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There’s a lot of learning by osmosis that comes with being a fiction writer who reads a ton of fiction books. An innate understanding of the flow and rhythm and twists and turns within the stories of new and old.
We’ve all experienced dissatisfaction at an ending or when a book ends but with loose ends just left flapping in the wind. At the other end of it all are the books you wish you could unread to read anew all over again. The ones which have you recommending them to anyone who’ll listen. Those books which whisk you away and those which meet you right where you are, touching your heart and soul. Gosh, aren’t books amazing?!
When it comes to writing a book, gah, that’s a whole new kettle of fish. A lot of writing is the mental side of it; getting out of your own way, making time to write, and learning to keep at it even when fear and imposter syndrome are bobbing up all too often. The practical side of writing is a never-ending study and expansion. Here are 5 books that I own which I think will give you the confidence, desire and know-how to write your first novel.
Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke
Inspiring, motivating, a classic.
We all love stories. But why do we tell them? And why do all stories function in an eerily similar way? John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers’ Academy, has brought a vast array of drama to British screens. Here he takes us on a journey to the heart of storytelling, revealing that there truly is a unifying shape to narrative forms – one that echoes the fairytale journey into the woods and, like any great art, comes from deep within. From ancient myths to big-budget blockbusters, he gets to the root of the stories that are all around us, every day.
‘Marvellous’ Julian Fellowes
‘Terrifyingly clever … Packed with intelligent argument’ Evening Standard
‘The most important book about scriptwriting since William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade’ Peter Bowker, writer, Blackpool, Occupation, Eric and Ernie
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody
Cleverly unpicks novel-writing so it feels do-able
The first novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! story-structure series, which reveals the 15 essential plot points needed to make any novel a success.
Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story–from the opening image to the finale–this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate–and a novel that will sell.
‘Through its insightful use of beat sheets, genres, and trade secrets, this book is an invaluable guide through the daunting task of writing a novel.’
–Jessica Khoury, author of The Forbidden Wish and Last of Her Name
Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School
Will cleverly guide and eke out the writer in you
Gotham Writers’ Workshop has mastered the art of teaching the craft of writing in a way that is practical, accessible, and entertaining. Now the techniques of this renowned school are available in this book.
Here you’ll find: The fundamental elements of fiction craft-character, plot, point of view, etc.-explained clearly and completely – Key concepts illustrated with passages from great works of fiction – The complete text of “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver-a masterpiece of contemporary short fiction that is analyzed throughout the book – Exercises that let you immediately apply what you learn to your own writing.
Once you’ve read-and written-your way through this book, you’ll have a command of craft that will enable you to turn your ideas into effective short stories and novels. You will be a writer.
The Art of Fiction by David Lodge
Captivating, funny in places, enlightening.
In this entertaining and enlightening collection David Lodge considers the art of fiction under a wide range of headings, drawing on writers as diverse as Henry James, Martin Amis, Jane Austen and James Joyce. Looking at ideas such as the Intrusive Author, Suspense, the Epistolary Novel, Magic Realism and Symbolism, and illustrating each topic with a passage taken from a classic or modern novel, David Lodge makes the richness and variety of British and American fiction accessible to the general reader.
He provides essential reading for students, aspiring writers and anyone who wants to understand how fiction works.
These essays are as fresh and as readable as ever — David Evans ― Independent
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Warm, encouraging, hand-holding.
With insight, humour, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from first thoughts (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)–even on choosing a restaurant in which to write. Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach (Writing Is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger, Man Eats Car, Be an Animal), will inspire anyone who writes–or who longs to.
“I’m convinced that none of the writers of my acquaintance can go another day without a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s magical manual Writing Down the Bones.”–Linda Weltner, The Boston Globe
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