Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Questions for Writers

Reminder: Jean Henry Mead's book tour for A Village Shattered began on Monday. You can join the tour today and read about Ms. Mead's reporting background. Be sure to enter the freee book contest by leaving a comment. At the end of the tour, Ms. Mead will draw a winner from all the people who left comments during the tour.

Congratulations! All NaNo participants who reached your goals during November, take a moment to give yourselves a great big pat on the back before you begin the editing process. For those of you, like me, who have more writing to do - keep writing until your work is complete.

On Wednesdays, I usually provide information for writers - a link to a useful website, a great writing quote, personal learning experience, etc. Today, I'm asking writers to help me. I've been asked to write two blog posts about self-help books for a group blog - one on writing books and one on editing books. I started the article on writing books and started wondering - how do other authors evaluate the value of theses books. There are hundreds of them out there. Surely everyone doesn't use the same evaluation system I use. So, here are my questions for you:

Writing Books
  • What makes a good writing instruction book?
  • Do you have a favorite - one you return to over and over? What is the title and why is it your favorite?
  • How many writing books (rough estimate) to you currently have in your possession?

Editing Books

  • Do you find self-editing guides useful?
  • Do you have a favorite editing book? What is the title?
  • How many reference books do you typically use during the editing process? What are they?

Please use the comments link to share your thoughts - even if you only answer one of the questions. If it is okay for me to quote you in my articles, please leave a link to your blog or website.

Thanks a bunch.

29 comments:

Kathryn Lilley said...

One of the absolute best How-to's for writers of mysteries is "Don't Sabotage Your Submission" and "Don't Murder Your Mystery" by Chris Roerden. She gives a virtual checklist of mistakes that can kill your writing, if not caught. Published and unpublished authors writers are great fans of Chris's books.
Regards, Kathryn Lilley, The Fat City Mysteries (A Killer Workout, Dying to be Thin)

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Thanks Kathryn - both of those are new to me. I'll have to check them out.

Cathy Bryant said...

Hi Charlotte! I'm unpublished (at the moment). I just started this journey into the world of writing in June by starting to read books on writing, and was just declared a winner at NaNo. (My lousy first draft is complete!) My favorite writing book is the one I'm reading now. The name of it is Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins. It approaches characterization using the acting methods of Stanislavsky. Very insightful.
Cathy Bryant
http://wordvessel.blogspot.com

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Writing Books

* Do you have a favorite - one you return to over and over? What is the title and why is it your favorite?

My favorite is "On Writing" by Stephen King. It is my Bible for writing style.

Editing Books

* Do you find self-editing guides useful?

YES! Saves time & money if you can send a polished ms into your ediotr and/or pub house.

* Do you have a favorite editing book? What is the title?

The Frugal Editor by Carolyn Howard Johnson. Fabulous. I learned so much from studying that book I am now making money as editor for other authors.

I think I'll check out those recommendations by Kathryn also.

Good post idea, Charlotte!

Diana said...

Hi Charlotte,

I have over thirty writing instruction books on my bookshelf and my favorite is "On Writing" by Stephen King.

Obviously, there are books I use all the time and some that turned out to be a waste of money. I judge a good instruction book on clarity, specifics, and inspiration. It doesn't do the reader much good if the only information given is a generalized "Write the best you can." or "Make sure your story works on the Macro level."

As for editing - I like Struck and White's "Elements of Style".

Sean Harris said...

One of my favorite reference books is "The Joy of Writing Sex" by Elizabeth Benedict. It really helped me write solid and meaningful love scenes.

tl james said...

My favorite self editing tool is - Excel.

I add my timelines, and historical events to excel and then I start free writing. Once I complete my chapters, I place them in the spreadsheet and tweak the details so that they can flow together. It is an awesome way for organizing and structuring a story/novel.

J.M.Cornwell said...

My two favorites are Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury and On Writing by Stephen King. Both provide a personal view of writing and writing habits, as well as great advice on how to write.

Pauline B Jones said...

