Happy Friday that is definitely not a Wednesday! Is everyone having a good summer so far? I am really, really proud to say I have yet to contract poison ivy, which I've done the last few years, and when I say “done,” I mean DONE REALLY WELL. Like, I don't want to brag, but I kind of take the whole poison ivy thing to new heights of itchy achievements. But enough about my personal accomplishments. Today kicks off a new blog segment that I'd like to call Writerly Wednesday.
Writerly Wednesday will be the semi-occasional Wednesday of some tips for my fellow writers, especially those new folks. Today's tip is…DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
In the last year I've talked to a handful of new writers who are into writing, into getting those books out, but not into studying the craft. And you gotta. Show me a writer who hasn't read a craft book in a few years, goes to a conference and attends zero classes, or doesn't read for analysis, and I can show you a writer who has a really great chance of not going the distance. I love the story someone told me years ago how a fairly new writer went to an introductory plotting class at a conference. She was kind of feeling like it was a waste of her time when she looked over and saw a well-known author taking copious notes. It was Francine Rivers.
I am the queen of buying writing books. Admittedly, I don't read them all. And some I've read only to think, “I have no idea what that guy just said.” Someone once told me if she can get one good idea from a writing craft book, then it was worth it. I tend to agree. Here are some of my newest favorite craft reads:
1. Super Structure by James Scott Bell.
You know what I really like about books on writing in the last year or so? They're super short. Which is great–because so is my attention span. Mr. Bell has made this book short and sweet, with no filler. He just gets down to business. It's a great book on structuring a novel and revisits his idea of the Mirror Moment, something he also write a book about. I liked this one so much I bought the paperback because I knew I'd want to mark it up and flip through it often. I've even gifted it. (P.S. The digital version of this book is super cheap!)
2. Take Your Pants Off: Outlining Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker
I was a little disappointed to order a book called Take Your Pants Off and realize it was not the pictorial memoir of Chris Hemswoth. Instead, this is a book about plotting and outlining. I'm not an Outliner. If the Outliners evangelized door to door like a Jehovah's Witness, I would not only let them into my living room, I would absolutely read their literature and convert, thank you and amen. I'm a Seat-of-the-Pants Writer (thus, the title, sadly). I would give my next box of cereal to be a plotter, so I buy lots of plotting books thinking “THIS will be the one that will help me!” Plotters typically write faster than I do. Plotters typically don't toss out hundreds of pages like I do. Plotters typically don't want to drink as heavily as I do. (Sonic lemon water, extra ice) (P.S., the digital version of this book is ALSO super cheap!)
3. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Mr. Snyder is no longer with us, God bless his legacy, but he wrote a fabulous, easy-to-read book about movie structure. He breaks down the events that are in every great movie, and you see how it's incredibly relevant to books as well. I think of his book and advice often. If you get nothing else out of his book other than employing his “save the cat” moment, you'll be doing well.
4. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
I'm late the Story Engineering party (I was too busy writing and making bonfires of my wasted chapters), but I finally bought this book as a summer read. Many writers refer to his advice, and many folks who teach writing or write books on writing use Larry Brooks methods. I've yet to even start it, but I mention it because I think we writers should always have “that next thing” we're reading or intend to study to become better at what we do. If writing is what you're passionate about, be a student of it.
There are lots more great writing books out there. These are just a handful that have my attention lately.
What about you? What's a favorite writing craft book? Favorite blog? What are you reading now?
Oh, and by the way, if you do find that Chris Hemsworth memoir…let me know.