Writing guide overload

ImageI want to be a writer. And a good one. Very nice aims with tons of stuff to help. In fact, merely taking a look at Amazon’s relating section can result in eyes shining in awe, drooling, frowning and running away screaming – in this specific order.

I’m a really curious person and a good learner. When I want to do something, I want to do it well and I want to learn from the best in the discipline. I formulate a strategy, do some extensive research about available material, rank them by cost and value and then I act. Problem is, there’s so much material that seems to be really the best that it’s extremely hard to pick out the stuff meant for me. Because there must be some stuff meant for me out there, like some sites and books I’ve already found and learned from.

It’s lucky that Amazon has the ‘Wish List’ option, but again, when I checked my ‘writing guides’ and ‘fantasy’ wish lists before Christmas, I had to give up choosing just a few and ended up ordering none.

I’ve recently started using the ‘fantasy’ and whatever books I’m reading for entertainment in English to improve, well, my English, which always feels like a crucial and urgent task for me. At the moment, I have a Northern Lights paperback (one of two, to be sure) to take notes – yes, notes inside the book, which seemed awkward when I first tried but I’m getting used to now, and which I find extremely useful for grasping grammatical nuances, extending my vocabulary faster and analyzing story structure, character building and other story elements.

As for writing guides, here’s a collection of what I have or will have very soon, by area or skill to improve:

  • English: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression;
    The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment;
    Style: The art of writing well (Harriman Modern Classics);
    It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences
  • Story: Story Engineering;
    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers;
    Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
  • Characterization: 45 Master Characters;
    A Writer’s Guide to Characterizatio​n: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development;
    The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By
  • Other (editing, psychology, whatnot): When Every Month is NaNoWriMo;
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
    Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
    Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View
  • And marketing, of course: We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media

The titles and descriptions sound very promising. Now I wonder how many of these are as good as they sound (some I already know are great).

Oh, I’m also currently reading How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and PlayIt has some real great insights and ideas about the creative part of our mind and how you can strengthen it. More on this later.

Has anyone read or heard of any of the above works? What categories and guides would you add?

Categories: Craft of writing | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Writing guide overload

  1. You know, I wrote an entire post about my former reluctance to buy any “writing guides.” I long had a perception that most of them were just scam references that promised to give people a bunch of quick and easy “secrets” for being a wildly successful author when in reality sitting one’s hiney down and writing was the only way to improve their skills. Long story short (no sense rewriting an entire blog post in your comments section), I eventually came around and right now I only have two guides, but they’ve been incredibly helpful. The first is “Writing Fiction for Dummies” by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. I know, I know, it sounds horrible and clichéd, but the reviews were pretty darn good, so I tried it. It’s a straight-forward, honest, and practical guide. It has been incredibly helpful. The authors manage to be supportive and realistic while infusing some humor into the whole deal. It tackles everything from initial planning to plot to characterization to the logistics of selling your manuscript.

    The second guide I have, and one that ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ (Were all caps justified? Yes.), is “How Not To Write A Novel” by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. You will recognize so many bad writing habits you used to have, and at least one you still do. I promise. It’s a brutally honest, humorous, and illustrative work. They write exaggerated examples of each faux pas to better explain exactly what they’re talking about, and they’re engaging not only for the comically poor writing but for the clever and sarcastic story worlds they create. Seriously, even people who aren’t interested in writing a novel would enjoy this book. It’s the dose of tough love we all need delivered with wit and a grounding of genuine care. Good luck!

    • Thanks a lot for the useful info! I’m definitely adding those two to the front of my list.
      I’m generally not so in for collections of mistakes or useful tips or this and that, at least in book form, because you find so many of those in articles all over the web. In books and guides I’m looking for structure and something comprehensive – that’s what seems to be most of the added value to me.
      Speaking about structure, in the post I missed to mention one of the first really value-adding works I read – at Larry Brooks’ suggestion -, Screenplay by Syd Field. Surprisingly adaptable to novel writing!
      By the way, I was looking for the post you mention, but can’t seem to find it. Am I searching in the wrong place? Do you have another blog than the one I’m following?

  2. I posted it quite awhile ago, here’s the link:


    “Writing Fiction For Dummies” is nicely comprehensive. “How Not to Write a Novel” is helpful, but also just a hoot to read. I was laughing until tears ran. But speaking of free web content for writers, one of the guys who wrote “Writing Fiction for Dummies” has a website that’s super helpful.


    He has a LOT of advice on organizing and scene structure, and you can access archives of the e-zine he emails out once a month. It’s been my addiction recently. 🙂

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