Your Own Shelf Of Writing Advice

By now, you know the story: blah blah blah, CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY is out, it’s now available in Kindle and Nook and PDF and, should you choose not to procure it, it will be available as a manuscript duct-taped through a brick and thrown through your front window.

I kid, I kid.

Seriously, though, it gets me thinking about other books of writing advice. I never understood writers who shirk writing advice because I’ve always found it so useful. I also don’t really grok those who absorb so much advice but then never actually… ohh, I dunno, put pen to paper because whenever I read great writing advice, all it makes me want to do is take what I learned and put it into play. Like reading the Kama Sutra for the first time. “Sun-Burned Donkey On Ravenna’s Porch? Upward Tilting Samsara With A Side Of Bhel Puri? Monkey Steal The Plums? I want to do all of these right now!”

Here’s the writing advice that lives on my shelf:

Ray Bradbury, ZEN AND THE ART OF WRITING.

Lawrence Block, both WRITING THE NOVEL and TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT.

Stephen King’s ON WRITING.

Robert McKee, STORY.

Elements of Fiction Writing: CONFLICT, ACTION & SUSPENSE.

Alex Epstein, CRAFTY SCREENWRITING.

Alex Epstein, CRAFTY TV WRITING.

Blake Snyder, SAVE THE CAT!

Syd Field, SCREENPLAY.

I’ve got other stuff, too — some stuff about writing horror (DARK THOUGHTS: ON WRITING), lots of grammar books (GRAMMAR GIRL, EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES).

Bradbury’s book is cool — lots of personal tales, very bite-sized stuff, a book of wildly-roving advice. I like the way he wrote many of his original stories: he penned a list of cool titles, then one by one wrote stories to go with ‘em. King’s book is pretty standard, and a truly great book — it was one of those books though that got me on some good habits and some bad ones. McKee’s story is nice enough, and there’s some valuable information, but the book is way too long for what it’s trying to tell you, and at times feels soulless. Epstein and Snyder show you the formulas that persist in film and television, and add new twists to those formulas.

I love what other authors have to say about the writing process. I lean toward advice that’s equal parts philosophical and practical and that lists into “hard-ass” territory, but then again, you already knew that: it’s ideally what you read here at terribleminds. I find it motivating. Thought-provoking. Never enervating.

How about you? What books of advice do you have on your shelves? Why are they there? Any books you didn’t like? Feel free to extend this out to blogs, too. I’m curious: where do you get your advice, and why?

49 comments

  • The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference
    Aliens and Alien Societies
    Worldbuilding
    Is Life Like This?
    The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy
    Webster’s fabulous Dictionary
    A duotang folder containing a copy of Patricia C. Wrede’s Worldbuilding Questions
    A badly outdated copy of the Writer’s Market
    Elements of Fiction Writing – Scene & Structure
    Elements of Fiction Writing – Character & Viewpoint
    Elements of Fiction Writing – Plot
    And one copy of Modus Operandi: a writer’s guide to how criminals work (which I should really return to the public library)

  • Maggie forgot to mention something called “Confessions of Freelance Penmonkey”, but it’s of dubious value. I am pretty sure no one actually wrote it, it was just left over crap that couldn’t fit in the normal flow of spacetime and took physical (electronic) form.

    Seriously, love your book.

  • Long time lurker (a year or more?) first time poster!

    For me, when I first started writing seriously I followed Lilith Saintcrow’s advice and branched out from there. Really glad I started there as she’s very big into writing every day, keeping in good habits, treating writing as a job and not believing in “writers block”. Worked like a charm for me.

    As for whats on my shelf: Bradbury and King. As for why they’re there. Big Bradbury fan and King’s pretty standard. You, good sir, are on my Kindle. I just need to carve out time to read it. Loved Irregular Creatures.

    But there is a selection of books that I’ve read that have helped make my writing more realistic like On Combat, it discusses what a soldier psychologically goes through under stress. Its a bit spendy but so worth it for fight scenes.

  • In college I had this editing class that made us read the Chicago Manual of Style. I know it’s probably not an “advice” book, but even though it was kind of boring at the time, it’s served me well. It covers all the obvious grammar stuff, but also just really interesting issues that might not come up very often but are still important to get right. It’s a handy resource at least.

