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Writing References

Tools of the Trade

Welcome to the reference page! I’ve put together an assortment of books that I have found either useful, entertaining, or both, in the pursuit of better writing. The list below is not numbered, since it is hard to rank these titles. There are hidden gems in each, and I continue to find more every time I go back and reread a section. I’ll continue to add more to this list as I discover other titles that I deem worthy. Each listing includes the cover art, description, and a link to amazon. Hope you enjoy!

How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy

by Orson Scott Card

Learn to write science fiction and fantasy from a master. You’ve always dreamed of writing science fiction and fantasy tales that pull readers into extraordinary new worlds and fantastic conflicts. Best-selling author Orson Scott Card shows you how it’s done, distilling years of writing experience and publishing success into concise, no-nonsense advice. You’ll learn how to:

  • Utilize story elements that define the science fiction and fantasy genres
  • Build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world your readers will want to explore
  • Develop the “rules” of time, space and magic that affect your world and its inhabitants
  • Construct a compelling story by developing ideas, characters, and events that keep readers turning pages
  • Find the markets for speculative fiction, reach them, and get published
  • Submit queries, write cover letters, find an agent, and live the life of a writer

The boundaries of your imagination are infinite. Explore them with Orson Scott Card and create fiction that casts a spell over agents, publishers, and readers from every world.

Dynamic Characters

by Nancy Kress

A truly unforgettable story is defined by its characters. Their motivations, their changes, their actions compel us to read on, anxiously trying to discern what will happen next.In Dynamic Characters, award-winning author and Writer’s Digest columnist Nancy Kress explores the fundamental relationship between characterization and plot, illustrating how vibrant, well-constructed characters act as the driving force behind an exceptional story.

Kress balances her writing instruction with hands-on checklists to help you build strong characters from the outside in. Blending physical, emotional and mental characterization, you’ll learn to create characters that initiate exciting action, react to tense situations, make physical and emotional transformations, and power the plot from beginning to end.

Beginnings, Middles, & Ends

by Nancy Kress

Translating that initial flash of inspiration into a complete story requires careful crafting. So how do you keep your story from beginning slowly, floundering midway, and trailing off at the end? Nancy Kress shows you effective solutions for potential problems at each stage of your story—essential lessons for strong start-to-finish storytelling.

  • Hook readers, agents, and editors in the first three paragraphs.
  • Make and keep your story’s implicit promise to the reader.
  • Build drama and credibility by controlling your prose.
  • Consider the price a writer pays for flashbacks.
  • Reveal character effectively throughout your story.

Get the tools you need to get your story off to an engaging start, keep the middle tight and compelling, and make your conclusion high impact. You’ll also find dozens of exercises to help strengthen your short story or novel. Let this resource be your guide to successful stories—from the first word to the last.

Conflict & Suspense

by James Scott Bell

Ramp up the tension and keep your readers hooked! Inside you’ll find everything you need to know to spice up your story, move your plot forward, and keep your readers turning pages. Expert thriller author and writing instructor James Scott Bell shows you how to craft scenes, create characters, and develop storylines that harness conflict and suspense to carry your story from the first word to the last.

Learn from examples of successful novels and movies as you transform your work from ho-hum to high-tension.

  • Pack the beginning, middle, and end of your book with the right amount of conflict.
  • Tap into the suspenseful power of each character’s inner conflict.
  • Build conflict into your story’s point of view.
  • Balance subplots, flashbacks, and backstory to keep your story moving forward.
  • Maximize the tension in your characters’ dialogue.
  • Amp up the suspense when you revise.

Conflict & Suspense offers proven techniques that help you craft fiction your readers won’t be able to put down.

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint

by Nancy Kress

The indispensable Write Great Fiction series continues with an in-depth look at three of the most important tools in the writer’s craft: character, emotion and viewpoint. With the tips and techniques in this book, you will learn how to: Create compelling characters that readers believe in Write scenes that deliver an unforgettable emotional impact Distinguish among the many different kinds of viewpoint, and choose the one which is right for your story Each chapter is filled with examples drawn from the work of successful writers, along with action and results exercises that help you take your lessons to the keyboard. Nancy Kress is the author of 16 novels and three story collections, as well as Writer’s Digest’s Dynamic Characters . Her short fiction has won three Nebulas and a Hugo. In addition to writing the fiction column for Writer’s Digest magazine, Nancy often teaches writing at universities. She lives in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Sometimes the Magic Works

by Terry Brooks

In Sometimes the Magic WorksNew York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks shares his secrets for creating unusual, memorable fiction. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws upon his own experiences, hard lessons learned, and delightful discoveries made in creating the beloved Shannara and Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Word and The Void trilogy, and the bestselling Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace.

