Favorite writing books

Today I want to talk about my favorite writing books and why I like them.

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. This is probably at the top of most romance writers’ list of "must have" books. Why? Because without what you learn to do in this book you don’t have a complete and cohesive story. The GMC concept is useful for most types of fiction.

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray. I LOVE this book because it taught me how to plot. Seems strange I know because at first it doesn’t appear to be a book about plotting. But it presents the three act play method of structuring a story in such a way that makes perfect sense to me. I always felt certain things should happen at certain points in the story and this confirms that and explains it. The author goes on to show how the different points in a story relate to each other. If you have "this" at plot point one, then you need "that" at plot point two. The story will be a tighter unit. Hard to explain without going into detail.

Roget’s International Thesaurus. This reference book has over 1300 pages. I bought it new and it is the most worn-out of all my writing books. If you want to avoid being repetitive, using worn-out cliches then a good thesaurus is a must. Did you notice how I just used "worn-out" twice? I wouldn't have done that if I'd been using my thesaurus. I would've looked up the word and perhaps used dog-tired, dog-eared, exhausted, overtired, haggard, enfeebled, the list could go on.

Langenscheidt’s New College Merriam-Webster English Dictionary. I LOVE this dictionary. It has 1560 pages and weighs a ton. Not only does it contain everything a regular dictionary does, it also gives the date the word was first used. Since I write historical, this has proven invaluable to me. It saves me an incredible amount of time.

Description by Monica Wood and Setting by Jack M. Bickham both from the Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writer’s Digest Books. I used to have a real problem with setting description in my writing--I left it out. :-) Once it was pointed out to me I read these two books and learned that I loved writing setting description, probably too much. Now I have to be careful not to overdo it.

How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis. This helped me understand what is in contracts and what it all means. Even if you have an agent you still need to understand all the terms and clauses.

Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon. This book has lots of great things in it. Character names, professions, clothes, facial expressions, psychological problems, foreign words, etc. I use it a lot as a jumping off point. I may not use exactly what’s in the book but it gives me new ideas.

The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders. I use this book as I’m planning a new story. After I have a general feel for my main characters, I look up their archetypes in this book and get ideas for more personality traits. I go by gut instinct for which archetype they are. I don’t assign my characters one. They tell me which they are and this book allows me to dig deeper into their psyche so I can get to know them better and present them as more three-dimensional on the page.

20,001 Names for Baby by Carol McD. Wallace. Almost every time I need to name a character I peruse this book. If it’s a main character, sometimes I’ll browse through it for an hour or so. The name must fit the personality, after all. If it’s a secondary character, sometimes I’ll just pick an appropriate name at random from the book. Any thick baby name book will serve this purpose. For last names, I use the phone book.

Do you have a favorite book about writing that I haven't mentioned? If so, please let me know about it. I'm always looking for more "must haves". :-)


Elizabeth Delisi said...

Oh my goodness, Vonda, what are these blue...trees? Bushes? They're lovely!

Great list of books, lots of very helpful ones on your list. Another great book I've found useful: "Writing the Fiction Synopsis" by Pam McCutcheon. She uses popular movies as examples to show you how to write a great synopsis, making the whole process much less stressful.

Keep up the good work on your blog, and your writing!


Vonda Sinclair said...

Hi Liz, LOL! Yes, blue trees. You're the first person to comment on them. I had some fun altering the colors. :-) Thanks for that book recommendation! I'll have to look for that.