Inspiring Creativity; An Anthology of Powerful Insights and Practical Ideas to Guide You to Successful Creating

by Rick Benzel (ed.); Creativity Coaching Association Press. 

Roger Ebert says “The Muse visits during composition, not before.”  But what if we are stuck, and we simply can’t come up with a plot or a scene?  Here experts offer methods to shake loose fresh ideas from our minds, and many of their techniques rise above standard New Age psychobabble.



Scene & Structure

by Jack M. Bickham; Writer’s Digest Books.  

Bickham invented the most useful formula a writer can ever read:  a scene is “a segment of story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary, presented onstage in the story ‘now.’  It is not something that goes on inside a character’s head; it is physical.  It could be put on the theater stage and acted out.”  A strong scene contains certain ingredients and is presented in a certain way, and Bickham tells us how to do it.



Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft, 7th ed.

by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French; Longman Press. 

If you buy only one book on writing, make it this one.  It is thick with techniques and insights covering all aspects of writing, from the creative process through the writing through the editing.  This is the mother lode of excellent writing advice.



Characters & Viewpoint

by Orson Scott Card; Writer’s Digest Books. 

Readers remember a protagonist long after the intricacies of a novel’s plot have been forgotten.  We have a clear image of Scarlett O’Hara, even though many of her struggles may have dimmed for us.  The best-selling science fiction author discusses how to create compelling, memorable characters.



Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue

by Gloria Kempton; Writer’s Digest Books. 

Good dialogue isn’t a transcript.  In fiction, the conversation between characters should sound somewhat like people talking, but not too much like people talking, a difficult balance for many writers.  Particularly useful are the list of dialogue mistakes such as the John and Marsha syndrome, the dialogue tag addiction, and the As-You-Know-Bob tendency. 



On Writing

by Stephen King; Pocket Books. 

How in the world does he do it?  He writes only in the morning, and produces novels in ninety days that become cultural reference points, such as The Stand and Carrie.  It’s all here, and King sets it out for us in a fun but pointed style.  He discusses strong writing techniques (such as: go easy on the clothing:  “If I want to read description of clothes, I can always get a J. Crew catalogue.”) and how he lives his life.  It’s a revelation that King is indeed a mortal.  Well, maybe he isn’t, but it’s still nice to know he occasionally takes a nap and watches TV.



Dynamic Characters; How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated

by Nancy Kress; Writer’s Digest Books. 

The Hugo Award-winning novelist understands the importance of the protagonist and the villain, and she discusses how to invent characters that make the reader desperate to learn their fates—that is, to keep reading until the story’s end.  Particularly useful are the sections on creating dialogue and on the use of detail to bring a character to life.



Bird by Bird; Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott, Anchor Books.

While short on technical advice, this book is long on wisdom and humor, and deals realistically with the fears and occasional joys of the professional novelist.


  The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing
by Meg Leder and Jack Heffron (eds.); Writer’s Digest Books.

Here is solid and specific advice from Tom Clancy, Terry Brooks, John Updike, Octavia Butler, Sue Grafton, and many more.  The articles are sorted per subject, and cover essential skills such as mastering point of view, showing rather than telling, and drafting a synopsis.


  Writing the Breakout Novel
by Donald Maass; Writer’s Digest Books.

The highly-regarded literary agent has reviewed thousands of manuscripts, and he lists succinctly those things that make a novel work and those things that kill a novel’s prospects.  His The Career Novelist is also first-rate.


  The Gregg Reference Manual 
by William A. Sabin; Writer’s Digest Books.

Find the answer to any conceivable grammatical question in this must-have manual for any serious writer.

  Guidebook for Working with Small Independent Publishers
by Terry Persun

For authors looking to get their books published, small, independent publishers offer a great opportunity. This guidebook explains the ins and outs of working with small publishers, plus offers a valuable, sample marketing plan.

  If You Want to Write
by Brenda Ueland

A classic. Ueland addresses the fears and joys of writing with humor, candor, and sharp insight. Her motto: Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say. Can’t get any better than that.

  The Writer's Journey; Mythic Structure for Writers 3rd ed.
by Christopher Vogler; Michael Wiese Productions. 

Vogler says that successful stories have “ageless patterns” that “have stood the test of time.”  A story should be regarded as an account of the hero’s journey, and Vogler describes the twelve stages in the journey, applicable to almost all fiction.  During the plotting of our novel, this book is indispensible.


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