I have a feeling that, deep down inside, everyone who reads dreams of someday cranking out their own book. Just in case that’s a new year’s resolution of yours, I thought I’d run a series of posts over the next few weeks containing reviews of books and courses that helped take me from dreamer to full-time writer.
This week, I’ll start off with the most important part — learning to write! Without further ado, here are some great resources to help take you from scribbler to novelist.
Start with structure
Even if you’re a pantser (someone who writes books by the seat of your pants) rather than a plotter (someone who writes outlines), understanding basic story structure is key. Great starter books include:
- Save the Cat — Excellent worksheets and basics to get you started. (Don’t be scared off by the “Screenwriting” part of the subtitle.)
- Take off your Pants — In addition to the catchy title, this book provides a very character-based way of structuring your novel that really helped my writing grow.
- Super Structure — This is a good book to read when you’re at a more intermediate stage. I learned some good tips on pacing and signposting therein.
- Write to Market — In some ways, this book should be in a separate category (marketing). But it’s important to understand what kind of books readers are looking for before you even start, so I stand by including this title here.
Leveling up with details
Once you’ve written your first novel and are no longer daunted by the idea of making a story hang together from beginning to end, you’ll be ready to level up with some of these more laser-focused writing books. Here are the ones that have helped me grow over the years:
- Various courses/books by Holly Lisle. You can get many of these as ebooks on Amazon, but I recommend buying directly through her site both to support the author and to download extras and participate in student forums. Specifically, her flash fiction course (FREE) taught me to write short stories in a few short sessions, her create a plot clinic is a really awesome brainstorming guide, and her how to write a series (much more expensive) turned my fourth series into my best by far.
- Romancing the Beat — This is an excellent, short and easy-to-read romance-novel primer. It’s basically Save The Cat twisted around to match the romance novel.
- Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet — This book got me over the hurdle of being afraid to include sex scenes in my books.
- Writing Vivid Emotions — An excellent, short tutorial on how to mix emotional cues into a story more subtly. I haven’t read this author’s entire (long!) series, but can also recommend Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novel.
- On Writing Romance — This text feels a little old school in places but has some good tips in the middle on the actual craft of building a romance.
Edit down to a polished draft
Finally, the part that is taking me the longest to learn — editing. While I do use a proofreader to catch those last few thorny mistakes and sometimes pay a developmental editor/beta reader to catch big-picture flaws, an author really needs to know how to do at least some of this herself. A couple of books that really helped me out here are:
- 2k to 10k — Despite the focus of the book’s title on productivity, it was the editing section that did the most for me. (Plus, I love her fiction books, so I know this author comes from a place of good storytelling.)
- Self-Editing on a Penny — This is a good starter book for those of you just beginning to edit your own work.
Actually, as I look at the two measly books included in this section, I can see why editing still gives me fits — I need to do more reading on the subject! I hope you’ll use the link to facebook below to comment on what other books or courses you recommend.