Tagged: the writing life Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: the writing life,   

    10 Books to Read Before Writing Your Novel 

    Writing a novel is an awesome undertaking, requiring time, skill, and oodles of imagination. A lot of people give lip service to the idea of writing a novel, usually confidently citing the amazing ideas they have along with a deep disdain for the novels that are getting published without their involvement, but not everyone has what it takes to write a novel—much less a good one that others will want to read. If you’re thinking of writing a book, whether in a fevered NaNoWiMo dash or a more stately approach, here are ten books you should read in order to prepare yourself. They won’t necessarily make writing a novel easier, but they will certainly clarify for you what it takes to go from 0 to 60,000 words.

    I Should be Writing, by Mur Lafferty
    The Six Wakes author has also been hosting the I Should be Writing podcast for years now, and the essence of that essential listening has been distilled into this phenomenal book. It’s billed as “A Writer’s Workshop,” and that’s exactly what it is, complete with exercises, examples, and stimulating and encouraging lessons. If you’ve never tried to write a novel before, this is the book that will help you get over the hump whether you work in the speculative genres like Lafferty or not.

    On Writing, by Stephen King
    This is the ultimate writing memoir from one of the most prolific writers of all time. King is in his 70s now and going as strong as ever, publishing some of the most highly regarded books of his career. If you’ve never tried your hand at writing and need to wrap your head around how it’s done, this is probably the perfect book. The combination of King’s homey style, experience and talent, and eagerness to get into the specifics of his craft and process make this a must-read for every aspiring novelist.

    Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s essay collection isn’t so much for craft and business stuff—instead, it takes a more philosophical approach to writing in general and writing novels specifically. Bradbury was a True Believer, someone for whom books were sacred, and stories a religion. If you’ve tried writing before and found yourself losing the thread over and over again, your excitement ebbing away as the difficulty mounted, Bradbury’s collected wisdom will keep your inspiration levels high.

    Words are My Matter, by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Le Guin was more than just a great writer. She was a great thinker and a passionate advocate for authors and writing in general. The essays in this book run the gamut from thoughtful craft-oriented think pieces to intelligent assessments of other writers’ work, showing exactly how smart, critical reading can inform your own writing. There’s no better glimpse of what it takes, mentally, to write well over the course of decades, and if you’re contemplating a life of the keyboard you need to read it. Le Guin pulled no punches on her opinions, and you may not agree with everything she writes—but you’ll be better off for having read it.

    The Kick-Ass Writer, by Chuck Wendig
    Wendig’s muscular style of writing advice is ideal for the 21st-century gig economy world we find ourselves in. He’s funny, honest, and successful—and he frames his advice on writing craft and getting published in a funny, fast-paced writing style that’s as fun as it is educational. That latter part is important; a lot of writing books are happy to help you write a novel, but few offer a ton of clear advice on getting that book published. If that’s your goal—and it isn’t everyone’s—then Wendig’s eminently readable book is a key step to laying your plans for literary world domination.

    Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
    At some point every writer is advised to read Lamott’s classic reflection on the process of writing, and that advice is and always will be good advice. Beginning with the central anecdote about her brother, struggling to write a book report on birds, being advised to just take it “bird by bird,” the book is filled with practical and inspiring advice that demystifies the mechanics of the creative process. Even better, Lamott stresses that writing is in itself a reward, and pushes you to write for the satisfaction of having created something rather than the material rewards of publishing, which is by far the healthiest way to approach writing a novel even if publication is your ultimate goal.

    Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
    One of the main things stopping people from writing novels is a lack of faith in their own ideas and creativity. Kleon’s new classic is a primer on how to harness your creativity and trust your instincts—as well as a necessary corrective to the idea that your ideas have to be rigidly, perfectly “original.” Kleon lays it out clearly—every artist steals, and every creative endeavor is built on the work that came before it. If you’re hesitating about your novel writing ambitions because you’re worried your ideas aren’t original enough, read this book.

    The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby
    You’ve probably heard different theories on story and plot, from the Hero’s Journey to the Three-Act Structure and everything in between. The necessity and usefulness of these concepts varies from writer to writer, but knowing something about them is probably a good idea. While you can read plenty of books about plenty of theories on story, Truby’s is an excellent combination of modern thinking in terms of organic story generation combined with specific steps and plot points. His book will get you thinking about the shape of your story before you start writing, and that will make for a tighter novel that gets written faster.

    Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster
    Forster, author of classic novels such as A Passage to India and Howard’s End, was also a lecturer at Trinity College. His series of lectures on the novel at that school in 1927 are collected in this book, and remain powerful explorations of the different aspects of the novel. Using classic works as examples, Forster brings his remarkable intelligence to bear on the question of what makes a novel, and how to apply those lessons in your own writing—where he uses examples from his own not-too-shabby writing career.

    Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, by Lawrence Block
    Block, one of the most successful mystery writers of all time, wrote a lot of articles for Writer’s Digest back in the day in which he offered brass tacks writing advice and a glimpse into what the business was like for a successful published author. Those essays are collected here, and offer a still-applicable set of lessons on everything from getting past writer’s block to simply starting—which might be precisely what you need to read before you make your first, or five hundredth, attempt to write your own novel.

    The post 10 Books to Read Before Writing Your Novel appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2017/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: adam langer, andrew sean greer, bestseller, , cherise wolas, , , less, lucia graves, olivia goldsmith, the angel's game, , the resurrection of joan ashby, the right time, the thieves of manhattan, the writing life   

    6 Novel Novels About Novelists 

    Films-within-films (Tropic ThunderSingin’ in the Rain), plays-within-plays (Shakespeare does this a lot), and songs referencing songs (“You probably think this song is about you…”) provide entertainment while also poking fun at the business side of art. Naturally, novels are the perfect medium with which to tackle the publishing industry. Not only are these authors positioned to pull back the curtain on the lives of agents, publishers, and editors, but they’re eminently qualified to share the agonies and ecstasies of writing itself. Using humor, irony, and grace, whether they’re hot off the presses or set within the last century, these books bring special meaning to the adage “Write what you know.”

    The Right Time, by Danielle Steel

    A bright, precociously successful writer of complex thrillers, novelist Alexandra Winslow was told during her formative years that men will only read her genre of books if they’re written by other men. The warning stayed with her, and as a result, she decided to pursue her passion under a male pseudonym. Having overcome more heartache than most by her teen years, including an absent mother and the death of her beloved father (who shared his love of mysteries with her), Alex’s latest difficulties are compounded as she realizes the double life she’s living is slowly destroying her. Will she find the strength to reveal her true self to the rest of the world? Will the time ever be right for her to step out of her own shadow?

    The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, by Cherise Wolas
    Joan Ashby’s writing career is off to dazzling start. Adored by critics and readers alike for her dark prose, she’s poised to become a lifelong literary star. Children were never in the picture—until Joan’s husband Martin changes the rule they agreed to and urges her to succumb to motherhood. Raising her two boys isn’t easy, and her creative ambitions struggle against “the consumptive nature of love.” Wolas’ powerhouse debut novel promises to take readers on an emotional ride, while tackling questions about the ways in which women are sometimes forced to choose between love of family and self-actualization.

    Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

    “Minor novelist” Arthur Less is about to turn 50, and his younger, former lover Freddy is getting married. Down and out, and determined to escape the torturous nuptials—while not appearing as though he’s escaping—Less decides to accept every ham-fisted, bizarre invitation he’s received for the year. His writerly itinerary, which will take him from NYC to Paris, Berlin, and Morocco, includes teaching a class, attending an award ceremony (in which high schoolers are the judges), and interviewing a more successful author. A surprise narrator (whose identity is kept secret until the end) adds poignancy and tenderness to this lovely and comedic story.

    The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (translated by Lucia Graves)

    “A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story…A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.” So begins a haunting, gothic love story set in 1920s Barcelona. Orphaned pulp novelist David Martin leaves his newspaper job behind when he receives a mysterious publishing offer that may prove to be a Faustian bargain, especially when people begin dying and David suspects that the crumbling, abandoned house he’s living in holds terrifying secrets.

    The Thieves of Manhattan, by Adam Langer

    A biting, genre-bending satire of the publishing industry, with hilarious literary in-jokes and slang aplenty (a “frazier” is a large advance for a book, a la Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain; an “atwood” is “a mane of curls sported by the author Margaret Atwood”; and a “tolstoy” is a large pile of manuscripts), Thieves depicts a down-on-his-luck writer who agrees to put his name on an absurd novel and pretend it’s true, so he can take advantage of the misery-memoir trend. “I wasn’t sure if I felt more frightened by the thought that his scheme would work or the thought that it wouldn’t, that I would ruin whatever reputation and self-respect I might have had for nothing, or that lying would make me…successful.”

    Bestseller, by Olivia Goldsmith
    As a bestseller herself, Goldsmith (The First Wives’ Club and many more) knows the heartaches and triumphs of the publishing world, and she recreates it here with intimate aplomb. Five authors whose books were selected by powerful publishing house Davis & Dash vie for the coveted number-one slot on the fall list. But the writers aren’t the only ones desperate to climb the ladder of success. Up-and-coming editors and their shady mentors, back-stabbing agents, brokenhearted parents, struggling indie bookstore owners, and midlist ghostwriters abound in this scandalous tale. There’s even a husband-and-wife writing team that splits up when one of them pretends the work was a solo effort. Enjoy!

