Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tools of the trade

Every career requires a certain amount of learning or training. Writing is no different. While classes in English, literature, and creative writing can help hone a god-given talent, the learning doesn't stop there. And the best place to learn? From other writers, of course. :)

There are some things -- books, in particular -- that I personally feel no serious writer should be without. First, there's the obvious: Strunk & White Elements of Style; and a good dictionary and thesaurus combo. For the latter, shop around a bit to find one with a lot of choices. Some, I've found, are limited.

Now, for the more subjective list.

On Writing, by Stephen King

I've lost count of the number of writers who say they swear by this book -- that to them, it's like the industry bible. Whether or not you enjoy horror, King is one of the greatest writers ever. He has an amazing ability to string words together and draw you deep into the story and the minds of his characters. This book -- which is somewhat an autobigraphy as well as a how-to book -- is full of fantastic guidance.

Now I give fair warning: it is not for the faint of heart. He's honest, forthwright and his language can be extremely... shall we say, earthy? ;) If cursing bothers you, then pass it by -- unless you can overlook it and instead glean the gems from this work. It just might be worth it, but that's a very personal preference.

Writing the Romance Novel for Dummies, by Leslie Wainger

This book is sitting on my own shelf. While you may not be interested in writing romance, Wainger's book still has great advice regarding characters, plotting, etc. If you are writing romance, then this book is a must-have because it comes from the perspective of the editor -- that person you want to please with your final product.

Another great 'how-to' book for romance writers is:

The Art of Romance Writing, by Valerie Parv

Ms Parv is a multi-published romance author -- probably well-known to the Harlequin/Silhouette readers. She's clever, a fantastic story-teller, and a really amazing lady. Any guidance you can receive from an established pro has got to be worth its weight in gold.

Okay, these are just some of the tools I'd like to endorse for anyone wanting to improve their writing style. Next time, some ideas for researching. But until then, would anyone like to add to the list?


Laura Hamby said...

Don't forget the tools available online. If grammar's not your thing (for example, commas are the bane of your existence), check out Holy Mother Grammatica or the Grammar Slammer. There are MANY resources and how-to's available on the internet, for FREE! :D

Meg Allison said...

Great advice, Laura!

Yes, there are quite a few writing tools available on-line, and many are free. You can also find a wide variety of writing classes on-line, often for a nominal fee.