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I see you are a firm devotee of the "wear 'em down" school of critique group membership. :P

The School recommends bringing blunt objects, typically something spiky and medieval, to critique groups. You'd be surprised at how often this improves the quality of your prose in the eyes of your victums...er, fellow group members.

 

When in doubt, beat them about the head with your manuscript (thick as a baby's arm).

- Thoth

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;)

 

For the record, I was not referring to specific phrases (I would agree, once is the limit on "as a baby's arm" and the like). I had in mind editing instructions along the lines of "Show, don't tell, except for the times when it's more efficient to tell."

 

Oh, thanks. All is now clear. :P

M

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  • 1 month later...

I actually liked Writing Fiction for Dummies. For the person who has been writing awhile, some parts seem obvious, but others not so much, and there are many recommended books (self-editing for fiction writers, plot & structure, the first five pages, and more) to continue reading. I identified several weaknesses in my writing by reading it.

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I actually liked Writing Fiction for Dummies. For the person who has been writing awhile, some parts seem obvious, but others not so much, and there are many recommended books (self-editing for fiction writers, plot & structure, the first five pages, and more) to continue reading. I identified several weaknesses in my writing by reading it.

I confess that I liked the idea of the Dummy books at first. The concept of simplifying complex topics to introductory levels is appealing. But there's a problem. Not all the authors are authorities on their topic. "Sex For Dummies" by Dr. Ruth Westheimer I gave as a gag gift but it turned out to be quite useful ('nuff said). "Stock Investing For Dummies" by Paul J. Mladjenovic was simply too elementary to be of any use to me. "How to Fix Everything For Dummies" by Gary Hedstrom and Judy Tremore covered 16 things, falling a wee bit short of "everything". It's a mixed bag.

 

"Writing Fiction For Dummies" by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy (if that is indeed his real name) seems like it could be a winner. Randy earned a Ph.D. in physics at U.C. Berkeley, which may make him a smart guy but does it qualify him to teach writing? He lays out his argument at this website. Peter Economy wrote "Managing for Dummies" and "Consulting for Dummies" but, as far as I can tell, no fiction (unless you count managing and consulting--yes, I have issues with these fields).

 

Bottom line? At this time there are 32 five-star reviews and one four-star review (the book lost a star only because the reviewer couldn't "stomach reading the word 'paradigm' 100 times"). So this one looks like a winner. One word of caution, most of the 5-star reviewers seem to be fans of Randy's blog, so there could be some bias here.

 

-Thoth

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I approached the book with caution (as I tend to with most of the ...For Dummies books), but a lot of the books the authors cite for further reading even showed up in this thread, so I felt pretty comfortable with the purchase (albeit after the fact lol).

There are two old sayings in the art world that have stuck with me. The first you obviously know, "Let the buyer beware." The second is, "If you think it's good then it's good." As for the authors referencing books recommended in this thread; all that proves is that they have good taste.

 

In any event, I think I may have gone overboard with the criticism. I was in a mood.

If you like it, then it's good. And thanks for posting about it. Your thoughts are appreciated. :)

- Thoth

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  • 6 months later...

My new favorite reference book: The Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, 2nd ed., currently selling for less than $25 at Amazon.com—and many other places, I'm sure. For all those times when a word dangles just beyond the edges of your brain or you realize you want something more evocative than "interesting" or "important." And because many of the contributors are practicing writers, the book devotes a fair amount of space to context and nuance (for example, the difference between fiction, figment, and fabrication).

 

Not quite as good, but useful if you have trouble remembering the difference between, say, affect and effect, is Dave Dowling, The Wrong Word Dictionary: a list of 2,000 commonly misused words. Although Amazon.com lists it as shipping in 1-3 months, if you go to the list of alternate suppliers, you can get it right away for $6 including shipping and handling, less than Amazon.com is charging. You know if you need it. :lol:

 

The best writing book I've read recently is Laurie Alberts, Showing and Telling, on the uses and benefits of scene and summary and how to blend them in your fiction. It's a nice corrective to the "show, don't tell" mantra, even as it supports the basic point behind the mantra.

 

And while we're on the subject of books, I am also reading The Social Animal, by David Brooks (really interesting discussion of psychology, cultural influences, and more) and Alison Sim's The Tudor Housewife—admittedly not for most people but invaluable for those of us with characters inhabiting the 16th century, and not only in Tudor England. It's beautifully written and blessedly short, suitable for perusal in the evenings after a day's work.

Best,

M

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Hello All-- Post #2.

 

I've been reading, and considering the Save The Cat! books by Blake Snyder. He sets out a beat sheet that is, he claims, universal to all movies except experimental ones. While the beat sheet seems simplistic, and not entirely comprised of original material --we've all heard of the "whiff of death/ dark night of the soul" beat --darned if he isn't on to something there. I like the details of not only what sort of material is in each beat, it's purpose and place in the story, is that the book also shows how you'd use the beats to create a story. Not just Field's get a bunch of index cards and... What I got out of the books was the sense of the kinds of scenes I'd need and when they most naturally occur in a story. Obviously one can play with the order a bit, or combine the beats. I write novels, not films and have found STC very useful in my current study of plot construction. In the second book Save The Cat Goes To The Movies, the author applies the "beats" to a very diverse range of films, showing how flexible the interpretation of his beat steps are. Very interesting. You could set up a Storyist STC template that you use to begin plotting a novel. I have actually done so, but haven't quite used it yet because...

 

John Truby's Anatomy of a Story (another screenwriting book.) I like his more sophisticated approach to story construction. While I don't think you'd use every construction tip (he says there are 22 as opposed to the STC 15) they are more nuanced. Making every character reflect the hero of the villan, for example. Taking the two systems together, Truby and STC and I think there is a lot of useful stuff there. I've yet to create a Storyist plotting template that incorporates/blends the two, but I'm sure I'll be doing so when I've digested it all.

 

The third book, quick, fun read for before you edit is also a screenwriting book: Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great by William m. Akers. A great read to discover why your story is flawed. We're not talking about characterization or showing and telling here, but things like #35: You Haven't used Rhyming Scenes to your advantage. This, of course, not about rhyming words, but inserting echoing events in scenes that show change and character growth. Very subtile and doable in a novel. Other reasons include: You haven't buried your exposition like Jimmy Hoffa, Your B story does not affect your A story, and faboulous reason #23 You've bungled Your Story Structure. Some of these tips have a one page or less explanation, others like #23 can go on for pages. All excellent stuff.

 

Write on,

 

Rocki

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Love Truby's Anatomy of Story—best book on story structure I ever read, period. Strongly seconded.

 

Thanks for the other recommendations. STC never really spoke to me, but I'm glad to know others find it helpful.

 

I'm also getting some good ideas from Jordan Rosenfeld, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time. Much of the advice shows up elsewhere, too, but because the book is focused both on novels and on individual scenes with novels, it works particularly well with Storyist. The sights/sounds/smells are already set up as fields in settings sheets; the scene intention and conflict are in scene sheets; and many of the other elements could be set up as fields and saved as a template if needed.

Best,

M

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  • 1 year later...

I've read many books on writing. Some I'd recommend:

Sol Stein's On Writing

Stephen King's book about writing is quite excellent

John Gardner's, without a doubt,

but my favorite, hands down, a truly remarkable book is:

"Cartas a un joven novelista" by Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. Mr. Vargas Llosa, quite generously shares his secrets in how he writes novels.

Truly wonderful.

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