Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When I Pay for Advice...

...it means I have some serious respect for the author(s)/editor(s).

Which brings me to this guy. Have I read anything by Mr. Parnell? Um, hell-no (except for his b.s. laden website). Bestselling? Right.

The word "easy" doesn't belong to any book about writing (or becoming rich, for that matter). Nothing about writing is "easy", except maybe taking money from poor schmucks who want like anything to be published--those who want it so bad, they'll make the mistake of coughing up dough to a charlatan.

Makes me sick.

So here are my suggestions for free resources and a few proven "how to write" books. If you've been around my blog, you'll have seen most of these before. (Remember, I'm just some schmo with a few short fiction sales and plenty of rejection slips, but I'm honest):

1. Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight

Can't afford Clarion? (I know I can't.) Knight was a co-founder and the book is one of the few out there about crafting short fiction. I've mentioned this book before and return to it frequently.

2. J.A. Konrath has a great blog titled A Newbie's Guide to Publishing filled with fantastic advice and insights, including a wealth of marketing tips.

3. Alexandra Sokoloff shares piles of plotting, character, editing, etc. ideas and insight at her blog. Granted, the subtitle is "screenwriting tricks for writers", but the content could really help anyone in any fictional endeavor.

4. On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the HWA edited by Mort Castle

This book is more of a compilation of essays, and as such, is a little hit and miss. But with names like Joyce Carol Oates, Ramsey Campbell, Michael A. Arnzen, Jack Ketchum, Tom Piccirilli, and a host of others writing the essays, there are plenty of helpful gems.

5. Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School (Gotham Writers' Workshop)

Once upon a time, I had more "literary" ambitions. This book is dense and helpful, especially if you have the want to write but none of the how.

6. Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style by Arthur Plotnik

I'll admit, everyone needs a good style guide. Be bold. Throttle your writing until it suffocates and rises as something interesting. I don't utilize this book enough.

7. The internet (yep, the whole thing). Not too much though. Let it be your friend, but not your only friend. And know when to shut down and write.

I've bought books that didn't deliver. In the interest of keeping this positive, I'll save that list for a later date.

I'm sure I've missed tons of great resources, but I use these most. What else is out there? How can we help newbies avoid the snares of "Easy" guides that promise $$$?

Well-paid authors work hard. So do most of us just starting out.


K.C. Shaw said...

Excellent resources. I also like to browse the writing section of the library. Some of my favorite writing books are The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (who's a literary agent) and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. Both are practical, entertaining, and very useful for writers of any level.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I have to defer to the book that got me back into writing after a seven year hiatus. On Writing by Mr. King. Not so much a how to as an inspirational, but it worked for me.

Barry Napier said...

I can't remember the name of it, but there was a book I read in college by a guy named Zinsser. It was AMAZING. (Now it's off to Amazon to see if I can find a copy...)

Sophie Playle said...

Good list. I'm currently reading 'First Draft in 30 Days'. Haven't got far into it yet.

I really liked 'Writing Down the Bones'... I forget the author...

brady said...

Not sure why I find it so depressing how big the "Taking Money From Would-Be Writers" industry is, but it really bums me out.

That said, there are definitely some books out there that have really excited me, including several you've mentioned. A few others that I liked: Burning Down the House and Bringing the Devil to His Knees. One's written by Charles Baxter and the other's edited by him. I can't remember which is which. Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway, is also intermittently awesome.

Aaron Polson said...

K.C. - OSC is always insightful.

Jamie - I need to find a copy...everybody raves.

Barry - Let me know if you find it.

Sophie - 30 days. If only such a thing could happen.

Brady - Yeah. Shite-slingers bum me out, too. It's hard enough doing this without used car salesmen littering the landscape.

Cate Gardner said...

Nice list. Feeling an urge to read On Writing again.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Agreed, great list. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. That's a few times I've heard that King's "On Writing" is worth getting. Maybe I'll have to do some getting...

Brendan P. Myers said...

Great list, though I'm surprised not to see "On Writing" by Stephen King in there. One of my most heartening moments early on was to see in that book a draft version of "The Plant" and then his marked up and edited version.

Fascinating to see just how . . . pedestrian the damn thing was before he went back at it with his red pen.

And that he literally threw away "Carrie" (before his wife salvaged it from the trash can) keeps some of my own poorer efforts outside the receptacle . . . for now . . . just in case.

Aaron Polson said...

Alan - I'm going to check the library at least.

Brendan - I've not read On Writing, but the high marks it has received today...well, I'll rectify that little oversight.

Fox Lee said...

How does one become a writing "guru?" Do they go to the same schools as fitness gurus? ; )

Aaron Polson said...

I don't know, Natalie, but I've met plenty of education "gurus" who didn't know jack-squat.

Danielle Birch said...

Great list. I'm a fan of On Writing by Stephen King as well, its made a lot of things clearer. I have a friend currently doing First Draft in 30 Days and she's really enjoying it.

BT said...

I have it from an inside source exactly how Mr Parnell has come by his guru status - by sitting around with friends, a bottle of wine, and brainstorming ways to rip off unwary newbies.

Yep, I know someone who knows him personally. He is quite involved in the Australian genre scene and has some friends who are very good writers and editors. There is either two (or more) Parnells, or he is a man of many faces, one of which is ripping of noobs. (How others in the genre scene don't know or don't care about what he does is beyond me)

I have pulled out of one venture wholly because he was involved.

Best advice for noobs to save $$$ - money flows to the writer. Everything these guru's say they can deliver, can be found for free on the net. When just starting out, noobs need to just write and not spend a dime on any books. Research the industry and the markets. Get online and meet other writers. All of this is free and you'll learn so much more than you ever will from the Parnell's of the world - sorry, getting carried away...

As for books - an excellent list, Aaron.

I can second just about everyone you've mentioned. Must get 'Creating Short Fiction' - sounds very good.

I can also second SK's On Writing. It is very insightful and inspirational, not to mention somewhat educational. Like most of his books, underneath, it's just a good read.

Now, Spunk & Bite makes it onto your good list, so does that mean Shrunk & White will be on the bad one?

Aaron Polson said...

Danielle - 30 Days sounds like an amazingly short amount of time on a novel draft. That book, if it can deliver, would be worth it.

BT - Strunk and White (Elements of Style) is fine, but restrictive. The thesis behind Spunk & Bite is to challenge your prose, make language fresh and new. Sounds good.

Benjamin Solah said...

I've read parts of 'On Writing Horror' and I think I'd recommend it.

Another cool resource is this writing forum, Absolute Write - www.absolutewrite.com/forums - where there's an awesome community of writers including a faction of horror writers. Problem is learning to use it less and write more.

Katey said...

I need to find this Spunk and Bite-- it sounds like great fun. (Seems like something I'll find handy once I learn how to properly use Strunk and White...) Awesome list, very useful, I think I'll bookmark it for people when they ask.

I'm going to add my voice to the many calling for On Writing. It gave me more moments of clarity about this insane pursuit of ours than everything else I've ever read or seen put together, I think.

Jodi Lee (Morrighan) said...

I've learned more following you folks around, than I ever did reading any of the how-tos, or from classes.

THIS is real. Sharing ups and downs and links and commentary - this is how to do it.

Aaron Polson said...

Right on, Jodi. I couldn't agree more.