They say that everyone has a book in them. While I’m unconvinced that’s entirely true, certainly everyone has a story in them of some description. Since writing Solarversia (I’m 2/3 of the way through the 2nd draft, as per the latest newsletter, signup here) I keep being asked which book on writing I would recommend to help “kickstart” the process. As you’ll know if you’ve perused Amazon, books about writing are abundant, forming a large subgenre all on their own.
For me, my recommendations are an easy choice. There are two books that stand out head & shoulders over the rest and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. Here’s a few words on each of them and why I found them so useful.
Structuring Your Novel – K.M. Weiland
One thing I soon learnt about writing is that there are two classifications of author:
The former group work out the plot first and use it as a rough template to work from. Whereas the latter group, the Pantsers, write by the seat of their pants (have a vague notion of the story in their heads, and make it up as they go along).
Of course, in reality, the majority of people are a combination of the two. Looking back at Solarversia I reckon I was about 90% plotter, 10% pantser, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Having a plot to guide me the whole way was priceless. Not once did I suffer Writer’s Block because of it – I always knew what I needed to say next.
The entire first half of the book is devoted to Story Structure, and it’s indispensable. Katie, the author, shows you how to:
- Break your story into 3 Acts
- Write a great Hook
- Include an ‘Inciting Event’ and a ‘Key Event’
- Include 3 major Plot Points spaced at the correct intervals
- Include a couple of ‘Pinch Points’ that come between the Plot Points
(Useful Visual Chart from her website illustrating these various methods)
If that isn’t already helpful enough, the second half of the book is devoted to Scene Structure:
- The 2 Types of Scene
- The 3 Building Blocks of any scene
- Scene Goals / Conflicts / Disaster / Dilemmas / Decisions
So every time I sat down to write, all I had to do was look at my plot template (which took me three months to create!) see what needed to come next, refer to my notes for that scene (telling me the type of scene and which building blocks were involved) and off I’d go … woohoo!
The Art & Craft of Fiction – Victoria Mixon
To borrow a quote from one of the reviews on Amazon, The Art & Craft of Fiction never feels like reading a book. It feels like listening to a conversation. And that was the beautiful thing about this book for me – a book about writing, that is written so well that it draws you in the second you open the cover. Essentially, the book follows its own advice, a shining example of the craft of writing in its own right.
I love how she refers to the classics for her examples (Hemingway, Capote, and Poe) and really analyses them in depth, explaining how and why they work so well, the reason the reader gets drawn in. She covers, in quite some depth:
- Developmental Issues
- How to Create Amazing Characters
- Everything You Need to Know About Plot
- Prose itself (Passive versus Active Voice, Tenses, Perspectives)
- Loads on Showing versus Telling
- Line & Copy Issues
I thought that this was the perfect companion to the first book I mentioned. If I was starting out again, I’d buy them both in an instant.
Available under Creative Commons license