Books and Blogs On Writing

I love reading about writing, in much the same way that I imagine car enthusiasts like books about engines. I love pulling the top off and poking around in the mechanics of storytelling, examining different narrative traditions and conventions, and sliding in underneath a faulty story to see where the plot-leak is. Analysis is fun!

And there’s lots to be found on the subject. I admit, I’ve never read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ because a) everyone keeps telling me to and I am contrary and b) I don’t care for Steven King’s work, so the value of his advice to me personally is questionable. (I have a copy of James Frey’s writing book, which I actually quite enjoyed, but again the source renders the advice a bit iffy.)

EDIT: The spouse has informed me that the James N. Frey who wrote ‘How To Write a Damn Good Novel‘ is in fact a completely different James Frey from the one who is notorious for sucking at discerning between fact and fiction. My defense is that I have trouble remembering names at the best of times, and expecting me to discern between people with the same name on the basis of an initial is asking far too much. Although clearly I have to start looking up everything. It’s a good book, though.

Blogs I read:

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books – This is a review site, not a writing one, but a big collection of scathing reviews is very helpful! The ladies pull apart the books they don’t like and spell out exactly why, so it’s a great ‘what not to do’ guide.

Pub Rants –  I really like agent-blogs that give advice, as there’s nothing like getting point by point advice from a member of the specific subgroup of humans to which I wish to sell my work. Kristin Nelson is one of my favourites, currently, because there’s lots of good advice, she posts reasonably regularly, and she likes all the genres I write which leaped her right to the top of my ‘fantasy agents’ pile.

Janet Reid/Query Shark – and Often harsh and always useful, there’s a ton of good advice here for writers.

Adventures in Text – I follow this not only because the writer is my NaNoWriMo ML and leader of the Cult of Kess, of which I am going to be Cake Guru when we get around to organizing our permanent Writer’s Retreat of Awesomeness, but because it has good advice galore. Go see!

And I cannot leave out Miranda – – who is my blogging-partner and encouragement-buddy, without whom this blog would probably not exist. If I don’t post every day, she has to buy me a drink, the reverse ditto. Rum is an excellent incentive!

EDIT 2: I can’t believe I left these out! Limyaael’s fantasy rants is an enduring favourite, full of rants that make me say ‘hear hear’ as well as useful tips.

Some of my enduring favourite books are:

J. Michael Straczynski’s ‘Complete  Book of Scriptwriting‘ –  Lots of interesting historical nuggets about the television and film industry combined with plenty of good advice about pacing, adherence to structure and so on. As the title says, it’s intended for script-writers rather than novelists per se, but he does acknowledge the potential for crossover, and a lot of the advice crosses over very well. It’s something I can read purely for entertainment, but I always come away wanting to write.

Lynne Truss’s ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves‘ – It’s a love-it-or-hate-it book, I’m told, but I’m definitely in the ‘love it’ camp. I adore the author’s particular brand of humour, and it does contain sound advice on the ins and outs of punctuation.

Chris Baty’s ‘No Plot, No Problem‘ – I love this book. I’ve read it over and over, and am currently on my third copy. (One got lost, one got so soaked that all the pages went moldy and stuck together). It’s very specifically a book for NaNoWriMo and the questionable-quality first draft, but I always find it very helpful in getting me motivated and enthusiastic about writing.

Kate Grenville’s ‘The Writing Book This one only just makes the cut, because I bought it and I have reread it and I remember finding it helpful at the time. I don’t remember any specific gems, though, unlike the first three, so it didn’t make quite the same impact. This is probably because a lot of room was taken up with ‘writing exercises’ which I loathe and never do. When I buy a book about writing, I want it to be about the *mechanics* of writing, not just cuddly little exercises for me to do as if I were still in primary school.

I also have a little grammar dictionary which I love because I stink at remembering formal grammatical rules, but which is currently put away somewhere so my toddler can’t destroy it, and I can’t remember which one it is. They’re good to have, though.

I’m surprised that, when it comes down to it, I only have a few books that I liked enough to buy/remember the name of. I need to find more. Any recommendations?