  • The only writing book I’ve ever used is Screenwriting 101 by Neill Hicks. It’s short, to the point, and works for screenplays and novels.

    I generally hate “how to” books for writing because they make everything sound like “Do this right now or you will fail miserably as writer!!!!” I’ve used bits of Stephen King’s “On Writing” (How can you not?), but I don’t like too many voices telling (suggesting) me what to do because eventually they’re going to disagree and then you’ll be stuck having to figure out which one knows more than the other.

  • From my kindle library:
    Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey
    Warrior Writer (Bob Mayer)
    Story Engineering (Larry Brooks)
    Writing Fiction For Dummies (Peter Economy & Randy Ingermason)

    I’ve turned to blogs more than books in recent days.

  • For Blogs, I primarily read here and Nathan Bransford’s blog/forums. There is some good stuff there.

    For books, I only have Confessions currently. Otherwise, I follow links on twitter to random articles, and also check out Writer’s Relief and Writer’s Digests posts when they have advice giving stuff up.

    I think part of this is that I still feel like I’m learning the language for writing. Like, I get the parts, and I have a feel for when they’re set right, but the way one would talk about it, I’m still kind of lost on. Which is why I like this site, as you tend to explain things simply enough for me to get it, and then I go “oh, that’s what he’s talking about” and nod my head like I’ve learned something.

    That said, I’m totally taking notes on some of these books to procure and flip through over the next few months or so.

  • Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird
    John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction
    Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction
    Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer
    Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer
    Thomas and Turner’s Clear and Simple as the Truth
    Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art

    And Wendig delivers, too. Equal parts laughter and insight.

  • Orson Scott Card: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
    And then honestly a ton of RPG sourcebooks. The chapter or book on worldbuilding is often full of bite size morsels of info on pacing, plotting, how to create a world and so on.
    Also: Mythological reference texts for info/ideas.
    Blogs: I come here.
    Beyond that I honestly work from old notes I gained in classes on writing, the theatre, and such. And my dad. He filled my head with stories and wrote a fair few YA novels as well, so his advice is often what I turn to when unsure of how to approach a problem in writing.

    • @Everybody: I appreciate the love for CONFESSIONS, but I want to assure everybody my intention was not to secretly get you to say, “We love CONFESSIONS!” My ego delights in being stroked like a cat sitting in the lap of a sinister villain, but really, there’s no need. CONFESSIONS is a blip on the radar compared to seminal works by King, Block, etc.

      @Michael: We have BIRD BY BIRD here (it’s my wife’s copy); you recommend it, then?

      @Sparky: Be interesting to see what RPG sourcebooks have the best advice as you see it?

      @Pat: How do you like Bob’s book? I actually haven’t picked it up yet.

      @Josin: Fair enough. I like the competing voices — not because I think one is more correct than the other, but because it allows me to figure out which approach is right for me.

      @Rick: I HEART YOU TOO BIG GUY. *sob*

      @Maggie: Dang, you gotta lotta books there I’ve never heard of. Cool. What’s IS LIFE LIKE THIS?

      — c.

  • This nomadic “all over Asia” lifestyle means that I can’t carry a big ol’ stack of books with me, unfortunately, but I can tell you what I’ve read and then sold.

    EATS, SHOOTS, and LEAVES. Two GRAMMAR GIRL books. ON WRITING, sold after at least seven reads. CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY, which I can keep because the PDF takes up no space on my computer except some weightless bits and bytes.

    If you can find it, Kate Grenville’s THE WRITING BOOK, you should. My lovely Australian bride brought it with her from Australia, and after I used it for myself, I started using it in the classroom. I don’t know if Kate Grenville’s readily available in the US, just that she should be.

  • John Dufresne – IS LIFE LIKE THIS: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months

    It’s decent enough, has a fair amount of solid advice in it, and goes into detail about various aspects of the writing process like character, coherency, and suchlike. It gets kind of preachy from time to time (I found, anyway), and the writer definitely has his biases in genres (he seems very anti-Harlequin to me), but for the general process of writing, it’s pretty good.

  • I think it’s a required ritual for beginning writers to load up the old bookshelf with “how to” books that will be read once and then used for decoration. “Look, I’m a writer! What else would I be? See, I have all these writing books on my shelf!”

