Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recommended Reads

Recommended Reads By Maree Anderson for Writers Gone Wild

Revisions are done and accepted. Now it's a waiting game... and since I'm undecided on which project to start on next--or complete for that matter!--it's a good time to catch up on reading.

Mind you, it's always a good time to catch up on reading ;-)

I've had a couple of good craft books recommended to me lately, which nudged me to pull out some of the keeper craft books I already have on my shelves. Figured it wouldn't hurt to share some of them with you, either.

And I hope that you'll share your faves with me.... Hint hint! 'Coz, yanno, I love any excuse to go and buy more books.

1. Passionate Ink, A Guide To Writing Erotic Romance
by Angela Knight.

Since I'm published in erotic romance, I thought that first up, I'd mention a craft book by my favorite author. The emphasis on writing erotic romance aside, it’s an extremely informative and easy-to-read manual on the writing process from planning and plotting, to dialogue and prose, and right through to contracts, marketing and writing the dreaded synopsis.

It’s relevent (I think!) to any writer who write love scenes. For example in a section entitled Building the Romance within Love Scenes, Ms Knight says:

“Do not treat your love scenes as porn breaks in the middle of the story. This is a problem I see even among mainstream published romance writers. They know their editors expect a love scene somewhere around chapter seven, so they just stick one in. The characters have a mechanical kind of sex that doesn’t really reflect the development of their romance or who they are as people.”
Absolutely. Nothing worse than aho-hum sex scene that doesn't advance the reader's knowledge of the characters in any way, shape, or form. Better left out than in ;-)

And who can resist section titles and chapters like these?
  • Action, In and Out of Bed.
  • Beyond BIFF and POW – Writing the Perfect Fight Scene.
  • (And this, under Dialogue and Prose that Sings) Silver-Tongued Devils.
  • And my personal favorite for sheer honesty, Stupid Writer Tricks: Or, How I Spent Twenty Years Shooting Myself in the Foot.
Ms Knight also includes a series of answers provided in response to a reader survey that she sent out. So what do readers want, like, dislike or laugh out loud about, when it comes to erotic romance? For the answers, I'd definitely recommend that you check out this book. You might be surprised!

You can find out more about Passionate Ink by clicking here.

2. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers
by Christopher Vogler

Vogler has evaluated more than 10,000 screenplays for major motion picture studios. He’s acted as a story consultant and contributed to such box-office hits as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. He’s a story exec at 20th Century Fox and he conducts international writing workshops. Okay, so now you get the point that he knows his stuff.

And now you're probably asking, what could a romance writer get out of this book?

She -- or he! -- gets The Hero’s Journey, a concept first articulated by Joseph Campbell. Here it is in a nutshell:
“All stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams and movies. They are known collectively as The Hero’s Journey."

"Understanding these elements and their use in modern writing is the object of our quest. Used wisely, these ancient tools of the storyteller’s craft still have tremendous power to heal our people and make the world a better place.”
This book takes us on a journey through the stages the Hero (or Heroine–-the terms are completely interchangeable in this particular instance) must overcome in one way or another from the moment his creator first dreams him up and plonks him into the story, until the moment he’s done what he has to do and the story ends. It’s a fascinating journey of twelve stages--also interchangeable to a degree.

And as the piece de resistance, the final section entitled, Demonstration Of The Idea, explains the concept via incredibly detailed analyses of the hero’s journey in some actual blockbuster movies, namely: Titanic, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction, The Full Monty and Star Wars.

Fascinating stuff!

3. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
by Stephen King

On Writing is less a ‘here’s how I do it’ and more a commentary on Mr King's journey to becoming (and remaining!) a bestselling author… which of course is what’s so fascinating about it!

Mr King's anecdotes are often hilarious but underlying the funny stuff is a gut-wrenching sense of the struggle and the less-than-stellar moments of his life.

He portrays everything with such stark honesty, that I was moved to tears.

It's a damn good read and I believe that whether or not you're a writer, you'll come away changed in some way by reading it.

You can find out more about On Writing by clicking here.

4. How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author
by Janet Evanovich, with Ina Yalof.

How I Write is a like a comprehensive bible for writers which takes the reader through every aspect of writing, such as: creating great characters, mechanics of writing, structure, revising and editing, getting published and beyond even that, the writer’s life.

It has a breezy Q&A style format, where Ms Evanovich answers questions that she's been asked over the years.

For me, reading this book was almost like being at a writers’ conference and being able to quizz a really inspiring keynote speaker to my heart’s content.

It's a huge bonus that Ms Evanovich uses excerpts from her Stephanie Plum novels in her examples, too. Be warned, you'll laugh out loud when you read these excerpts. And if you haven't yet picked up a Stephanie Plum story, you'll sure as heck want to go find one immediately!

You can find out more about How I Write by clicking here.

5) Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels
By Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan

This book is for all smart, intelligent women who’ve felt the fear — i.e. of being caught out in a public place reading a romance novel — and done it anyway. It’s for every woman who reads romance and is forced to defend her reasons for reading what smirking, supercillious nitwits call “chick porn” or “formulaic rubbish”. It’s an unabashed celebration of the best and the worst about romance and all its genres.

Even better, it's damned funny! I read bits of this book aloud to my husband and we both screamed with laughter until tears ran down our faces. “Sheesh!” he spluttered. “They don’t hold back, do they?”