In addition to being a writing guide, Sometimes the Magic Works, is Terry Brooks’s self-portrait of the artist. “If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical,” says Brooks. This book offers a rare opportunity to peer into the mind of (and learn a trick or two from) one of fantasy fiction’s preeminent magicians.

Description

by Monica Wood

Description is most powerful when it’s visible, aural, tactile. Make your descriptions fresh and they’ll move your story forward, imbue your work with atmosphere, create that tang of feeling that editors cry for and readers crave.

Monica Wood helps you squeeze the greatest flavor from the language. She segments description like an orange, separating its slices to let you sample each one.

You’ll learn about:

  • Detail, and how you can use description to awaken the reader’s senses of touch, taste, hearing, smell and sight
  • Plot, from advancing story using only relevant description—and how to edit out sluggish, reader-stopping writing
  • Style, and the use of description to create a mood that matches your story’s content
  • Point of view, how selecting omniscient, first person or third person limited narrative influences the descriptive freedom you have
  • Creating original word depictions of people, animals, places, weather and movement

Wood teaches by example, developing stories with characters in various situations, to show you how you can apply description techniques.

You’ll also see samples of work by such noted writers as Mark Helprin, Anne Tyler and Raymond Carver. And you’ll find the dos and don’ts, lists and descriptive alternatives to common verbs and nouns, and tips for editing your work.

Characters & Viewpoint

by Orson Scott Card

Vivid and memorable characters aren’t born: they have to be made

This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your memory, your imagination and your soul.

Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing and presenting characters, plus handling viewpoint in novels and short stories. With specific examples, he spells out your narrative options–the choices you’ll make in creating fictional people so “real” that readers will feel they know them like members of their own families.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Draw the characters from a variety of sources, including a story’s basic idea, real life–even a character’s social circumstances
  • Make characters show who they are by the things they do and say, and by their individual “style”
  • Develop characters readers will love–or love to hate
  • Distinguish among major characters, minor characters and walk-ons, and develop each one appropriately
  • Choose the most effective viewpoint to reveal the characters and move the storytelling
  • Decide how deeply you should explore your characters’ thoughts, emotions and attitudes

Conflict, Action & Suspense

by William Noble

What makes a book a page-turner? How do you grab your readers right from the start and hold them through the last sentence? How do you make your plot twist and turn and keep the action moving without losing continuity?

You do it by generating drama and developing it using conflict, action and suspense. You make your reader burn to know what’s going to happen next. You create tension…and build it…to the breaking point.

William Noble shows you how to intensify that pressure throughout your story. You’ll learn exactly what constitutes conflict, action and suspense, how they relate to other important ingredients in your story, and – perhaps most important – how to manipulate them.

Through thorough, step-by-step instruction, you’ll learn how to…

  • set the stage with techniques and devices that enhance drama
  • introduce suspense from the very beginning of your story
  • build suspense through cliff-hangers, dialogue, mood, character
  • development, point of view, subtlety and indirection, and time and place
  • bring all that conflict, action and suspense to a gripping conclusion

There are all sorts of ways to create tension in your prose – from using adjectives and nouns that drip with imagery to making quick scene cuts and transitions to accelerating the pace. Learn them here. Then use them, and your story will plunge your readers into a river of worry…and the current will carry them to The End.

Plot & Structure

by James Scott Bell

Craft an Engaging Plot. How does plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course?

With Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, you’ll discover the answers to these questions and more. Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot, including:

  • Techniques for crafting strong beginnings, middles, and ends
  • Easy-to-understand plotting diagrams and charts
  • Brainstorming techniques for original plot ideas
  • Thought-provoking exercises at the end of each chapter
  • Story structure models and methods for all genres
  • Tips and tools for correcting common plot problems

Filled with plot examples from popular novels, comprehensive checklists, and practical hands-on guidance, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure gives you the skills you need to approach plot and structure like an experienced pro.

