Books on Writing for Any Writer’s Bookshelf (February 2009)

This Year You Write Your Novel
by Walter Mosley
(Little, Brown)

Every morning, for at least three hours, Walter Mosley writes. And for this author of 25 books, including Devil in a Blue Dress, such a daily habit is imperative to his success. With his humble, no-nonsense tone, Mosley outlines more practical tips in This Year You Write Your Novel. Mosley stresses the importance of choosing the right narrative voice, the necessity of rewriting and the merits of using a voice recorder. “A tape recording of your book will do more than help with the will-o’-the-wisp musicality of the piece,” he writes. “It’ll also help you see things that you missed while rereading silently.” Use it to hear the rhythm of your fiction and watch how it will improve your writing (and orating) skills.

The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer
by Sandra Scofield
(Penguin Books)

A woman stands, arms crossed, in front of a car parked in a driveway. The trunk of the car is open. She’s close to tears. A man walks out of the garage, carrying a large box, which he throws into the trunk. For author Sandra Scofield, writing small scenes such as this one is the first step to writing effective fiction. Using excerpts from her own and other authors’ works as examples, Scofield details specific scene tips in each chapter of The Scene Book, from “The Focal Point” and “Tension” to “Big Scenes.” She also includes exercises at the end of every chapter to help spark creativity within your writing. Scofield’s voice speaks from experience: “You may very well need to write more than will end up in your polished book. Don’t feel self-conscious of that. The writing that doesn’t show up later may have the path you had to clear to get to the story. All of us have our times of writing too little or too much.” Also, be sure to check out the self-evaluation templates. These questions and checklists for the writing (and rewriting) of a scene are both useful and inspiring for any fictional work.

By Cunning & Craft

by Peter Selgin
(Writer’s Digest Books)

In this concise and carefully composed book, author Peter Selgin promises “sound advice and practical wisdom for fiction writers.” He does so by applying a casual yet authoritative tone about all matters of writing, from getting to know your characters to developing the story around them, completing the tale and publishing it. “To produce a work of art,” Selgin writes, “technique must also be brought to bear. When instinct and technique merge seamlessly, I call the result cunning. Cunning: ‘skillful ingenuity in doing something.’ That said, I’m not going to teach you how to write. I’m going to teach you how to look at what you’ve already written, to see it for what it really is, and—if it isn’t already publishable—help you make it so.” By Cunning & Craft uses unconventional tips (e.g., when revising, write your story from scratch to see if you like the new draft more than the original), helpful quotes and anecdotes from other well-known writers to achieve a book that, in a manner both crafty and cunning, really helps you write.

Also Of Note:

How to Write Fiction (And Think About It)
by Robert Graham
(Palgrave Macmillan)

From detailed exercises (look at photographs of people from newspapers or catalogues and define their expressions, names and stories) to short “writing bursts” (use imagination-stimulating phrases as 10-minute writing drills), How to Write Fiction is sure to cure any case of writer’s block. Get ready to jumpstart your creativity and start scribbling.

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