This week I’d like to talk to you about some of the books I recommend on writing and plotting. All of the books on this list are available for the Kindle. Links can be found in the show notes at http://www.newwriterpodcast.com/24 For the purpose of pure disclosure, links to Amazon on the show notes or mentioned in the show are affiliate links. I like money, and I don’t apologize for it.
Before we get into my book picks, I owe you a weekly update. There isn’t much to report, but if I don’t report it, I’m a sham and you have every obligation to publicly humiliate me.
Writing-wise I’ve been doing okay. I’ve written just shy of 10,000 words for the week. Mos of that writing has been done for my day job, but I’m currently outlining my next book and doing some free-writing character voice exercises to get ready for it. It has been awhile since I wrote anything not related to the Seven Keys Saga, so I need to find a new rhythm for the new project. I’ll have more details on that as it gets closer to being done, but it is a huge departure from what I’ve been doing.
Sales have been down still, too. I did sell three books this week for a whopping $4.27. I’m still making money and Choices is still getting free downloads so I am on the right track.
I did hit a new milestone in a different way this week when someone joined my mailing list long enough to get Fallout for free and then unsubscribed. It’s weird that this is the first time I’ve ever had anyone unsubscribe to my list. I must be going places. Anyway, that’s this week in my writing journey.
Let’s talk about Reading about Writing!
I read a lot of books. I actually started reading my 100th book for the year this morning (Brothers in Valor by H. Paul Honsinger). One of my personal rules is a minimum of 1 out of 3 of every book I read has to be non-fiction. This is an old rule I have and I’m pretty sure I picked it up from Chuck Wendig. The basic idea is to feed your mind with new ideas. It’s just a rule I follow, okay? Anyway, at the beginning of this year, I decided to get serious about improving my craft and story telling abilities. I figured, if I’m going to read at least 50 non-fiction books this year, they might as well be about writing? Right? Right.
Well, I took that to heart because of the 99 books I’ve read so far this year, 41 have been slotted into my writing shelf on Goodreads. I don’t want to say anything disparaging about any of the books I’ve read this year, I believe you can find the hidden gems in any piece of crap, but some are definitely better than others. For the most part, all writing craft books have repeated themes. There are only so many different ways you can say, “Get your ass in the chair and write” before it becomes a cliche. There were a few that stood out to me as either being the best version of the same advice or truly unique and important information.
So, without further ado, here are my Writer’s Must Read books for 2015:
Number 5: Making Tracks: A Writer’s Guide to Audibooks by J. Daniel Sawyer
I’ve mentioned my love of audiobooks on the show before. I even announced a little while back that I wanted to get into recording them on my own. One of the reasons I have put that on the backburner (besides the astute observation of a listener that I might be using it as an excuse to not write) was due to this book. I’ve been doing this podcast for about a year now (I know, I’ve obviously missed a few months of episodes) and I did another podcast a few years ago. I had this strange assumption in my head that because I thought I knew how to put a podcast together, I would be able to put together an audio book.
I was definitely wrong.
Making Tracks is the second book I’ve read on Audiobook creation, the other being Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler. I definitely also recommend Simon’s book, but for a completely different reason. Audiobooks for Indies is focused mostly on understanding the business of audiobooks. Making Tracks is focused very much on the technical side. The technical aspects are definitely there in Simon’s book, just as the business aspects are there in Sawyer’s, but the primary focus goes one war or another. If you are seriously considering getting into audiobooks as a profession, I would read both. If you’re interested in upping your audio game and producing a professional quality work, Making Tracks is the book for you.
Number 4: Indie Poet Rockstar by Michael La Ronn
I’m pretty sure I mentioned Indie Poet Rockstar back in April during National Poetry month, but it deserves to be brought up again. I don’t want to rehash anything, only repeat it so I’ll just read the revie I left on Goodreads and Amazon:
I’m not much of a poet, but I do enjoy poetry. Michael La Ronn introduced me to a whole new world of 21st-century poetry, and his indie poet blog series is awesome.
Indie Poet Rock Star is a great resource for anyone looking towards writing and publishing poetry. La Ronn knows his business. This book is crammed full of information that will benefit any writer, poet or otherwise, and is a must-read for anyone pursuing poetry.
The section on MFA programs is especially insightful, and extra interesting for me as I recently learned there is at least one school creating an MFA program similar to what La Ronn describes as being the future.
If you are a poet, and you are thinking about publishing, pick this book up. It is a great primer on the business of poetry and how to turn your passion into something that can actually make you money
Number 3: Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker
In addition to being one of the most clever titles of all time, Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! is a great book on the whys and hows of outlining. Now, the how part is a pretty basic primer. You’re not going to get a ton of new information on outlining here, but Libbie is a great writer with a great voice. Her other writer’s guidebook Gotta Read It! is another must read for authors. It’s been around for awhile, so if you haven’t read it yet, why are you wasting your time listening to me.
Ultimately, there are a ton of good boks on writing better. I’ve read several this year, including Write Better, Faster by Monica Leonnelle and 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox. Of course, that doesn’t even mention Rachael Aaron’s 2k to 10k, which is probably considered the textbook on writing faster by most indie authors.
All of these books are good, and each one has a little different twist on the information. I would suggest reading them all and letting the information sink in. Take Off your Pants! just happens to have the best title… in my opinion.
Number 2: Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Techniques to Supercharge Your Writing by CS Lakin
“Show, don’t tell,” is the useless advice no one can afford to ignore. The problem with “show, don’t tell” as advice is A) it isn’t always true and B) it doesn’t ever explain itself. Like so many other conventions in writing, “show, don’t tell” is one of those magic mantras that authors have been spouting when they don’t really care enough to give new writers advice.
Shoot your novel fixes part of that problem. Lakin talks about how to write like you’re the cinematographer for a movie. You have to make sure the camera, in this case your words, is showing and conveying what the story needs them to convey. It gets to the very heart of “show, don’t tell,” which is making sure your reader gets drawn into the story you’re writing. Which, by the way, is why I prefer the much better writing advice, “do whatever it takes to keep them reading.”
Which is why there is a special code encrypted deep in the text of my books with the secrets to finding Curly McDee’s gold hord. If you buy every book I write and diligently study the words carefully, you may eventually find the clues that lead you to Curly’s Gold. No, no my friend, that was not a typo… you’re on the write track.
Number 1: The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
Shawn Coyne calls the Story Grid a textbook for editors, and I think that’s faire. This isn’t just a book on plotting. It’s basically a reference manual on story telling. There’s a little bit of everything here. I’ve read close to 100 book on plotting and story structure now, and Story Grid is by far the best of the bunch.
The only downside to The Story Grid is how thick it is. The information can be overwhelming. I have to admit I’ve read through the book about five times now and it wasn’t until recently the information started to sink in. This isn’t a self-help book for authors. This is a reference book for editing and plotting.
In fact, Shawn Coyne has so much great information on the subject that he couldn’t put it all in a book, even a digital one. There is a ton more information available on his website: TheStoryGrid.Com, mostly in the form of examples of the grid in action on different books from different genres.
Most of the information in The Story Grid is available for free online, which is helpful because as far as ebooks go, this one is pretty expensive, but, the book version is easier to follow and much more portable. I really do use it as a reference guide, keeping it handy on my kindle at all times so I can jump back and work through different sections as my story progresses.
So, there are my top five books on writing for 2015, so far. I’m sure I’ve left some books off my list and I’m sure it will change as I continue to read more and more books on the craft. Are there any books you think I need to read? Anything you think I should stay away from? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave a comment on Youtube, the website, or send me an email: Contact@NewWriterPodcast.com.