* What makes a good writing instruction book?
It needs to spark a "aha" moment for whatever problem I'm having at the moment. Hopefully it will spark more than one aha, though.
* Do you have a favorite - one you return to over and over? What is the title and why is it your favorite?
Playwriting: The Structure of Action
It does so much for me, I hardly know where to start. Even though this is a playwriting book, it helps me with character and action and also with how I "hear" my words when I write. It's a great book.
* How many writing books (rough estimate) to you currently have in your possession?
probably about 20. used to be more, but I weeded out the ones I don't go back to when we moved to Houston.

Editing Books

* Do you find self-editing guides useful?
I love Self Editing for Fiction Writers and use it after finishing a rough draft of each book.

* How many reference books do you typically use during the editing process? What are they?
I use reference books during the writing, to verify facts. What they are depends on what I'm writing.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks for the reminder of my blog book tour, Charlotte. I'm looking forward to my visit here with you on December 12. BTW, I'm giving away three copies of my senior sleuth mystery/suspense novel, A Village Shattered.

Susan Brassfield Cogan said...

* What makes a good writing instruction book?

actionable information. I liked the "On Writing" (Stephen King) and "Writing Down the Bones" (author slips my mind) but the best ever is 20 Master Plots. It's a silly title because it sounds like its going to help you do canned plots, but it's an excellent plotting tutorial.

* How many writing books (rough estimate) to you currently have in your possession?

literally dozens.

I don't find editing guides useful other than books like Chicago Manual.

Larry W. Chavis said...

Like many others, I like Stephen King's ON WRITING.

S said...

I'm new at this. I really only have the ideas in my head and in notebooks. So right now the only book I've read on this is
Will Work For Shoes: How To Write A Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley. So far I find it to be rather informative and helpful.
I do plan on getting more.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Cathy,

Congratulations on reaching your NaNo goal and completing that all important first draft. You have to admit - it is a great feeling to know you can do it, even if the first result proves to be a learning experience. I'm doing the happy dance for you.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Thanks Marvin. Dani has asked for reviews of writing books over at BRP. I had Stephen King's on my list of possibles, but haven't read it yet. Perhaps you'd like to take that one on?

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Diana,
Thanks for responding! You are about the 500th person to recommend Struck and White's to me. I also have over 30 of those dern books on the shelf and have been hesitant to add another, but I think you have finally convinced me.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Sean,

Hmmm. You know, I don't have a single love scene book in my collection. Thanks for sharing info on this one.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

TL,

Mark and are currently trying this method with the second Eva Baum novel - The Golden Key. My row headings include
1) the time line/weather references/elasped time
2) red herrings (its a mystery)
3) valid clues
4) characters in order of appearance

the columns are the chapters

I'm finding this to be a very useful tool for finding logic and story flow issues.

Do you have any other suggestions for rows or columns? Anything that has worked particularly well?

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Thanks JM. Appreciate the suggestions.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Thanks Pauline. You've told me before to check out playwriting and screenwriting books to help tighten up the writing. I seem to remember you've written a few self-help books - Adapting Your Novel for Film, I believe. It's in be stack of 'to be read.' Now I'm embarassed and feel a need to move it to the top!

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Jean,

Thanks for the reminder - I'll be sure to correct the blog so it says THREE giveaways. Hope the tour is going well. I enjoyed your interview on LJ Sellers' blog today.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Susan,

Thanks for the info. I've seen 20 Master Plots and jumped to just that assumption, so I didn't pick it up. Shame on me for assuming.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Larry,

I am certainly getting the impression that I should have read Stephen King's as soon as I got it home. Thanks for sharing.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

S,

Sounds like you may want to check out Stephen King's On Writing! Welcome and best of luck to you.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

S,

I hit that send button too soon. You'll find much great info online as well. Writing groups like The Final Twist (thefinaltwist.com), marketing groups like the Yahoo group MurderMustAdvertise, and the editing blog The Blood Red Pencil where profesional editors share tips, advice, and how to information (http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/)

Rebecca Airies said...

I absolutely love Stephen King's On Writing. Another of my favorite writing books is The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey.

Julia Spencer-Fleming said...

The book I always recommend to my students is TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT by Lawrence Block. It's funny, eminently useful, and covers topics such as "the writing life" as well as the nuts and bolts of fiction.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Rebecca,
Thanks for joining the conversation. The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey is new to me and sounds very interesting. So many books...so little time.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

Julia,
I'm all for funny! I'll be looking for TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT by Lawrence Block.

Thanks,