Here's a sample of what to expect from Chapter Petticoat, A Brief History Of The Modern Romance Novel, page 10:
“Some of the misconceptions about romance novels are, unfortunately, all too understandable. Take, for instance, the reputation that they’re all bodice rippers. Just look at the covers they’ve been inflicted with: a woman with quivering mounds one button away from a wardrobe malfunction being held up by a male specimen whose quivering mounds of man titty are even larger and firmer than hers. The woman looks either orgasmic or nauseated — hard to tell sometimes. The man’s face is usually clenched in masculine determination, as if attempting to hold Montezuma’s revenge at bay with limited success. Unfortunate hand or body placements can give the pained expressions new meaning entirely, making us wonder why so many romance novel heroes are being presented as ad hoc proctologists.”
But aside from the obvious humor, Sarah and Candy ask--and provides answers to--some hard questions. Why is it that if the majority of people will never publicly admit they love romance novels, romance continues to be the bestselling fiction genre? Why are mysteries, thrillers, spy novels etc. deemed acceptable reading for intelligent men and women, but readers of romance are sneered at and often denigrated? Why do the Fabio-style “clinch covers” still persist to this day?

Be warned, Beyond Heaving Bosoms is not for the fainthearted. Or for those who will blush at terms such as Magic Hoo Hoo, Wang of Mighty Lovin’, man titty, and the O-face. Not to mention the “f” word, the “c” word, and a few words I’d never even heard of before!

But if you want to be thoroughly entertained as you read up on the “Top Ten Reasons Behind the Creation of a Virgin Widow” or “The Three Most F**ked-Up Things Heroes Have Done and Gotten Away With” or “The Never-Ending Series Featuring Vaguely Homoerotic Spy Rings, Secret Clubs, and Societies Named After Celestial or Diabolical Elements and/or the Copious Progeny of Some Damn Family or Other” then dive right in and get ready to have fun with The Smart Bitches.

Psssst! Did I mention there’s even games?

You can find out more about Beyond Heaving Bosoms by clicking here.

6) Heart & Craft: Bestselling romance writers share their secrets with you
By Valerie Parv

BTW, I'm gonna cheat here, and take this straight from my own website, where I've already mentioned this book. Heart & Craft is billed by its publisher as being: “The ultimate ‘how-to’ book on romance writing written by some of the most successful romance writers in the world and edited the undisputed Queen of Romance Fiction, Valerie Parv.”

Ms Parv has bought together a “dream team” of multi-published and successful romance writers to share insights about their craft. From plotting or writing by the seat of your pants, keeping readers in suspense, packing an emotional punch, to writing dialogue and coping with editing and revisions…. This book has it all.

There’s no “right” way or “wrong” way. There’s just heaps of insights and sharing secrets and “here’s what worked for me!”.

It’s simply brilliant and inspiring and for me, such a huge relief to know that how I write is “okay”. It may not be how others do it, but it’s my process, and it’s still a work in process. Thoroughly recommended!

You can find out more about Heart & Craft by clicking here.

That's it for now. I've got a heap more craft books, but I'll save them for another post.

Looking forward to reading some of your recommendations!




RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thanks for taking the time to post such a great list of books.
I've read (& re-re-read On Writing) and I've heard great things about BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS.
All the best,

Mel Teshco said...

Great lot of 'how to' books there Maree =)
I have also read Passionate Ink = and loved it (recommended it on my blog too) and really enjoyed Stephen King's book which was so much more than a 'how to' book.

Erica Hayes said...

Great recommendations, Maree. That Angela Knight books is one of my faves. I find her GMC charts so useful.

I also like SAVE THE CAT by the late Blake Snyder, and STORY by Robert McKee. Screenwriting books both, but so applicable to novel writing. The analysis of stuff like scene and sequel, turning points and rising tension is excellent.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Maree - I have read Stephen King's On Writing and think it's brilliant (agree with Mel, more than just a how-to), and this year's RWAus conference I got hold of copies of Beyond Heaving Bosoms, How I write, and Heart & Craft. That should keep me out of trouble for awhile :))

Will have to check out the others too. Erica I've ordered Story because I've heard it's fantastic.

Liane Gentry Skye said...

STORY by Robert McKee. Whenever I'm stuck, this one gets me back to the basics of what a story is, and how it functions for the reader.

Fantastic post, Maree. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Liane Gentry Skye said...
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Liane Gentry Skye said...
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Jennifer August said...

Great list, Maree, thanks! I hadn't heard of heaving bosoms, so that's one I'll definitely pick up.
One of the books I read when I get stuck isn't technnically a craft book, but it is a great author tool: The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. She has a way of helping you discipline yourself to writing every day.

Carly Carson said...

Thanks for the list. NOT that I needed more on my list, lol. I just ordered the Donald Maas books on the Breakout Novel. I hope they're good.

Madison Scott said...

These are fantastic. Thank you.

Maree Anderson said...

Hey Carly - yes, Don Maass's books are excellent! I bought Writing the Breakout Novel and The Career Novelist back in 2004 when he was our RWNZ conference keynote speaker. Tension on every page, baby! ;-)

Looks like STORY is a definite must-buy. And I've heard amazing things about Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT, so that'll be on my list, too. Thanks for the recommendation, ladies. I'll be begging for book vouchers again this Christmas!

Keziah Hill said...

Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit. Excellent for all romance not just comedy.

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transend Fear by Ralph Keys - reading it at the moment. Good.

Anything by Natalie Goldberg

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - great inspiration

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham - good, practical advice.

Maree Anderson said...

Thanks for the recs, Keziah--still more to add to my growing list!

I've got Scene and Structure....have never read it though *ducks for cover*. Must get my a into g! And I've heard that Bird by Bird is fab, too.

Tambra said...

I love Angela Knight. I so need that book. That woman writes the best heroes.



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