Writing References

Tools of the Trade

Welcome to the reference page! I’ve put together an assortment of books that I have found either useful, entertaining, or both, in the pursuit of better writing. The list below is not numbered, since it is hard to rank these titles. There are hidden gems in each, and I continue to find more every time I go back and reread a section. I’ll continue to add more to this list as I discover other titles that I deem worthy. Each listing includes the cover art, description, and a link to amazon. Hope you enjoy!

How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy

by Orson Scott Card

Learn to write science fiction and fantasy from a master. You’ve always dreamed of writing science fiction and fantasy tales that pull readers into extraordinary new worlds and fantastic conflicts. Best-selling author Orson Scott Card shows you how it’s done, distilling years of writing experience and publishing success into concise, no-nonsense advice. You’ll learn how to:

  • Utilize story elements that define the science fiction and fantasy genres
  • Build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world your readers will want to explore
  • Develop the “rules” of time, space and magic that affect your world and its inhabitants
  • Construct a compelling story by developing ideas, characters, and events that keep readers turning pages
  • Find the markets for speculative fiction, reach them, and get published
  • Submit queries, write cover letters, find an agent, and live the life of a writer

The boundaries of your imagination are infinite. Explore them with Orson Scott Card and create fiction that casts a spell over agents, publishers, and readers from every world.

Dynamic Characters

by Nancy Kress

A truly unforgettable story is defined by its characters. Their motivations, their changes, their actions compel us to read on, anxiously trying to discern what will happen next.In Dynamic Characters, award-winning author and Writer’s Digest columnist Nancy Kress explores the fundamental relationship between characterization and plot, illustrating how vibrant, well-constructed characters act as the driving force behind an exceptional story.

Kress balances her writing instruction with hands-on checklists to help you build strong characters from the outside in. Blending physical, emotional and mental characterization, you’ll learn to create characters that initiate exciting action, react to tense situations, make physical and emotional transformations, and power the plot from beginning to end.

Beginnings, Middles, & Ends

by Nancy Kress

Translating that initial flash of inspiration into a complete story requires careful crafting. So how do you keep your story from beginning slowly, floundering midway, and trailing off at the end? Nancy Kress shows you effective solutions for potential problems at each stage of your story—essential lessons for strong start-to-finish storytelling.

  • Hook readers, agents, and editors in the first three paragraphs.
  • Make and keep your story’s implicit promise to the reader.
  • Build drama and credibility by controlling your prose.
  • Consider the price a writer pays for flashbacks.
  • Reveal character effectively throughout your story.

Get the tools you need to get your story off to an engaging start, keep the middle tight and compelling, and make your conclusion high impact. You’ll also find dozens of exercises to help strengthen your short story or novel. Let this resource be your guide to successful stories—from the first word to the last.

Conflict & Suspense

by James Scott Bell

Ramp up the tension and keep your readers hooked! Inside you’ll find everything you need to know to spice up your story, move your plot forward, and keep your readers turning pages. Expert thriller author and writing instructor James Scott Bell shows you how to craft scenes, create characters, and develop storylines that harness conflict and suspense to carry your story from the first word to the last.

Learn from examples of successful novels and movies as you transform your work from ho-hum to high-tension.

  • Pack the beginning, middle, and end of your book with the right amount of conflict.
  • Tap into the suspenseful power of each character’s inner conflict.
  • Build conflict into your story’s point of view.
  • Balance subplots, flashbacks, and backstory to keep your story moving forward.
  • Maximize the tension in your characters’ dialogue.
  • Amp up the suspense when you revise.

Conflict & Suspense offers proven techniques that help you craft fiction your readers won’t be able to put down.

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint

by Nancy Kress

The indispensable Write Great Fiction series continues with an in-depth look at three of the most important tools in the writer’s craft: character, emotion and viewpoint. With the tips and techniques in this book, you will learn how to: Create compelling characters that readers believe in Write scenes that deliver an unforgettable emotional impact Distinguish among the many different kinds of viewpoint, and choose the one which is right for your story Each chapter is filled with examples drawn from the work of successful writers, along with action and results exercises that help you take your lessons to the keyboard. Nancy Kress is the author of 16 novels and three story collections, as well as Writer’s Digest’s Dynamic Characters . Her short fiction has won three Nebulas and a Hugo. In addition to writing the fiction column for Writer’s Digest magazine, Nancy often teaches writing at universities. She lives in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Sometimes the Magic Works

by Terry Brooks

In Sometimes the Magic WorksNew York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks shares his secrets for creating unusual, memorable fiction. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws upon his own experiences, hard lessons learned, and delightful discoveries made in creating the beloved Shannara and Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Word and The Void trilogy, and the bestselling Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace.

