Book by Book

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Christmas is six days away and my excitement has reached DEFCON Readiness Level II: Fast Pace or Red, meaning Santa’s arrival is imminent. For weeks, the sounds of the season have been streaming throughout my home, and by this weekend, when my niece and her roommate arrive, we’ll have a houseful of holiday cheer splitting the seams of this drafty old place.
On Monday night, we’ll all pile in the car for Christmas Eve service, and after leading my K-4 Sunday school kids in a round of “Away in a Manger”  complete with said manger, angels, shepherds, sheep, cows, two Josephs and three Marys (everybody wants to be a star)  I’ll be at Readiness Level I. Sleep will be most elusive that night, for St. Nick received my very well-written letter and is bringing me practically everything I requested … yes, Mikey was a good boy this year.
Among those items on the list (and there weren’t too many  Mikey was a good, not greedy, boy) are four excellent books on writing that I’ll be bringing to the table on Wednesdays for discussion. I’ve heard great things about all of them, and can’t wait to grab hold and suckle those ample tittles like a starving newborn (tittles are those dots used in writing, such as a diacritic or punctuation). Join me in the new year, and we’ll converse on the following, if you’d like to get your own copies:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Raves abound all over the internet about this treasure. As Anne tells it, when they were children, her older brother was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, but was now due the next day. He was close to tears at the kitchen table, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then their father sat down beside him, put his arm around her brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
With this basic instruction in mind, Anne offers up a wonderful step-by-step guide on how to write and how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,” to “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue,” and all the way to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” (and that’s just the first chapter), Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

A brief logline on Goodreads and Amazon reads, “This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can Save the Cat!” Other than that and your positive recommendations, I don’t know much about it. My writing buddy, Julie, insisted it be added to my collection, and since she has never steered me wrong, it went on the list. Santa will get an extra cookie for stuffing my stocking with this one.
Although a book on screenwriting, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a thorough understanding of the three-act structure is a must for all fiction writers. While writing Monty Tucker, I turned to several screenwriting websites for the solutions to my pacing and characterization problems, and therefore, am rather anxious to dive into this and share my thoughts with all of you.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Erica over at Eureka Wrote introduced me to this little jewel during some of her weekly exercises, and I’ve been biting at the bit to get my hands on it ever since. Julie, as always, beat me to the punch, and gave it a stellar review on Goodreads, saying (which I’ve paraphrased slightly):
“Like any book on writing, it’s not complete by itself, but add it to a collection of other books on the subject (such as Bird by Bird, above) and you begin to have a vision of the hard work, satisfaction and process of being a writer.
“Other critics may complain that Zinsser used his own writing excerpts as examples too often in this book. However, by using his own writing, he was able to talk intimately about the process of writing, why changes were made, how and why he chose specific words, and the process of self-editing. Since he is an accomplished writer, why shouldn’t he use his own work?”
Finishing off the list is a book suggested by my buddy, Rob Akers, over at his site of the same name. It’s an excellent resource called:

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression

Not only are Angela and Becca the authors of this excellent guide, which tackles common emotion-related writing problems and gives solutions for overcoming them, but they are also the creators of the award-winning online resource for writers, The Bookshelf Muse. Look over on my blogroll and you’ll see it with the rest of the brilliant blogs I follow. Writers of middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as members of the SCBWI, these two ladies are right up my genre.
If that weren’t enough, read the following recommendation from James Scott Bell, bestselling author of Deceived and Plot & Structure: 

“One of the challenges a fiction writer faces, especially when prolific, is coming up with fresh ways to describe emotions. This handy compendium fills that need. It is both a reference and a brainstorming tool, and one of the resources I’ll be turning to most often as I write my own books.” 

With all that going for it, how could I not own this book?
And that’s what we can look forward to on Wednesdays in the coming year. The mere telling showing of them has pushed me up to DEFCON I  locked and loaded! I hope you’ll join in on the excitement in 2013  that is, if there is a 2013.



45 thoughts on “Book by Book

  1. Good to see you again, Richard! It's all about squeezing out that elusive time, isn't it? I hope you'll read along, and if not, follow along as I read and talk about them.

