.

 

 

Secrets-of-the-Malkin-sidebar-newsletterSecrets of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

 

 

 

Huntress of the MalkinHuntress of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookKobo and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Following Your Passion

September 10th, 2011

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

I just finished another scene of Apprentice Cat. Wahoo!! Each day I get just a little closer to finishing the entire book. That makes me feel great.

There are days when I wondered if I was doing what I’m supposed to be doing in my life. Have I chosen the right career for me? Those are the days when the words just don’t come or the days when it seems the Universe itself is trying to keep me from working. I was pondering that very thought a while back when I read an article by Jenna Avery titled What Are You Doing Instead of Living Your Purpose?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, until finishing this last scene, I wasn’t sure I was living my purpose — at least in part. As I prepared to sit down to work today, it hit me as it hasn’t in a very long time. I was not just happy. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get started on the next scene. Writing is my purpose — to entertain and perhaps to teach just a little about life.

Being passionate about my work tells me that it is indeed what I’m meant to do. It hasn’t always been easy. (I have entire notebooks with crossed out passages!) I’m sure it’s not going to be all candy and roses now that I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Yet, it’s enough to know I’m on the right track.

How do you follow your passion?

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If you’re looking for ideas and examples on simple ways to pray in my book Simply Prayer, available in print, for KindleNook and audio book.

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A Mash-up of passion posts:

It Doesn’t Matter Why We Write by Tiffany A.
White — As Brenda Ueland said, try to write the worst thing imaginable and you’ll still come up with something good. The point, as Tiffany shows, is that we write.

Do you Want to be Rich or do You Want to be Happy? By Andrew E. Kaufman — Andrew asks us to dig into why we chose to write: is it for the money or because it’s who we are?

Are You Passionate About Your Stories? by Carolyn Kaufman — Carolyn suggests we follow our passion rather than try to see into the future of the market.

Write What You Love by Kate Lord Brown — Forget “write what you know,” says Kate. She encourages writers to find something that makes them want to run to their WIP instead of lazing about when everyone else is asleep.

Get the Write Focus by Vanessa W. Snyder — Vanessa gives writers tips on how to get focused on writing.

Writing in the Face of Fear

August 12th, 2011

In his book The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes tells us that every writer worth his or her salt has a fear of writing.  It’s not just a fear of being rejected by a traditional publisher, although fear of rejection often causes the would-be author to become what Ralph calls a “trunk writer” (someone who writes something, then puts it in a drawer or “trunk”).  There’s also the fear of the blank page (or blank screen).  We writers give it the nice euphemism of “writer’s block,” but more often it’s fear.  What if I can’t come up with anything?  What if I do and it’s crap?

Brenda Ueland has an answer to that in her book If You Want to Write.  She says it doesn’t matter.  She dares each of us to try to write the worst story we can because she believes even in the worst we can find great stuff.  Brenda cautions the would-be author not to get too hung up on technical details of writing and encourages us all to put something of ourselves into everything we do.

While I agree with Brenda on both parts, Independent Authors do need to make each work as flawless as possible before going to print.  It’s impossible to get anything perfect, but it is possible to make everything the best you can.  Ralph gives several suggestions on how to do this in The Courage to Write. Another good source for things to look for is Edward C. Patterson’s eBook Are You Still Submitting to Traditional Publishers? When it comes to technical aspects such as punctuation, my favorite resource is The St. Martin’s Handbook.  If you plan to freelance for magazines and newspapers, you’ll probably want a recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.

Knowing I have several good resources at hand helps me face the fear of writing, but I still find myself frustrated by the blank page on occasion.  Ralph points out that many great writers have what he calls rituals to help them get started.  Having a ritual may seem like a waste of time (sharpening 20 pencils before writing like Hemingway did certainly qualifies in my mind), but if it’s what gets you in the right frame of mind then it’s worth the “wasted” time.  Personally, I know I can’t string more than two words together without having my desk relatively cleared of clutter and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea at hand.  Whatever you need to do to psych yourself up to write, do it.  Just don’t let your ritual become an excuse not to write.

Although I won’t go so far as to say embrace your fear, I will say that knowing the fear is there for your fellow writers can be a comfort.  You’re not alone.  Remembering that and having a few good resources at  hand makes writing a little more enjoyable and a lot less frightening.