Our Holiday Wish List – Craft Books!

Many of us will spend at least two weeks in December hiding from our children with our nose in a book. At The Winged Pen, our wish lists are full of books that inspire our creativity or deepen our craft. So here’s a peek at the writing books we loved and the books we hope to receive this holiday season. If you have a writer on your gift list, you might just find the perfect gift below:

 

Rebecca: Story Engineering by Larry Brooks pushed my writing to the next level. It impressed upon me the importance of plot points in the structure of a story. Moreover, I love the framework it uses for tying your main character’s arc to the plot points so they are learning and growing into a hero over the course of the book, and their heroic win at the climax is earned.

And Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole is next on my TBR list.

 

 

Julie: My favorite discovery this year was definitely Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. We teach this method to writers at Author Accelerator and I now use it every time I plan a new book or story.

 

And I’m hoping that I’ll get to read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg sometime soon because so many of my writing pals have recommended it!!!

 

 

 

Laurel: Libbie Hawker’s Making It In Historical Fiction is a very straightforward discussion of tropes in historical fiction.

 

Lately, I keep finding myself turning back to Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, Writing More of What You Love.

 

 

Halli:  I recommend On Writing by Stephen King because it not only gives great writing advice and tips, but reminds us all even famous authors were once where we were.

Note: Another Penny pointed out that you could read the transcript of the speech King gave when he was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contributions to American letters, which is like a condensed version of On Writing.

And Story Genius is on my Christmas list! [See, I might have been evangelizing it just a wee bit–Julie]

 

 

Sussu: I love The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke, absolutely fabulous. I love the way he tells us to write the first chapter as a short story independent of the main story. Light bulb moment!

 

 

On my wish list, I have The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein.

 

 

 

Karin: I love Story Genius and Story Engineering, but as they have been already accounted for, I will add one that isn’t heard about so much but had a big impact on me: From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler. He brings his former experience as an actor to the writing process and calls it “method writing.” Writing is about dreaming your way into the character and the scene and feeling the underlying yearning.

 

 

 

 

 

MichelleThe Plot Whisperer was the perfect companion read for a PlotWriMo class I once took on revision. The book is a bit philosophical, which appealed to me, and I highly recommend it because of Martha Alderson’s thorough explanation of how to integrate plot with character transformation.
I’m a fan of Matt Bird’s Cockeyed Caravan blog for writers, and I’m excited about his new craft book The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers.

 

 

 

Gita: My favorite take-away from Robert McKee’s Story is his “principle of antagonism,” which is guaranteed to deepen and complicate your WIP.

 

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro is for my wish-list for writing craft and wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JessicaWriting The Breakout Novel & The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. The workbook is a terrific resource to turn to when you’ve completed one or more rounds of revising and know your story needs work but can’t figure out what’s missing.

 

And I’m planning to read Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins next.

 

 

 

Kristi: I love Plot vs Character because I can never write my first draft from both perspectives. Once my first draft is done, I crack open this book to the page where the author has made a two sided map showing how the emotional plot and the action plot ebb, flow and merge. It’s magic!

And I want Cheryl Klein’s The Magic Words.

 

 

 

Readers, what craft books are on your must-read or holiday wish lists? Weigh in via a comment below–we always need more recommendations when it comes to craft books!

Book Review – The Plot Whisperer

There are so many amazing books on how to write that I find it difficult to know which one to read when I’m feeling the itch to brush up on craft (which I do about once a quarter). So I thought I’d share some brief reviews of craft books to help you decide which one might work best for you.

I’ll start with The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson because it has so much name recognition.

Here’s what IndieBound has to say: “When it comes to writing bestsellers, it’s all about the plot. Trouble is, plot is where most writers fall down–but you don’t have to be one of them. With this book, you’ll learn how to create stories that build suspense, reveal character, and engage readers–one scene at a time.

Celebrated writing teacher and author Martha Alderson has devised a plotting system that’s as innovative as it is easy to implement. With her foolproof blueprint, you’ll learn to devise a successful storyline for any genre. She shows how to:

  • Use the power of the Universal Story Create plot lines and subplots that work together
  • Effectively use a scene tracker for maximum impactInsert energetic markers at the right points in your story
  • Show character transformation at the book’s climax.

This is the ultimate guide for you to write page-turners that sell.”

And now for my take. Overall, this is a solid entry-level resource for plotting a novel. The Plot Map and Scene Tracker templates are helpful and easy to apply to your own work. There’s a whole “spiritual journey” side to the book that I know some find very inspirational, although it did not appeal to me, personally.

Alderson’s structural advice follows a three-act structure much like Save the Cat (which I will review in another post) that she calls The Universal Story. She goes on to give techniques for building emotion, tension, and character throughout those three parts of the story.

Some of my favorite advice came at the end when Alderson talked about revision. She reminds writers to give themselves space from the draft before diving into revisions, to make sure cause and effect are tightly-linked throughout the book, to interject foreshadowing during revision. And, finally, she provides a scene checklist to verify that each scene in your book:

  • Establishes time and place
  • Builds character
  • Illuminates the character’s goal
  • Includes action
  • Includes emotional change, and a reaction to that emotion
  • Has tension
  • Reveals theme

If you’re mid-way through your first novel, or have always wanted to write one and don’t know how, Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer is a solid choice.

Photo credit: Gail Werner
Photo credit: Gail Werner

 

JULIE ARTZ blogs at Terminal Verbosity, writes about local Washington history for Gatherings, and contributes regularly to From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.