    That said, there are some that are very, very good. For meta-advice, I enjoyed Stephen King’s “On Writing”, but that one’s more of a philosophical treatise. For nuts-and-bolts writing advice, the best books I’ve ever read are “Spider, Spin Me A Web” and “Telling Lies For Fun And Profit”, both by Lawrence Block.

    I find that as my skill progresses, I get utility out of different writing books than when I was a rank beginner.

  • Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.
    Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.
    Several out-dated copies of Writer’s Market.
    Seth Godin’s Poke the Box. (on the Kindle)
    A book called something like Novel Writer’s Guide including advice from the likes of Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy.
    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published.

    And on my to-get-on-Kindle list:

    The War of Art.
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
    The Elephants of Style.
    And of course, Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey.

  • I also have ON WRITING, STORY and SAVE THE CAT all close to hand. They’re fab books, and patch a lot of holes. I also have the three “Elements of Fiction” books that Maggie mentions as a bind-up called — horribly — HOW TO WRITE A MI££ION, where £ is supposed to stand for an L. They’re great stuff though, particularly SCENE & STRUCTURE.

    The one thing no-one has mentioned so far is THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. Great book on the Quest narrative, and its Jungian archetypes.

    I heartily recommend all of the above, frankly. STORY probably helped me the most of all of them, but then plotting is something I often find snarly.

    I’ve got a bunch of other stuff on my ‘to read’ pile, some of which — like PENMONKEY — I’m really stoked about. Just got to hit some gorram deadlines first…

  • I adore Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. It’s smart, funny, and useful. Stephen King’s ON WRITING is a must, too. I’ve highlighted it (and scrawled notes allllll over it) to death.

    I know that I’ve read others, but those are the two that a) stuck with me the most — and helped me the most.

  • Chuck, Bird By Bird is, like, required reading. Writing 101. Lamot will both kick your ass, kiss the bruises, and inspire you all at once while driving that nuts and bolts in your head. Not only that, she gives you more ephemeral advice on things like satisfaction and jealousy.

    I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Donald Maas’s books (Breakout Novel, Fire In Fiction, etc.). All of them are infinitely helpful in thinking about high concept writing and breakdowns of plot and theme.

    I’ve also got a character specific advice book – Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches – which is all about writing the “bad guys” of fiction. If anything it’s a fun read, though I didn’t like how it focused mainly on male characters. Still a worthwhile source.

    Then, you know, a bunch that have already been mention.

  • Two of my favorite writing books are Monica Wood’s POCKET MUSE series. You might not write the prompt, but it definitely gets the wheels turning. Also, Skip Press’s HOW TO WRITE WHAT YOU WANT AND SELL WHAT YOU WRITE is another book that I’m a fan of. I don’t know why, but that book is like the pump to my idea well. It works its scary magic.

    One of the books that I would steer clear from is THE WRITER’S BOOK OF MATCHES. It just didn’t work for me. It’s all prompt and no help, which wasn’t what I was looking for.

  • Lots of great books mentioned. Here’s the list of what’s next to the Mac right now:

    *The Complete Writers Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes-Cowden, LaFever, Vider
    *Narrative Design by Madson, Smartt, Bell
    *The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier- Trenga
    *Bird by Bird-Ann LaMott
    *On Writing – Stephen King
    *Elements of Style-Strunk and White
    * Goal, Motivation and Conflict – Debra Dixon

    There’s a whole slew of other reference books on my Kindle and on a shelf in the office.

  • My collection mimics most of what’s been listed in the post and comments, so I’ll just add one new title: Bryan Garner’s “Dictionary of Modern American Usage”. David Foster Wallace’s landmark essay on lexicography (“Tense Present”, linked below) steered me to Garner’s “Dictionary”. I can’t sell it any better than Wallace (and why would I bother?), so I encourage everyone to read the essay for themselves. It’s a long read but, like all of DFW’s essays, rich and rewarding (and may sting a little for the Strunk & White fans in the crowd).

    “Dictionary” seems like a book on words and grammar, not writing, and it is. But aren’t writers in love with words and grammar? Browsing Garner’s book serves to both entertain and needle a writer. You see the nuts and bolts that fasten your writing and simultaneously realize that you’ve been doing it wrong.

