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Top How to Write Books for Writers

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers This is a great book to read and build on. It alone won’t make “all clear,” but it’s a foundation book you have to read to get the most out of other theories. I mainly consider this a plotting book, but it has other elements too. Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction This is a must read book. It’s kind of become a bible for plotting in the romance world and I’m always amazed when I speak to writers from other genre and assume they know what GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict) are–and they don’t. Your books, your scenes, your characters HAVE to have these three elements. If you don’t know what they are, this is a great easy-to-understand book to teach you. Techniques of the Selling Writer This book covers it all. It is a little harder to read and retain than say the Dixon book, but the advice is excellent. I do suggest you read Vogler’s book first. This book is the classic resource for understanding scene and sequel. Elements of Fiction Writing – Plot Not as essential as some of the others, but the theory of set pieces alone was worth it to me. It’s just a good overall guide to plot. The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Not This book was actually suggested to me as part of a dialogue writing class. It has some great techniques for punching up your writing. Dialogue: More Than Just Talk This is a short workshop on writing dialogue that I put together. It isn’t very long, but I believe it has some great techniques in it that you can use immediately to vastly improve your dialogue. You can buy it at Smashwords The Plot Doctor by Carolyn Greene This is a workbook put...

Online Resources for Writers

Feeds |Sites | Newsletters Why reinvent the wheel – especially if you can’t invent a better wheel? With that in mind, here are some links to great resources I have found trolling the web. I’ll update as I go along, so check back. –RSS Feeds– This is a sample of the feed from the How to Write Shop which has articles on craft, inspiration and business of writing. Subscribe to RSS headline updates from: Powered by FeedBurner –Sites– Affirmations Leanne Banks has a great note and list of positive affirmations on her web site. Writing is like walking around in your underwear in public. It is really easy to get devoured by the beast of self-doubt. See if this technique works for you. Go to her ‘For Writers’ pagethen scroll down to Affirmations. Copyright At the United States Copyright office site you can search to see if you works have been registered (some publishers do, some don’t) and if not, fill out the forms to register them yourself. There is a fee, but the process is pretty simple. Copyright exists as soon as you create something, but there are benefits to having things registered. Facts for Writing Sometimes you need to know things like when rigor mortis sets in, or what bugs you might find in a body. Well, the lovely folks at Explore Forensics has an easy to navigate site for you. Grammar Grammar Girl is known for her great podcast, but she also has a site where she takes on different burning grammar issues. Wander around to find easy to understand explanations of things like Lie vs. Lay or misplaced modifiers. Plotting Conflict Box: It’s simple and it works–what more could you ask for? Thanks Jennifer Crusie for posting this tool. Spreadsheet Plotting: Author Beverly Brandt teaches this workshop on how to plot using, yes, a spreadsheet....

For Book Titles That Sell, Make it High Concept

There was a time when I would have argued titles don’t sell books. I would have been wrong. Now there is good reason behind my previous thinking. More often than not I don’t remember the actual title to the last book I read. I remember characters or plot or author, but the title, especially with romances, tend to fade. And in a bookstore I don’t grab up a book for the title…cover yeah, but title? No way. But the fact is titles can sell a book. They can sell it to an editor or an agent. They can sell it to readers. They can even sell it to Hollywood.  Here are a few examples of titles that I believe helped sell the book: The Naked Duke Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Eat, Sleep, Poop Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom Do any of these titles get your attention? They do mine and I guarantee they have helped the success of these books. Why? Because they are high concept. They in seven words or less grab your attention and tell you this book is going to be different while also playing on some concept you already know and love. The known and popular, but fresh. It’s a killer combo and if you can relay it in a book title you have a very marketable gift. Another thing about these titles is they all show contrast. They put the unexpected together. Think Duke. You think aristocratic, noble, if you are a romance reader, maybe alpha. You do not think naked. Pride and Prejudice? Well, before this book, your brain certainly didn’t go to zombies. Eat, sleep….fill in the blank. Love? No POOP. (Dreamworks by the way just picked up the rights to make this into a movie. A how to book being made into a comedy! I have to...

Writing a book? This better be personal!

