Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gold-plated How-to Resources

If you are a struggling author, you know how the Internet bombards you with how-to this and how-to that. There's so much advice you don't know which was to turn. Some sources are cliche and others are loud and noisy, in love with their own voices. Over the years, I've gathered a handful of solid, practical resources I'd like to recommend. No gimmicks and no friends. These have proven useful to me in my efforts to write and publish. Hopefully my two cents will be worth two cents to you, and if not, you haven't lost much in the looking. I, however, swear by them.

On Writing, by Stephen King - Everybody puts this book on their list, so while it seems a cliche in that regard, for motivation's sake, this book needs to be on your shelf - and revisited annually. King makes solid points about realities of the craft as well as how to get your head on straight. He doesn't ramble. I hate rambling. Somehow I think a meeting with him would involve short, pointed responses, a competition in who could make the tightest point. My kind of guy.

How to Write a Great Query Letter, by Noah Lukeman - I printed this off the year he made it free, thinking this was a gold nugget that someone would decide later needed to be back for sale.  It's still free for downloading. He still touts what I do: one page limit, three paragraphs, make it about the agent instead of the author. Learn what goes into each paragraph of the query letter and how to refine a plot synopsis. It's the classic gospel of how to write a query letter. Nothing beats it.

Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis, by Lisa Gardner - As a mystery/suspense author, I adore Lisa Gardner's work and have read many of her books. Strong women, stronger men, all vulnerable, all savvy and sharp as tacks. Ms. Gardner's website is chocked FULL of advice for writers.If you ask any author, published or unpublished, what is his most dreaded part of getting published, he'll say writing the synopsis. It's nothing like your book, yet it has to be the substitute for your book. Gardner tries to simplify while emphasizing how strong you need to make this all-so-important part of your writing effort. Again, free.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King - Both authors are serious professional editors. Twelve basic chapters every fiction writer should know by heart. Show and Tell, Point of View, Dialogue Mechanics, Voice. I've periodically critiqued others' work only for them to email me back and ask, "What did you mean by IM or beat?" Here you learn, and it sticks with you. Read it, dog-ear it, highlight it. I promise, you'll use it repeatedly until you have it memorized.

Guide to Literary Agents, edited by Chuck Sambuchino - Yes, it's annual, but it's oh so handy to have if you're seriously seeking an agent. The guidance on how to land an agent is invaluable as much or more so than the detailed, well-researched list of agents.

Solid, remarkable resources. Mine are worn out. I'd never loan them out. As a serious writer, you need a resource library. I have an entire row of how-to books on my bookshelf, but these you'll find on my desk. Hopefully, they'll serve you as well as they've served me.


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this list! I must say, On Writing is sitting on the shelf right next to me.

Cari Galeziewski said...

On Writing is indeed fantastic. Don't forget about Noah Lukeman's other wonderful contributions; The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens. said...

I learn so much from your blogs and follow you by e-mail. I'll be picking up the books you have suggested. Thank you for mentoring a new writer.