  • Many of the books cited are ones I have. I also go to writers’ blogs for craft advice (I love the explosion of information from professional writers over the last 3 to 5 years).

    There are also some fabulous podcasts that are available via author blogs or iTunes: Writing Excuses, Storywonk, Will Write for Wine (ran for about 2 or 3 years, they no longer do the podcast, but the craft stuff is still excellent), Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing, Odyssey SF/F Writing Workshop Podcasts; these are some of my standby’s for craft.

  • It appears that most of my self-help books are about freelancing and entrepreneurship, but there are several I’m madly in love with when it comes to writing, and writing alone:

    Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk, and Writing. Because it reminded me of why I started writing. It got into the nitty-gritty of personal essay and memoir construction. It reminded me that smaller can be better. It pointed out that a personal story should have a definitive end before you delve into it in your writing. It stressed the importance of writing partners and writing groups, making me realize that accountability, above all, was what I was lacking. It also got down to the business of revising, market research, book proposals, essay submissions, and more.

    Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It taught me that I shouldn’t rely upon publication for career satisfaction… that I can’t begin a piece of writing with preconceived notions… that I can’t let perfectionism slow me down… that I should allow myself to be inspired by life… and that I should never tiptoe around my topic.

    Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees. About writing, the writing life, and the process from manuscript to publication.

    Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite. Plotnik reveals “the secrets to attention-grabbing, unforgettable writing.”

  • CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY by Chuck Wendig
    EATS SHOOTS & LEAVES by Lynne Truss
    ON WRITING by Stephen King

    I’ve got lots of others, but those are my immediate favorites.

    Some writing books are dry as dust or pretentious, “The artiste will do thees…” Bah. Give me a good poke in the eye or tickle any day.

  • I would agree with LaMott’s Bird by Bird and Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, both are terrific. Two lesser known books I think are quite good:
    Patricia Highsmith’s brief gem Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. An interesting take on the creative process from the author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley. I tend to reread this book once a year. You don’t have to be writing suspense fiction to learn from it.
    Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer. Written back in the 1920s, some of the advice may feel dated (eg, have two typewriters, find a good stationery shop) but her approach to establishing a daily discipline and thinking/observing like a writer is dead-on. I have been surprised at how many other professional writers know and love this book, I didn’t think it was well known at all when I first found it.

  • Let’s see, I have:

    Story
    On Writing
    Elements of Style
    Screenwriter’s Bible
    Zen and the Art of Writing
    The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters
    Screenplay
    The Screenwriter’s Workbook
    Write Right
    Write Good or Die
    Eats, Shoots & Leaves

    There may be some others tucked away in boxes that I’ve forgotten about, but those are the ones I know I have off the top of my head, and they’ve all served their purpose at some point in time.

  • As I’m on vacation, I can’t go and look at my full writing shelf, save only to say that the top books are:

    Screenplay
    Save the Cat
    Crafty Screenwriting

    But the big one, the one I hold above all others and posses in two different formats:

    On Writing, by Stephen King. One of the first Stephen King books I ever read, to be perfectly honest, and one of the greatest meditations to ever be put to print. It doesn’t just tell you how to write, it tells you WHY to write.

    I have Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. But I’ve been hearing more and more about the Grammar Girl. Does she come highly recommended?

  • Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT! (and supplements) and Stephen King’s ON WRITING rocked my world. I read Snyder (RIP) a couple years ago and it really opened up the mechanics of story to me. King’s work ethic helped me make writing work in my life and showed me that small goals are all you need as long as you keep reaching them.

    If I become anything in this writing life, I owe a heap of thanks to those two.

    I’m putting the Bradbury book on my to-read list right now. May pop out today to pick it up.

  • As I read this, I am seeing books I may need to pick up in the near future, for reference if nothing else.
    @Chuck: Obviously I haven’t read every sourcebook out there but as a general rule the more useful ones are the ones attached to less defined worlds. However for the building of a particular mood specifics help. Let’s take the big two (D&D vs WoD). Now D&D has the default fantasy setting but past that there is a lot of freedom to craft world, so I find that the Dungeon Master’s Guide is a wonderful resource for fantasy work. It helps that it also has an entire book dedicated to world building and the like. Now the World of Darkness has a rather more defined setting. Less ideal for going “How do I craft a fantasy narrative?” but excellent if you are thinking to yourself “How do I make this creepy/dark/gothic/etc.?” Also the BESM and Silver Age Sentinels books are excellent. Both by now defunct Guardians of Order (books available as PDFs via White Wolf) one is about anime and the other comic book superheros. The first offers sweeping ideas for genres and defining tropes, and the other various genres and tones within superheroics. Surprisingly versatile really, across many genres. .
    So, as with many things in life the best advice is that which answers the question you are asking. I would not use GURPS though, to broad to focus on any one thing long enough to get a solid idea.

