Sunday, March 28, 2010

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain is a book a fiction writer would definitely want to add to his/her permanent library.

When I saw this book available for purchase on, I knew I wanted to order it. I am not sorry I decided to purchase this book. The book is divided into seventeen chapters. In the preface Mr. Swain recommends selecting a chapter that addresses a particular problem area you need.

Since I planned to review the book for this blog, I read them all. My favorite chapter was "Fleshing Out" since one critique of my last manuscript was "Your characters are two dimensional". This chapter provided some good suggestions on how to give my characters depth.

Chapter Twelve talked about character descriptions and how choosing the right words to describe the characters was essential.

Chapter Thirteen revealed some techniques for writing good dialogue that would move the story along and show who the character was instead of telling.

Chapter Seventeen was "The Search for Zest", which addressed how to keep on writing and not lose the motivation to write.

I feel more confident that I can write better characters in my next book based on what I learned from Dwight Swain's book. If I have any questions, I know which book to pull off the shelf. The combination of notes I took and underlinings throughout the book should help me overcome difficulties I might experience at the time.

This is one more book I will keep close at hand because I know I will be rereading selected chapters many times in the future.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

Would you love to go to a writing conference or workshop this year but can't afford it? I have the answer. Buy "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook" by Donald Maass and do every assignment.
Previously, we recommended "Writing the Breakout Novel," and I'm sure many of you have purchased it. It's a good read. However, if you didn't get the corresponding workbook, you missed a treasure. For every chapter of three to five pages, Mr. Maass challenges us with the same assignments he gives to those who attend his workshops across the country. I guarantee your manuscript will be strengthened and improved if you not only read this book, but do the homework. Granted, you must be self-disciplined because the highly-acclaimed literary agent won't be looking over your shoulder.
My young adult heroine in my present work in progress took on heroic qualities from the first chapter of Donald Maass' book. In chapter six, by listing as many possible motives for different actions by my protagonist as I could think of, I found new and surprising twists and turns. I found new problems for my young character by raising the stakes, then raising them again, and then again.
With Mr. Maass direction, I listed all main characters and dreamed up new motives, new reactions, higher stakes, a recommitment. I thought through inner turning points. I dreamed up new layers and extra subplots. I learned to measure the inner growth of my protagonist by finding scenes or inserting new scenes that prove my point. Low tension spots waved at me as I studied my words.
By the end of Maass' book, my mind popped with rewritten scenes and added tension to be woven in. This workbook was a purchase well worth my money and the next best thing to going to a writing workshop or conference.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Noah Lukeman The First Five Pages

Ahhh… the joy, the ultimate blissful feeling that envelopes you once you have that finished manuscript. But now you want to make sure it’s ready before you send it to an agent. But what things do you check for?

Like a pilot getting ready for takeoff, Noah Lukeman in his book, The First Five Pages, gives us a pre-flight checklist for our manuscripts. A literary agent himself, he shares with us about things he sees in submissions everyday, things that could potentially send your otherwise wonderful manuscript into the slush pile of no return.

In this easy to read book, you’ll find wonderful suggestions and pointed tips to make your manuscript shine, especially those all important first five pages. From preliminary problems such as presentation and style to problems in the ‘bigger picture’ such as showing versus telling, pacing, and hooks, Mr. Lukeman’s book is sure to help you take your writing to a higher level.
Link to website and excerpt to Mr. Lukeman’s book: First Five Pages

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five Christian Sites for Aspiring Writers

It's my turn again and this week I want to do something different. We haven't done anything like this before, so it is quite new. Instead of describing a how-to-write book, which I've read recently, I've decided to list some great sites for you to go visit. While surfing the web this week, go bask in the rays of knowledge of these capable writers and the articles they've written.

(These sites are listed in alphabetical order of the author's last name)

James Scott Bell

Website address:

Mr. Bell has twelve different articles written for writers on this page. Some of the topics deal with dialogue, plot, scenes, structure, and agents.

Also, this author has written a wonderful book called, Plot & Structure, which I reviewed on this blog previously. If you haven't read it...then go buy, beg, borrow, or well, whatever your conscience will allow you to do.

Mary DeMuth

Blog address:

Ms. DeMuth has a blog dedicated for writers. She hosts editors, agents, published authors to visit her blog and talk about the craft of writing and the journey to publication. She also has articles posted on her blog with an example of an excellent written non-fiction query letter.

Jeff Gerke

Website address:

Oh, my word. Mr. Gerke has 96 articles written for writers on the page of the link I posted above. I had a hard time making myself leave his site to write this post. I was captivated by all the content this editor has written.

If you don't feel like reading each article and having to return to the website to read more, Mr. Gerke has compiled all the information from these article into a book for easier reading. Mr. Gerke also has written e-books you can buy and download to your computer. I have done this in the past and have reviewed them on this blog. I love his books.

Randy Ingermanson

Blog address:

Mr. Ingermanson's blog has two free articles for viewing, his popular Snowflake Method article, and Writing the Perfect Scene. He also has the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, which is free and is very helpful for instructing writers on how market their work. He has many other useful items for sale on his blog. A few weeks ago, I reviewed his Snowflake Pro, which is a computer software for plotting a novel and constructing a proposal. This software is so incredibly awesome! I plugged in all my information of my novel into it and oh, my goodness...I clicked a button and my almost complete proposal popped up in a Word Document. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Camy Tang

Blog address:

Ms. Tang's blog is written especially for the writer. She has many, many articles for the aspiring writer, all of which is excellent content. Her articles and Mr. Ingermanson's work has helped me forged through the complicated text of Dwight Swain. The Story Sensei list articles from deep point of view to how to network at conference. She also has online classes, which individuals can enroll and learn more about the craft of writing.

I hope you enjoy visiting these sites as much as I have and that you can learn more about writing. Don't forget that some of the authors mentioned above also have newsletters you can sign up to receive.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Saving Money on Writing Books

I was looking through my bookshelf full of writing books I've purchased over the years. Many are on my to read list. Where did I get these books with such interesting titles as Cowboy Slang?

The source for that one and several others was the local annual Friends of the Library book sale. Each year our group, which supports the library, hosts a three day sale of books. Local community members donate books they no longer need for the sale. The proceeds help fund projects such as new computers.

I've been able to find books about many subjects including the art of writing. I won't go into how many fiction books I find. For the price of $1.00 for a hardcover book and 50 cents for a paperback, I've brought home books I can use as resources for my own writing.

Our local library also has a section where books are sold monthly for the same low price. If you don't want to purchase a book, you can check out books on the topics you need. Another valuable service is inter library loan, which allows you to borrow a book from another library through your local library. Librarians also accept requests for books you think might be valuable for purchase for their permanent collection.

Other organizations such as the Adult Literacy Council often have book sales. Finally, if you have books about writing in good condition, donate them to your local library book sale. Someone like me might need the book for her next writing project.

Support your local library.

Writing Tip of the Day