Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Books About Writing Books For People Who Write Books.

Our chat at the Country House this time around will be quite a bit shorter than usual.  This is because I've finally finished the last b***-busting assignment (and the final exam) for my online college class and I really want to get the first draft of novel #2 moving again.

I've been spending quite a bit of time at my local libraries these days (mostly because of their free, high-speed wi-fi networks--gotta keep Windows and the new smartphone updated too, ya know), doing research and checking out their creative writing sections.

I've stumbled upon a trio of books that my colleague authors may find useful in sharpening their skills.

How To Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey
I stumbled upon this book completely by accident while searching for something else at the local Half-Price Books store (  From the blurb: "This is a hard-hitting, no-nonsense approach to the craft of storytelling.  For writers who need to understand the basics of the traditional dramatic novel, who want to learn how to put together a novel that will grab a reader and not let go, this book will be invaluable."

Frey delves into the mechanics of characters, conflict, premise, storytelling, climaxes, POV, dialogue, and editing.  I must admit that I learned a lot from this little book and I plan on re-reading it frequently as I am prone to do with books I enjoy.

Writing Popular Fiction by Dean R. Koontz
Koontz's book was one of my community college library finds.  His emphasis centered more on the individual fictional genres and the intricacies involved in the writing of each.  He also devotes some time to the practicalities of discipline, the creative process, and marketing.  It should be noted, however, that this book was written in 1973; some of the material is noticeably outdated.  But his bottom-line nuts and bolts of sound writing still make for some worthwhile reading for any author whether trad, indie, newbie, or established.

While I don't completely agree with some of his viewpoints, I can't dispute Koontz's track record: the man has a list of best-sellers longer than my arm.  He and literary success are close friends.  When authors of his stature are willing to speak, I'm willing to listen.

Grammar Girl Presents the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students by Mignon Fogarty
This has quickly become one of my personal favorite writing reference books.  Let's face it: grammar can be one very dry subject, especially if it wasn't one of your strengths in school.  Fortunately for me, I've always had something of an "ear" for what sounded right and what didn't.  But I'll admit it: this cheery little book taught me a lot.  Using animal cartoon characters, Ms. Fogarty has rendered distressing aspects like tenses, plurals and singulars, phrases, punctuation, the dreaded preposition, and a host of other terrors into light-hearted, easy-to-understand guidelines that actually make sense once you understand them.  Even if I'm not researching some specific grammatical point, I find myself reading this book for the pure entertainment of it.

I'm the first to admit that the Grammar Girl books are not the ultimate reference materials for all things literary; volumes such as the Chicago Manual of Style--which I also found at a nice price at HPB--are better suited for grinding, heavy-duty research.  But for a quick lookup--and a few moments of humor--this book fills the bill very nicely.

I would suggest Googling these books if you're interested in picking up a copy.  Prices and availability are all over the map depending on the vendor, condition, and whether you buy new or used.  Many libraries stock them as well.

Overall, they're good reading about good writing.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this post are solely my personal opinions based on my own experience and enjoyment of these books.  I received no compensation of any kind for this recommendation.  I have no affiliation or connection with the authors, literary agents, publishers, or retailers.  I either purchased these books with my own funds from a retail outlet or borrowed them from a library.  

So there.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Your comment here