  • I’m not really a SF writer, but the most cogent and useful book I have come across regarding the practicalities of writing short stories (really any stories) is Damon Knight’s “Creating Short Fiction”.
    The book was compiled by Knight and his wife, Kate Wilhelm, from their experiences running the Clarion workshop for so many years.
    My copy is well-thumbed and I always find a new nugget whenever I reread it. It’s definitely not a how-to-write book for beginners. But if you’re actively creating stories, it’s very useful and practical.
    That “Penmonkey” book has some good tips also…….
    Thanks Chuck.

  • The three I keep at hand at all times:

    Steering the Craft, Ursula K. LeGuin
    The Plot Thickens, Noah Lukeman
    Make a Scene, Jordan Rosenfeld

    And of course the Penmonkey bit, but that’s not so much “at hand” as “tattooed on my hard drive.”

  • My Writing Library has:

    On Writing (my favorite so far)
    Writing Down The Bones
    On Becoming A Novelist (which I may never finish.)
    The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed
    Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction

    (and my boyfriend has a bunch of the Orson Scott Card books on writing.)

    Oh yeah, and I just picked up something about a Penmonkey.

  • I second the love for Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches, as well as Don Maass’s books (The Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel).

    My favorite resource by far, though, is Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. That’s definitely my “desert island” resource.

    I enjoyed reading King’s “On Writing” but I found it gave very little in the way of practical writing advice; the vibe I got was that King believes writing must be felt, not practiced, and that multi-draft, multi-revision editing is for chumps.

    Just my reading, of course.

  • I love anything James Scott Bell has ever written, especially PLOT AND STRUCTURE. I’m actually going to JSB’s seminar here in a weekend or so and it is my fervent hope that I’ll actually learn something instead of just sitting there the whole time trying to cope with the fact that JSB is standing in front of me. I will not fangirl. I will not fangirl. I will not fan- oh who am I kidding. I totally will.

    His ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS is also fabulous, with comments that make me giggle.

    King’s ON WRITING is also rockin’. I turn to it when I need encouragement. I’m usually on my second shot of Patron by this time. I just don’t think this book should be read sober.

    As for writing advice books I hate? Anything by the artist formerly known as James N. Frey.

  • “The Art of Dramatic Writing” by Lajos Egri
    “The Art Of Creative Writing” by Lajos Egri (a follow up to the previous one) and
    “Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters & Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card

    I’ve got a few more but these are the very best and most inspiring. (Exact titles pasted here from Amazon.)

  • Stephen King’s On Writing was wonderful, mostly because I loved reading about his process. I’m afraid I tend to steer clear of writing advice books in general (sorry!) and prefer to actually practice instead, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

  • I dont read many books on writing. The mechanics were taught in school when I was small. Our English teacher was a fearsome woman, known to eat the heads of children who showed no inclination to make use of their contents. A sort of veal version of brains.

    It is likely that everyone who passed through her class became either a horror writer or lunch. Nobody failed her class, well, nobody failed and lived to tell of it.

    I tend to hit the whisky and wait for the strange dreams. Most of them involve teachers eating heads but I’m not going to write those. I wait for the more bizarre ones.

  • I’m going to echo the suggestion of SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS. Lots of very practical advice. I have many other books, some of which were useful, some of which were inspiring, but none helped me as much as that one.

    I’m really more of the opinion that writing must be learned but can’t be taught. I think the biggest help to me was being in a critique group. Not just because of the suggestions I received, but because the process of evaluating other people’s stories helped me evaluate my own.

