…other than the Necronomicon. I mean, definitely read the Necronomicon, but there’s some other stuff that might be helpful too.
When you’re a reader, especially if you’re reading the kind of stuff you want to write, a lot of the basic conventions become internalized. You know when dialogue is bad because you’ve read (and spoken, and heard) a lot of good dialogue. So you can hear the words in your head, and you know when it sounds natural and when it doesn’t. You instinctively know when something is bad or boring or doesn’t work, and it irritates you, but you might not be able to put your finger on exactly why. Reading about writing will give you the vocabulary to articulate what’s good and what’s not, and you have to know what’s wrong before you can figure out how to fix it. It will also familiarize you with the types of things that readers expect and publishers look for.
It can be kind of a chore to read about writing. Just keep in mind that nobody can really tell you how to write. Anyone who says they can give you the absolute 100% best way to create a character or get from plot point A to B is full of shit*. But they’ve probably got some good advice that you can store in your head and use at some point.
Books on writing
First things first: read Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s inspirational and full of good stuff. I’ll be talking about some of the same topics he does, but in more detail and from an editor’s perspective. And I probably won’t be as entertaining 😦 Sorry in advance.
Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy. This one just came out. I haven’t read it, but here’s an essay by the author on what it’s about and why he wrote it. It looks pretty good, and it’s specifically about genre fiction.
Writing Deep Point of View. This has a lot of good advice on getting deep into your character’s perspective. It’s got some bad advice too, including a whole chapter on “biological gender differences,” like how men like tools and women like flowers. Despite that and some really bad examples it gives (like using “his heart pounded” to show every emotion), I still recommend picking this one up.
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. I haven’t made it all the way through this yet, but it has fantastic art, making it one of those books that gives you a good reason to buy a physical copy.
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing. I’m working on this now and I already love it.
On Writing Horror (Levi recommends this one)
The Chicago Manual of Style. This is the style manual that most fiction publishers go by. It can be intimidating because it’s a doorstop, but that’s what makes it good. It’s got the answers to about 98% of all the questions you’ll ever have about grammar, style, and usage. Nobody expects you to write in perfect language, but there’s probably going to come a time when you need to know what to do when you’ve got four different punctuation marks next to each other, or you have to decide whether to capitalize “queen.” So this is good to have around. There’s an online subscription version too.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. David Bowie preferred Oxford and I do too, but most publishers go by M-W, probably because it’s the dictionary CMS refers to. Most of the differences between M-W and the US version of Oxford are in hyphenating.
The Elements of Style. This is a great refresher if it’s been a really long time since your last English class. It’s particularly good at showing you how to cut superfluous and unnecessary words in order to be more concise. It uses simple language that’s easy to remember, and you’ll come out of it cringing at stuff you used say without thinking (like “most unique”). A lot of people swear by this tiny book, and it does have a lot of good advice, but it also has some dated rules and stuff that applies more to formal writing and journalism. It’s good to have on your shelf, but I wouldn’t buy into it as gospel (or anything else, really).
Writer’s Digest. This site has lots of articles, forums, and resources. Several teachers and editors have recommended their various books on writing to me (like Crafting Novels and Short Stories, above). They also have info on agents and a list you can subscribe to of publishers and their contact information.
Scrivener. This is a writing program that I haven’t tried but I hear great things about.
Ywriter. Same deal.
If you guys know of any other great resources, please post them on the group page!