A friend of mine, Intrigue author Ann Voss Peterson, has a mantra concerning books and the main characters’ goals and motivations. It needs to be personal and it needs to be important, very important at least to the character—to the world is even better. (but that doesn’t work for every type of book) Now, I KNOW this, Ann has told me enough times I should, but somehow knowing and doing don’t always go together. Right now, I’m revising a paranormal young adult novel that my agent had sent to seven houses. Two of these houses in particular had a lot of feedback and said they would be interested in seeing the project again if I chose to revise it. So, I’m revising. First seven houses is not the world and if two professionals have given me some feedback I’m at least going to give it careful consideration before sending it out to anyone else. Neither of them said—Hey, dummy, remember the protagonist’s goal should be personal and important. But then I’ve found when people have an issue with a book they seldom pin it to the board quite that neatly. They say things like “I’m not believing this character.” or “I didn’t quite care as much about (fill in blank) as I wanted to.” So, ignorant to the fact that I had made a basic error that I know darn well better than to make, I started reading. And there it was—or wasn’t. My protagonist’s goal was personal and it was important…kind of. But it wasn’t important enough. And as I read further past the first plot twist when things start to go south, that personal connection faded. She still had the personal thing going for the initial goal, but now the “get us out of trouble right now” goal…that was weak. It felt like she could have walked...

How do you know you are reading a romance?

This may seem like a strange question, but it is one I encounter a lot. Maybe not in the actual question form, but from people who think they know the answer and oh so obviously don’t. In fact, even writers who say they write romance don’t always know what makes a romance, at least when looking at the term in the genre romance sense. I, like many published romance authors who are members of Romance Writers of America (RWA), judge RWA’s big contest, the Rita. I haven’t started my entries this year, but in the past I have received books entered as romances that just weren’t. In fact I have received books that had zero romance in them. Yes, there was a boy and there was a girl….uh and that is where it stopped. (An aside…the Ritas have a box for judges to check that says either “not a romance” or “wrong category”. If a certain number of judges check the box for one book, it will be disqualified from that category.) So, what makes a book a romance novel? Romance. Not a clear enough answer? Okay, I’ll go a little deeper, but first let’s clarify a bit. My definition is for today’s genre romance. It is not for classic romances written two hundred years ago, or even literary books that might be romantic. This is for genre romances. Okay, so there is romance. Someone (in mainstream fiction this still means two people) falls in love. But and this is huge, not only do these people fall in love, but the story of their romance is KEY to the novel. How key will vary by sub-genre (in romantic suspense the romance plot may take up less than half of the book), but if you yanked the romance plot out of the book, the story would fall apart. You would...

To love a Trickster

Last weekend I was on a panel at OddCon titled People and Animals. It’s a pretty wide topic and the conversation varied a lot, but one thing that came up (Okay, I think I brought it up…) were tricksters. I love tricksters. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the trickster (or don’t think you are, I’m sure all of you have seen a trickster or two), tricksters are(quoting Terri Windling) “contradictory creatures: they are liars, knaves, rascals, fools, clowns, con men, lechers, and thieves — but they are also culture heroes whose tricks can do great good as well as great harm, and whose stories serve to uphold the very traditions mocked by their antics.” They are also frequently shapeshifters. In Norse mythology (which I base my Unbound series on) you have the god Loki. Loki is always poking a stick at someone. In Native American lore you have coyote and raven. In African the god Anansi, a spider. Rabbit is also a trickster in various cultures–obvious U.S. examples are Br’er Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. In literature Neil Gaiman had an entire book about the trickster Anansi (Anansi Boys). Terri Windling edited an anthology The Coyote Road and Tony Hillerman wrote the novel Coyote Waits. In Amazon Ink, I use rabbit in the form of an actual rabbit, but I also have a character who plays the trickster role. The trickster is often seen as mean, but really he is teaching a lesson. Without the trickster, other characters would go unchallenged and without challenge we get comfortable with the status quo. Tricksters promote growth and from an author’s point of view, provide conflict. But they do it in an entertaining way. They don’t walk up and poke a finger in the hero’s chest saying “You need to change.” No, they, knowing the hero’s weaknesses, set him up....

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