  • I have loads of how-to books, mainly because I used to buy one whenever I felt frustrated with my WiP, but I read them as much to put myself in a writing mood as for the specific advice. In fact I have so many now, I’m giving one away every month this year via my blog! The ones I’m keeping are the classics I keep coming back to, most of which have already been mentioned: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Writing the Breakout Novel, Plot & Structure… I <3 JSB for writing the first (and possibly only) book I've ever read that doesn't preach a "one-size-fits-all" approach to outlining.

    My off-the-beaten-track recommendations are "Word Painting" by Rebecca McClanahan and "Writing Between the Lines" by Jessica Morrell – a couple of excellent books on the more subtle aspects of writing well.

  • Writing tips usually don’t help me because they all are so generic that it doesn’t really make me feel like it’s getting at how I write. There have been a few that totally connect with how I experience writing, and tips from those writers are generally more helpful than tips from people who it seems are just ripping off a bunch of other people’s tips and trying to generalize them to feed to the masses. I do agree, King’s book On Writing helps because it’s sort of a narrative about how he writes, and that makes more sense than just a numbered list sometimes.

  • When I used to not take writing seriously, I used to simply look at the comments on my essays from the teachers and make the small adjustments. For now, I only have
    Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power
    Will Dunne’s The Dramatic Writer’s companion
    William Stafford’s You must Revise Your Life (highly influenced me in writing poetry)
    Francine Prose’s Reading like a Writer (renewed my sense of why I love literature)
    but interestingly it’s the Nike motto: JUST DO IT that gets me to being consistent.
    Overall, I think seeing the masters at work in novels, short stories or scripts remain for me the best way to learn the craft.

  • I’ve already gushed about the bits and pieces Steven Barnes doles out on his website about writing, so just bookmark that. He also talks about getting your physical self in shape and how it affects the intellectual self (and it makes a heck of a lot of difference if you’re feeling good and have energy to write because you’re working out, versus sitting back and grousing about not attracting the muse anymore.) http://darkush.blogspot.com/

    As for books:
    The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (Karen Elizabeth Gordon)
    An Exaltation of Larks: The Ultimate Edition (James Lipton)
    The Joy of Writing Sex (Elizabeth Benedict)
    and… Elements of Style, of course.

    Generally, I’m of the opinion you learn how to write by reading, so while my “reference books” are a whole set of shelves of their own (with more fairytales than you can shake a stick at) my “bag of tricks” would have to include things like:
    The Innkeeper’s Song (Peter S. Beagle – one of the few books that changes protagonist’s viewpoints that I’ve ever enjoyed)
    Raising Demons (Shirley Jackson – a great opportunity for magical realism in showing what makes ordinary life extraordinary – everyone should have a few books like this that work for them)
    Feed (Mira Grant – how many times have I looked at some of the final scenes, dissecting them for “what exactly made my family cry when reading this?”)

  • Writer’s Guide To Character Traits, written by a psychologist, Linda Edelstein PhD. Good for understanding the minds of various types of characters.

    The 3am Epiphany by Brian Kiteley. I love the exercises in this.

    On Thud And Blunder: http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/on-thud-and-blunder/ Fantasy slip-ups. I’ll give you the scene he starts with…

    With one stroke of his fifty-pound sword, Gnorts the Barbarian lopped off the head of Nialliv the Wizard. It flew through the air, still sneering, while Gnorts clove two royal guardsmen from vizor through breasplate to steel jockstrap. As he whirled to escape, an arrow glanced off his own chainmail. Then he was gone from the room, into the midnight city. Easily outrunning pursuit, he took a few sentries at the gate by surprise. For a moment, arms and legs hailed around him through showers of blood; then he had opened the gate and was free. A caravan of merchants, waiting to enter at dawn, was camped nearby. Seeing a magnificent stallion tethered, Gnorts released it, twisted the rope into a bridle, and rode it off bareback. After galloping several miles, he encountered a mounted patrol that challenged him. Immediately he plunged into the thick of the cavalrymen, swinging his blade right and left with deadly effect, rearing up his steed to bring its forefeet against one knight who dared to confront him directly. Then it was only to gallop onward. Winter winds lashed his body, attired in nothing more than a bearskin kilt, but he ignored the cold. Sunrise revealed the shore and his waiting longship. He knew the swift-sailing craft could bring him across five hundred leagues of monster-infested ocean in time for him to snatch the maiden princess Elamef away from evil Baron Rehcel while she remained a maiden — not that he intended to leave her in that condition … .

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