Best of 2013: Books on Craft

2013 has been the year when the craft of writing started to make sense for me. It’s been the year in which I proved to myself that I can write, even if I don’t write particularly well. Yet.

Things are starting to come together. I am starting to see and feel how story works. It turns out that that curmudgeonly tidbit “Sit down and write” is true and , while I still have work to do there, there has been more to it. than just planting my butt in the chair.

There are a number of resources that have helped: some telling me new things, some telling me the same things in different ways until I began to understand.

Most of these I bought as eBooks and they live in my various KindleGadgets, but there is one that absolutely demands physical ownership (it is just so, so pretty).

Wonderbook is the first fully illustrated creative writing guide, with over 200 full-color images, and is meant to be of use to any beginning or intermediate fiction writer–although it should be of use for all creatives and anyone who wants to recharge their imagination.

Wonderbook is the first fully illustrated creative writing guide, with over 200 full-color images, and is meant to be of use to any beginning or intermediate fiction writer–although it should be of use for all creatives and anyone who wants to recharge their imagination.

Wonderbook is wonderful. A book about creativity and imagination that leads with chapters about creativity and imagination. And it has some amazing essays on craft by some amazing authors (I particularly love Nick Mamatas’ piece on POV). There are also accompanying resources at wonderbooknow.com: be sure to check out the Editor’s Roundtable.

Discover what the brain is hardwired to crave in every story it encounters, and become a riveting writer, a gifted communicator, an unstoppable agent of change.

When I read it, Wired for Story didn’t present me with “new” advice or shortcuts. It gave me reinforcement, reasons and understanding. If I had them all to read over again, I would do the same thing and leave reading WfS for last to get the full benefit and power of those ‘a-ha’ moments.

The vast majority of writers begin the storytelling process with only a partial understanding where to begin. Some labor their entire lives without ever learning that successful stories are as dependent upon good engineering as they are artistry. But the truth is, unless you are master of the form, function and criteria of successful storytelling, sitting down and pounding out a first draft without planning is an ineffective way to begin.

In Story Engineering and Story Physics, Larry Brooks gave me exactly what my mathematician’s brain needed — a peek under the hood, a look at the mechanics of story. After writing the first third of a novel (that I still love) during the summer, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t understand story. Well, I knew a good story when I read one but damned if I could put one down on the page. Check out his story deconstructions and start seeing the moving parts beneath those beautiful words. He also offers story coaching services which are attractively priced and helped give me the confidence that I was beginning to understand some of the science behind the art.

OK, I haven’t actually read TKAW, but I have read all of Chuck’s other eBooks on writing and they were worth every penny (and I paid full price!).

I discovered Chuck Wendig when he did an interview with Margaret Atwood, right around the time when I had decided to take the thoughts of writing more seriously. He has this website, and lists of writing tips, and a beard. I trusted him from the first: he told me that my writing was shitty. He then told me that I could make it less shitty. I liked that. His were the first books I read and I still like to hit up one of his lists each week as a  refresher, motivator and comic relief. He also writes good fiction.

There were other resources to be sure, but I attribute the improvement in my writing to the combination of these four and I am grateful.

Thanks Chuck Wendig, Larry Brooks, Lisa Cron and Jeff VanderMeer for helping me to advance my craft and for making me love it even more.

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