By Frank DiBianca
I have a recurring nightmare in which I walk onto the stage of a packed symphony hall. I hold a violin and bow in my hands. The conductor turns to me and smiles. Suddenly, I realize I have not memorized my part. Even worse, I don’t know how to play the violin! Sound familiar? That’s probably not the feeling we want to have when we approach an agent or acquisition editor.
In this blog article I’d like to suggest some things that will help empower new, and even some experienced, writers to excel in their chosen art:
- Get a developmental editor. And if you’re lucky, she’ll do line and copy editing as well. *
- Attend a major writer’s conference. *
- Read lots of novels in your genre. **
- Read powerful instructional books (the subject of this blog). **
* Substantial cost involved, but well worth it.
** Cost-free using online or take-out library services, or low-cost in digital format.
Some people have told me they’ve not gotten much out of the how-to-write books they’ve read. I don’t think you’d feel that way about the five books we’ll discuss here. Both my writing-partner wife, Kay, and I know these books made definite improvements in our work. And they’re certainly not the only excellent choices available.
The five writing books I’d like to recommend are:
- How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson.
Randy’s book is akin to a carpenter’s guide to building a house. Its foci are the story, a series of plot summaries and synopses of various lengths and complexities; the people, a sequence of character summaries, synopses and bibles; and the action, comprising a scene list and plans for each scene.
I used the Snowflake Method for my romance novel nearing completion, and my editor and I are pleased with the results.
- Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell.
In his field manual for excellent writing, James Scott Bell covers fundamentals of structure, character development, dialogue, and scene selection. And that’s just in Chapter One! The rest of the book adds meat to the bones, along with writing exercises, tips and tools, and cures for common plotting problems. This book is a must-have for fiction writers.
- The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing, by C. S. Lakin, et al.
In this writing gem, five editors analyze each of a dozen of the most prevalent weaknesses in modern writing by new and even some published authors:
- Overwriting ? Stagnation ? Weak Construction ? Excessive Backstory ? POV Violations ? Excessive Telling ? Flawed Dialogue ? Underwriting ? Description Imbalances ? Adverbs and Weasels, and ? Flawed Mechanics.
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Another must-have for the fiction writer’s shelf. Written by two expert editors, their topics such as “Show and Tell,” “Dialogue Mechanics,” and “Point of View” are ones that authors would do well to master. Hands-on exercises at the end of each chapter provide the reader with a means to master the techniques.
- The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
This book is an encyclopedia of how emotions are expressed. One-hundred and thirty emotions are listed and get two pages of elucidation each, comprising their outward signs, internal sensations, mental responses, and other indications. For example, the outward signs of “LOVE” are “moving closer or touching,” “smiling at nothing,” “a beaming expression and glowing cheeks,” and thirty other telltale signs. And that’s less than half of the “LOVE” entry.
The pros say “Show Don’t Tell.” This book shows you how!
I hope you found this discussion helpful. Good luck in your endeavors!It doesn’t matter how many technique books a writer has, as long as they’re the right ones. @fdibianca #ACFWBlogs #writetips #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet
Frank A. DiBianca is a fiction writer and retired university professor. He received a Ph.D. in high-energy physics from Carnegie-Mellon University and later worked in biomedical engineering. Frank lives in Memphis with his author-wife, Kay (The Watch on the Fencepost, CrossLink). He is completing his first novel, a romance.
Frank, This is great information! And I think we all have had the “violin” dream. It underlines how anxious we are to be prepared in our chosen field.
There are so many great books on the craft of writing, and you have pointed to those I think are among the very best. I’d be interested to hear what others have used to learn the craft.
Yes, there certainly are many outstanding writing manuals out there.
As I former professor, I wonder if the depth of the training needed to publish a successful novel should qualify novelists for the WD
(Doctor of Writing) degree?
DW. I like that, Frank.