In addition to being a writing guide, Sometimes the Magic Works, is Terry Brooks’s self-portrait of the artist. “If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical,” says Brooks. This book offers a rare opportunity to peer into the mind of (and learn a trick or two from) one of fantasy fiction’s preeminent magicians.

Description

by Monica Wood

Description is most powerful when it’s visible, aural, tactile. Make your descriptions fresh and they’ll move your story forward, imbue your work with atmosphere, create that tang of feeling that editors cry for and readers crave.

Monica Wood helps you squeeze the greatest flavor from the language. She segments description like an orange, separating its slices to let you sample each one.

You’ll learn about:

  • Detail, and how you can use description to awaken the reader’s senses of touch, taste, hearing, smell and sight
  • Plot, from advancing story using only relevant description—and how to edit out sluggish, reader-stopping writing
  • Style, and the use of description to create a mood that matches your story’s content
  • Point of view, how selecting omniscient, first person or third person limited narrative influences the descriptive freedom you have
  • Creating original word depictions of people, animals, places, weather and movement

Wood teaches by example, developing stories with characters in various situations, to show you how you can apply description techniques.

You’ll also see samples of work by such noted writers as Mark Helprin, Anne Tyler and Raymond Carver. And you’ll find the dos and don’ts, lists and descriptive alternatives to common verbs and nouns, and tips for editing your work.

Characters & Viewpoint

by Orson Scott Card

Vivid and memorable characters aren’t born: they have to be made

This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your memory, your imagination and your soul.

Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing and presenting characters, plus handling viewpoint in novels and short stories. With specific examples, he spells out your narrative options–the choices you’ll make in creating fictional people so “real” that readers will feel they know them like members of their own families.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Draw the characters from a variety of sources, including a story’s basic idea, real life–even a character’s social circumstances
  • Make characters show who they are by the things they do and say, and by their individual “style”
  • Develop characters readers will love–or love to hate
  • Distinguish among major characters, minor characters and walk-ons, and develop each one appropriately
  • Choose the most effective viewpoint to reveal the characters and move the storytelling
  • Decide how deeply you should explore your characters’ thoughts, emotions and attitudes

Conflict, Action & Suspense

by William Noble

What makes a book a page-turner? How do you grab your readers right from the start and hold them through the last sentence? How do you make your plot twist and turn and keep the action moving without losing continuity?

You do it by generating drama and developing it using conflict, action and suspense. You make your reader burn to know what’s going to happen next. You create tension…and build it…to the breaking point.

William Noble shows you how to intensify that pressure throughout your story. You’ll learn exactly what constitutes conflict, action and suspense, how they relate to other important ingredients in your story, and – perhaps most important – how to manipulate them.

Through thorough, step-by-step instruction, you’ll learn how to…

  • set the stage with techniques and devices that enhance drama
  • introduce suspense from the very beginning of your story
  • build suspense through cliff-hangers, dialogue, mood, character
  • development, point of view, subtlety and indirection, and time and place
  • bring all that conflict, action and suspense to a gripping conclusion

There are all sorts of ways to create tension in your prose – from using adjectives and nouns that drip with imagery to making quick scene cuts and transitions to accelerating the pace. Learn them here. Then use them, and your story will plunge your readers into a river of worry…and the current will carry them to The End.

Plot & Structure

by James Scott Bell

Craft an Engaging Plot. How does plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course?

With Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, you’ll discover the answers to these questions and more. Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot, including:

  • Techniques for crafting strong beginnings, middles, and ends
  • Easy-to-understand plotting diagrams and charts
  • Brainstorming techniques for original plot ideas
  • Thought-provoking exercises at the end of each chapter
  • Story structure models and methods for all genres
  • Tips and tools for correcting common plot problems

Filled with plot examples from popular novels, comprehensive checklists, and practical hands-on guidance, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure gives you the skills you need to approach plot and structure like an experienced pro.

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