  2. Some great options here. I absolutely love the Emotion Thesaurus and highly-recommend it. Sadly, I haven't read the other classics on the craft of writing you have listed here, but they are definitely on my TBR list. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Mike,Happy Holidays and I join you in the excitement of Christmas. I am glad that you will be surrounded by family and you already have a plan of action.I am surprised that you know what Santa is bringing. I dont have a clue but maybe that is the difference between being a good boy and a bad boy.I have the Emotional Thesaurus. Great tool for writing. I have found that certain gestures can mean have different meanings. But I think it is one of the essential books in my writer's toolbox.It is time for me to deliever the boxes…Merry Christmas

  4. All of these are wonderful recommendations straight from the writing blogworld – YOU guys!And it's a blast when we break into a chorus of "We Six Kings of Orient are…"

  5. Took me a millisecond to figure out FWIW…and I will definitely check out your article when I crack into it. I started reading the sample on Amazon and am hooked. Thanks for leaving that link!Merry Christmas, Melissa!

  6. I haven't been in a bookclub for a while, as in ever. I'm in. I'd better check out why STC has attracted so much hype. My mother will not mind at all if I do.

  7. Oh, yeah. And when you finish those, swing by the children's room at the library and read "Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book" to learn what the writer's life is really like! That's my other favorite book on being a writer.

  8. Get Save the Cat and join me in study. It will be FUN! I'm a big ol' nerd who analyzes the heck out of everything, and it would be great to have your input.Happy Christmas, too, Lynda. It's been a joy getting to know you over the past few weeks. :o)

  9. Excellent! Can't wait to begin. I guess we'll do STC first. I've already read a bit online and love it. Book clubs are fun…such a wide array of ideas and interpretations tossed about for consideration.I see you've got a new post…got to scoot over there and check it out.

  10. I don't think any of us have a choice on those SFD's, Rebecca…they come natural. But what's nice to know is that we ALL have them. And I think the realization is that it's going to be crappy, so don't fight it – work with it on draft two.

  11. Darn, I was hoping you'd start with something I've read. But I'm onto it. So, if STC is the last book on screenwriting you'll ever need, why are there two follow-ups?;) [Read the first one and find out – yeah, I hear ya.]

  12. ROFL! I love that! Yeah, there should be no sequels…Another gift I'm absolutely ecstatic about getting is the Kindle reader (basic). Can't wait to download some cheapies. I had been hesitant to get one (I like the actual feel and process of reading a real book, plus owning it for my shelves), but I was getting too envious of Julie downloading all these 99-cent ones.Oh…GREAT article over on your site, btw!

  13. I love STC and TET. I'm a craft book addict when it comes to books on writing well and writing fiction. After I finish a book, I always say this is the last one I'll buy. Apparently I'm good at lying to myself. I recently ordered another book. Hmmm. I'm beginning to think I need therapy. lol

  14. I barely read novels for leisure (and most times, I'm studying those)…all the stuff I read is on crafting. Self-growth. I'm hoping the Kindle I'm getting will sate my book shopping addiction…or at least keep it on the cheap.Thanks for coming by, Stina.

  15. Count me in on your 2013 Wednesday knowledge feasts. I'm sure we'll be well fed by your insightful commentary on those books. I do already have the "On Writing Well" book. It's sitting on my bookshelf begging to be opened and read (like so many others on my shelf, all of them are probably conspiring against me, and plotting a revolt). My bookshelfs are littered with books I need to read but can't get around to them.

  16. Wonderful, Demetria! I'm hoping that everyone will read along and we'll discuss it like a book club. Perhaps check it out of a library if you don't own it (that's what I did with Bird by Bird, first, read a few chapters and loved it enough to buy). I don't know how I'll approach it…it'll come out as I write the first one. Maybe questions to choose from and comment your thoughts. I'll look into a format that works!Merry Christmas!

  17. The Emotional Thesuarus looks intriguing. My sphincter puckers at the thought of reading it. The human body has three sphincters, so take your pick on that one.I would add "How to Write Killer Fiction" by Carolyn Wheat. It's a first-team all pro for anyone interested in Mysteries and Thrillers. Bird by Bird was the second writing book I bought, right after the one written by some guy named Stephen King. Merry Christmas ML Swift! You sound like you have a very warm home!

  18. Take a laxative and loosen that sphincter, Joseph! I'll look into Wheat's book; sounds interesting.Good…Bird by Bird will be review for you then. I hope to see you joining in on the group! And oh…Stephen WHO?


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