    What novels about novels would you recommend?

    The post 6 Novel Novels About Novelists appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Heidi Fiedler 6:00 pm on 2017/09/13 Permalink
    Tags: , craft, how to be a writer, , , the writing life   

    20 Books That Belong on Every Writer’s Bookshelf 

    Like painting, wine, and the human condition, writing is something that can stand up to a lifetime if study. Wherever you are in your journey as a writer, it’s essential to keep your bookshelves well stocked with inspiring mentor texts and reference books that will help you develop your craft. The books on this list will enrich your writing life and deepen your skills, while also lifting your spirits and reminding you why writers devote their hearts and minds to this exceptional art form. Write on, writers! Write on!

    [ean1]The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White
    In general, it makes sense to leave the editing to editors, and instead focus your time and energy on developing your craft. But the most compelling stories are easy to read, and this master class in being clear, succinct, and sensible on the page is essential reading for any writer.

    [ean2]The Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson
    For those struggling to give your story a compelling beginning, middle, and end, Alderson guides writers to a deeper understanding of the universal story structure driving everything from fairy tales to multiverse sci-fi operas. You might even learn something about the story of your own life.

    The Art of Character, by David Corbett
    Ask editors what they’re looking for, and they’ll likely say some variation on, “I’ll know it when I see it.” But if pressed, they may admit they’re searching for books with characters readers will fall in love with so hard they’ll want to follow them anywhere. Develop your ability to create memorable, relatable characters with author David Corbett’s practical and inspiring guide.

    [ean4]Wonderbook, by Jeff VanderMeer
    Fantasy and sci-fi writers will love this illustrated guide to world building and storytelling. Filled with maps, advice, essays from writers like Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin, plus online extras, it’s a book you will return to again and again.

    Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    When you need a dose of been-there-done-that courage, this wise, warm exploration of creativity will guide you. It’s filled with actionable advice, thoughtful metaphors, a deep understanding of the creative process, and, yes, maybe even the little bit of magic that’s needed to spark your own creative spirit.

    [ean6]The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman
    As humans, our emotional vocabulary may be woefully underdeveloped, but writers can’t afford to blur the lines between anger and annoyance. This reference book parses the nuances between everything from desperation and disappointment to scorn and smugness. Each entry includes body language suggestions and more. Sure to inspire psychological debates—and better drafts!

    Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro
    Part writing memoir, part craft book, all infused with a creative spirit any artist can relate to, this is a modern classic that belongs on every writer’s bookshelf. Divided into Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, it’s really the title that drives the message: against all odds, Shapiro is still writing and encourages you to keep writing too.

    Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
    The master of succinct, precise writing lets loose with essays on the creative process. His love for writing is soaked into every page, and you’re sure to finish this book feeling inspired and reassured that the effort you put into your work is worth it.

    [ean9]The Art of Slow Writing, by Louise DeSalvo
    Ah now, doesn’t the title just make you feel better? Slow writing. What a lovely idea in a world that regularly promises you can write a book in thirty days or crank out a bestseller every year. DeSalvo’s wise and practical book is deeply comforting as she lights the way, away from insanity and toward a creative process that’s mysterious, meaningful, and rewarding.

    [ean10]Story Genius, by Lisa Cron
    With an intriguing refusal to take a side with the pantsers or outliners, Cron recommends a new approach to storytelling that promises exciting plotlines, meaningful themes, and strong early drafts. Her secret? New research into brain science that shows how writers can engage readers at a fundamental, deeply compelling level.

    [ean11]The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
    Millions of artists, dancers, and, yes, writers, swear by Cameron’s immersive approach to creativity. Whether you’re feeling stuck, want to take your work to the next level, or are looking to experiment with a new technique, this twelve-week program will inspire you to do more than write. It will inspire you to live like a writer.

    [ean12]On Writing, by Stephen King
    More than a how-to guide written by a serial bestselling author, this is a master class in the craft of writing, as well as a celebration of its power. Generous, warm, helpful, and entertaining, this is a book that’s a pleasure to read and a delight to return to.

    [ean13]Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
    Written with humor and wisdom, this is a practical guide to developing your craft. There are exercises for developing your voice (and your ear), establishing a routine, overcoming self-doubt, and more. Find out why this book has been in print for over thirty years.

    [ean14]The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
    In her trademark poetic prose, Dillard explores what it means to be a writer. Give this to someone who doesn’t understand their late-night bursts of inspiration or someone who is secretly a writer but doesn’t yet know it.

