Hey everyone, Dani again. Wow, it’s March already. 2016 is flying already and it’s time for me to get serious about my writing again. It has been a difficult year for trying to write so far. January 5th my paternal grandmother died at the glorious age of 89; she was just one month away from her 90th birthday. It was the first major family member death that I’ve experienced. I mean, I’ve lost a few great-grandparents who I didn’t know all that well, and I’ve lost several great-aunts and great-uncles, but my grandma had been living with us the last 5 years of her life, so I spent a lot of time with her.
I thought because she had lived so long that it would be easier to let her go because she had lived a great and fulfilled life. But I spent the few days leading up to the funeral in a sad daze, not really doing much, just mindlessly watching television that I don’t quite remember. I wasn’t invested in what I was doing.
Since then I have been struggling to get those creative juices flowing again. It’s quite possible that some of my problem is because my narrator for Project Death: Revelation is Death himself. It was hard spending so much time unable to draft any words on the page.
My goal for 2016 really is to keep progressing myself as an author, by writing, promoting, publishing, etc. And I finally told myself that the best thing to do was to find something writing-adjacent I could work on until the drive to write returned. So I started picking up more writing guides, on worldbuilding, science fiction and fantasy, weapons, character traits, editing, publishing, language…and then I started reading them
This is a good idea for writers in general. Yes, there are a number of people who are talented at storytelling, but the craft of writing is not just about talent. Telling a story orally is much different from a written story. There are a number of elements that are similar, so I guess what I’m saying is that the delivery is different. And learning about how to plot and think of characterization and description will actually help to develop your own style and voice, which is great.
This is the top shelf of my “Reference Library.” Most everything below this shelf are textbooks from college that I kept because they might be useful for my writing: books on psychology, forensic science, photography, languages, history, mythology, dreams, etc. But these books on top of the reference bookcase are about writing and editing and they are very useful tools to have.
Let me highlight a few of my favorites:
No Plot? No Problem! 2nd edition by Chris Baty. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and this book is by NaNo’s founder, Chris Baty. It highlights tips, tricks, and inspiration to get you through the chaos of the month, and I think it’s helpful any time of year, not just in November.
On Writing by Stephen King. This is probably the book I most highly recommend for studying the craft of writing. This is part Stephen King journal detailing his story of becoming an author, and part guide to help other writers/authors. If you are a writer and don’t have this book, get it.
The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding. Technically this book is aimed at Game Masters/Dungeon Masters for creating an RPG world, but it works just as well for writers of the fantasy/sci-fi genres. I have found it to be immensely useful for the high fantasy series I am planning and would recommend it if you need some help with creating your own world.
The Art of Language Invention, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons, and Writer’s Guide to Character Traits. I will place all three of these books together. Language Invention is written very much like a textbook, so be warned, but if you are serious about creating your own language it will be massively helpful. The Guide to Weapons has an index of all kinds of weapons and details certain weapon fallacies that are abundant in television, movies, and books; definitely helpful if you want to add authenticity to your writing. And of course, Character Traits can help you to flesh out the people within your story and give them more depth, which is always good.
I haven’t read Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror but I have flipped through it and it has a plethora of short page or two chapters that highlight an element from the aforementioned genres, and then each chapter wraps up with a writing exercise, which I think is pretty neat.
And not pictured here because I own it as an e-book is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It is required reading in a number of college writing courses, and is filled with tips and little anecdotes and revelations, and it’s really a great inspiration for those of us who want to make a career as a writer. I put this up there with Stephen King’s On Writing as a must-have book for writers
So there we go…a brief introduction to some writing guide books, and it’s honestly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to studying the craft of writing. But I can honestly say that reading some of these books (and talking to fellow author friends) has helped me find my desire to write again, and that is a beautiful thing.