Monday, August 06, 2012

Developing Your Writing Skill #3

by James Duckett

Three weeks ago I blogged on how writing is more a skill than a talent. Since it is a skill, it can be developed and improved. The last two weeks I wrote that writing and reading is the most valuable ways to develop this skill. The third advice on writing skill development is to READ BOOKS ON WRITING. There are a lot of books out there from people who have been there, paid their dues, established themselves, and wish to distill their wisdom upon the world.

I've had a list of books that I've read on writing that I have just loved to pieces. In (Author) alphabetical order by author, here are the books that came first to mind and why I love them:

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks: Larry Brooks was the keynote speakers at the first LDS Storymakers Event I attended (last year). While this focuses on six elements every writer needs to develop in order to become successful, the part he wrote the most detail on, story structure, is what stood out the most for me. He said that there was a structure to books just as their is a structure to movie scripts. He walks you through the structure of a book and it is a large part of the story frame I use while outlining my stories.

Characters and Viewpoints by Orson Scott Card: This was one of the first books I ever read to improve my writing. Scott is one of my favorite authors, primarily because he writes characters that I care about more than in most books I've read. So, of course, I'm going to go to him when he writes on how to write characters and how to write from their viewpoint.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card: Because Science Fiction and Fantasy are the two genres I wish to write in, and again, because I'm a huge fan of Scott, I had to pick this one up right after reading Characters and Viewpoints. However, I think you can benefit by reading this book even if you don't plan on writing in those genres. This gives a lot of excellent advice on how to create a story.

On Writing by Stephen King: Stephen King is another of my favorite writers, so I gobbled up every word of this book. It actually starts off as a biography as he writes on what it took for him to become an author and the the highlights (and low points) of his life. He doesn't actually give writing advise until the end of the book. However, I loved both parts of the book. And his advise!! I like how he just gets to the meat of it. He doesn't present a writing tip and go on for two hundred pages explaining why it must be done, like so many other books. He gives a curt, yet thorough, explanation and then - BAM!! - next topic. A word of warning, this does contain explicit language.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder: This doesn't focus so much on the mechanics of writing but more on how to improve your story. This also has a section on story structure that is a lot like Larry Brooks' (see above) but has a few more elements that Larry didn't touch on. When I read this book I kept a clipboard nearby to write down the writing tips. I wrote small and still filled up several pages of notes on how to improve my story and make my character unforgettable.

I asked a Facebook writing group on other books they might suggest. I was surprised to see some books I had never even heard of before, which only adds to my list of books to read. So here are their suggestions, also in alphabetical order.

Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Hooked by Les Edgerton
How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamest
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Writing Picture Book by Ann Whitford Paul
The 10% Solution by Ken Rand
A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter by S.P. Sipal (Side note, I did start this one and it is AWESOME!)

It was also recommended to check out this list: Best Books for Writers by Poets&Writers

Until next week when we discuss Developing Your Writing Skill #4: Listening to Podcasts and Reading Writing Blogs.