    [ean15]Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose
    One of the fastest and most enjoyable ways to become a better writer is to read more and analyze the books you love. Prose’s guide to reading will help you make the most of your time, with tips on using your favorite books as inspiration in your own writing.

    [ean16]Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
    Filled with memorable metaphors and reassuring imagery, this is the book that’s on every writing syllabus. It leaves readers feeling braver, smarter, and more dedicated to their craft. And if you’re not yet in a writing class, it will help you be your own best teacher.

    [ean17]Drawing Your Own Path, by John Simon
    Sometimes to grow, writers need to take a break from words. This collection of meditative drawing exercises will help you tap into your intuition and write more mindfully. (If it’s good enough for Ruth Ozeki, it’s good enough for us!)

    [ean18]Letters to a Young Writer, by Colum McCann
    The books on this list are as much about mindset as method, and this collection of lessons on how to be a writer (and an interesting human) is a lovely combination of the two approaches all on its own. A call to empathy, poetry, truth, and light, this is a rallying cry for new and old writers alike.

    [ean19]The Art of X-Ray Reading, by Roy Peter Clark
    Time spent with a masterpiece is never wasted, especially when you’re analyzing it carefully. From The Great Gatsby to The Bluest Eye, Clark invites readers to glean meaning and inspiration from the classics in a way that will inform your writing for years to come.

    [ean20]Scratch, by Manjula Martin
    At some point, after you develop your craft, you’ll probably be eager to start earning money. This book tackles taboos and digs into the nitty-gritty detail of how writers make a living with essays from Cheryl Strayed, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, and more, making it essential reading for any writer who hopes to be paid for the privilege of making art.

    The post 20 Books That Belong on Every Writer’s Bookshelf appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Nicole Hill 5:45 pm on 2017/01/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , the writing life   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Failing Your New Year’s Resolutions 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.

    Twice a year, I vow to pick up the moldering remnants of the half-begun novel that has occupied space on my hard drive since college. Twice a year, I drop the smoldering pile of my dreams into the proverbial dumpster again.

    In January, inevitably, I exhort myself to work on my unfinished novel as part of my unattainable New Year’s resolutions. It always sounds good. There are 12 months in this brand new year; why wouldn’t I use them to chip away at the remaining word count that never seems to get smaller? I make a plan, set weekly goals. Sometimes I even redo an outline, despite the fact that I hate outlines. But without fail, the effort dies by February.

    That is where November comes in, when the pressure cooker of NaNoWriMo rockets me back into writing mode. Somehow, I continually trick myself into believing that what I could not accomplish in the sum total of the year’s other 11 months, I can easily do in the span of little, tiny November. November, a month punctuated by a major holiday, no less. November, a month immediately preceded by another major holiday and succeeded by a host of others.

    On November 1, fresh off the sugar high of Halloween, I’m excited, thrilled at the creative prospects. I churn out a couple of chapters, but quickly sabotage myself by editing as I write. The outline of which I was so proud now sits forgotten and crumpled beneath the kitchen table. By the start of the second week, I’m down to lurking on message boards, hoping to find fellow burnouts to buoy my fragile self-esteem. I’ve stopped using the #NaNoWriMo hashtag. I act as if it never happened.

    This is the oppressive cycle New Year’s resolutions kick off, allowing me to do nothing but disappoint myself for the bulk of a calendar year. Nor is it just the one creative resolution at which I fail.

    Like many a self-respecting reader, I set a goal each year for the number of books I plan to plow through, and for the remaining months on the calendar, that goal hangs like a Sword of Damocles.

    “Seventy seems low,” January Me says. “I read 74 just last year, and that was without really trying.” January Me is similar to December Me, only with repetitive and incurable amnesia.

    So I set my reading challenge to 80 books. Inevitably, I do not factor in the demands of my full-time job, significant other, needy pets, and various life commitments. By Thanksgiving, I’m subbing out my to-read pile with graphic novels, short story compilations, and several volumes of the ongoing adventures of Captain Underpants in order to make the reading move faster. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t.

    And for what? What did I do all of that stressing and cramming and disappointing for? Just to do it all over again the next year? Well, not this time. This time, here in 2017, I’m setting goals for myself, ones that are attainable and more meaningful.

    This year, I will read more works by authors who don’t look like me, about characters who don’t live where I do. I will try to balance my fiction and nonfiction reads more evenly. I will keep Post-it notes nearer to my person as I snuggle into my reading chair. And, of course, I’ll finish writing that novel.

