A Review of Some Writing Books

I’m on again, off again in a few writing projects and wanted to share some books that have been very valuable to me in the process. These are mostly related to fiction writing:

The Insider’s Guide to Getting an Agent by Lori Perkins

This book is about is getting an agent, delivered from the perspective of an insider. If you read the Amazon reviews on this one, you’ll hear a lot about a misleading title, and strangely enough I would have to agree a little. Somehow, the title implies that the book is going to show you how to get an agent. It won’t. It’s just about the process, and the information is very helpful, especially to a person who doesn’t think of herself as much of a writer. It’s largely a look at the process and politics of the industry. I’ve been going back and forth on how I’d like to pursue publication, and this book has helped me whittle down the arguments one way or another.

Self-Publishing Fiction by Gavin Sinclair

Here’s a look at the other side of my publishing quandry. The edition I have was copyrighted in 2005, so it is slightly dated, but not badly. As a hands-on overview of setting up a small publishing company, it covers subjects like organizing your book interior, printing, launching and publishing it, and perhaps most importantly, interacting with the publishing community as a self publisher. As I said, I’m not sure which direction to take, but I feel more confident about my grasp of the self-publishing process after reading this book.

Make a Scene by Jordan A. Rosenfeld

This is a valuable resource in pacing fiction storylines. For me, it was a fresh angle (have I mentioned I’m not a writer?) helping me break down a plot into bite-sized pieces, each with its own purpose and timeline. The author gives advice on creating scenes of action, drama and such like, with examples along the way showing how other novelists create and hold tension from one scene to the next. She also talks about maintaining continuity and character development between different situations. I frequently leaf through this to gain perspective on a section I’ve written or to find new ways of communicating the events in my story.

Bullies, Bastards and Some Other Word My Mom Doesn’t Like by Jessica Morrell

Sorry, Mom.
This book discusses creating your story’s negative characters- from heroes with human failings to antiheros to villains, Morrell sheds light on producing strong feelings in the reader. This has been particularly helpful to me as I’ve been straining to make a memorable antagonist instead of a one-dimensional stereotype. It offers advice on designing psychologically complicated villain personalities that are scary, aggravating, reprehensible, or nasty in a list of other ways. She shares tips on making them realistic and likeable while showing how to simultaneously control which characters will evoke sympathy from the reader.

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

This book helps the writer view characters with a little more depth with an almost clinical approach. It discusses the psychological composition of a fictional person and how the author can make the figment of his imagination as real as possible. This book is not as easy to read as some of the others in this list, but it is insightful and makes a decent reference material.

The Art of Styling Sentences by Ann Longknife and K.D. Sullivan

Okay, this one- it’s a textbook listing sentence patterns and their uses. As the cover boldly states, the book discusses 20 basic sentence patterns. Each is dissected with its communicative strengths and weaknesses and a light discussion of how it is to be constructed properly. It’s not one of those fun, inspiring, light books, but as text books go it’s certainly well written. The examples are clear and the information is easy to understand and implement, even if you’re not an English major. This is a good editing tool.

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