    The post The Book Nerd’s Guide to Failing Your New Year’s Resolutions appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 7:00 pm on 2016/12/20 Permalink
    Tags: , the writing life, you did it!   

    What’s Next after NaNoWriMo? 

    So, you won (or attempted!) NaNoWriMo 2016. Now what? Here are ten potential next steps, covering everything from revision to, yes, the daunting publishing process:

    Put your manuscript away, and don’t look at it for at least 2-3 weeks. No matter whether you wrote a full 50K, just made it halfway, or got through an in-depth outline, four weeks of intense writing is draining, and you need to replenish your energy. What a coincidence that the end of NaNoWriMo coincides with December, and the holiday season! It may surprise you to learn that by stepping away after this intense period, new ideas will begin to percolate. Keep a notebook handy for those moments, but don’t dwell on them. Rest.

    Before the New Year begins, outline your goals. If you don’t have a complete manuscript, do you want to keep pressing forward on the plot? Or, would you rather go back and review what you’ve written and clean it up? Be prepared before you jump back into the writing process.

    Whether you ended NaNoWriMo with a completed first draft or you spend the bulk of the year finishing one, your next step is, of course, revision. I highly recommend finding a few critique partners (note, these are different than beta readers, which I’ll get to later on) who can provide educated, experienced editorial input about which parts of the manuscript are working and which are not. You can also pay freelance editors for their services.

    Revise, revise, revise. This means killing some of your darlings, but more importantly, creating new ones. Make revisions in track changes so you can visualize your progress, and keep track of what you discard. I find it helpful to keep a separate document of everything you delete, in case you decide later that some part of it is salvageable.

    Once you have a solid revision (usually, at least a second or third draft!), it’s time to seek out beta readers and sensitivity readers. Beta readers are people you trust to provide critique on a general basis: is the manuscript readable? Enjoyable? Did they like the characters they were supposed to like and hate they ones they were supposed to hate? Do the plot twists and details track? Additionally, I recommend employing (and paying) a sensitivity reader, especially if your manuscript handles the portrayal of any marginalized communities (religious minorities, disabled people, LGBTQIAP+, mental illness, marginalized races and ethnicities, etc.). These readers look out specifically for negative representation of marginalized communities, and can point out methods and resources for you to correct it.

    At this point, it’s time for you to think about the publishing process. The first step is to find an agent, which means taking a break from your manuscript yet again and heading to my favorite place: the bookstore! Go to the aisle that most closely resembles your own novel and check the acknowledgments sections of the books you love most. Usually (if they’re smart!) authors will thank their agents in the acknowledgments. Make a list, and begin to compile their submission guidelines. (Make sure to check their websites and social media accounts too, because guidelines can differ between agencies and agents!)

    The dreaded query letter: a mix of synopsis, biography, and elevator pitch. This is what an agent will read, and what will help them decide to represent you or not. I recommend utilizing your critique partners for this section, as well as possibly hiring an editorial consultant again to make this step as seamless as possible. Once your query letter and sample are polished (Copyedited! Copyedited! Copyedited!) you can press the “send” button, and away you go!

    This is the part every author dreams of. You’ve written a manuscript, poured blood, sweat and tears into the revisions, researched the agents…and now, someone has told you that your work is good enough to warrant representation, and hopefully, good enough to sell. But be careful! Don’t make a hasty decision. If an agent (or multiple agents) offer you representation, do your research. Consult publishersweekly.com for a list of their recent sales, the editors they have connections to, and the sums they usually collect. Reach out to current clients of theirs and see, off the record, what their experience is like working with them. And of course, let the other agents know that you have options so they will expedite their process.

    If steps 5-8 do not go as smoothly as possible, do not dismay. If your process takes a turn (you need to do a complete re-write after a third revision, a sensitivity reader points out a flaw in the characterization that you cannot overcome…) step away from your manuscript again and instead, surround yourself with books and TV both in the same vein as your work, and completely different. If you’re writing historical romance, watch a sci-fi TV show. If you are writing a YA contemporary novel, read a few fantasies! Mix things up—sometimes spending too much time on one thing can cloud your creativity, whereas immersing yourself in variety can be surprisingly inspiring.

    Start a new project. No matter what has happened by this point, NaNoWriMo will feel like a million years ago (or maybe just a year). You will be weary, and maybe even a bit jaded. Or, fingers crossed, everything has gone your way and your agent has sold your book! Either way, start something new. Remember how good it feels to have a new idea, to flesh out a world, and make characters come to life. The true test of a writer isn’t whether they are published, but that they write, no matter what.

    via GIPHY

    How did your NaNoWriMo go this year?

    The post What’s Next after NaNoWriMo? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
esc
cancel