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Best books that act as writing coach for fiction?
February 22, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

What are the best books, articles, or websites that act as a kind of "writing coach" for fiction, which walk you through, like an encouraging but demanding mentor, the psychological, technical, and purely logistical issues of writing and then publishing short stories or novels?
posted by shivohum to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stephen King's memoir, On Writing is a decent read with an emphasis on two things: story, and writing as a damn job that you have to show up to, every day.

I also took some useful pieces from The Snowflake Method, although I haven't bought anything from there.
posted by gauche at 7:58 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Don't want much, do ya? :)

But I think you're going to have to mix and match and do a LOT of experimentation to see what works for you. The inexpensive way is to have a library card. Look at their writing section, flip through, see if the way the author is interacting with you speaks to you.

Some are gentle aunts, some are crazy uncles and some are angry drill sergeants.

You probably want to start with books that encompass the entire process of novel writing, from start to finish - books with titles such as "First Draft in 30 Days", "The 90 Day Novel", and so on.
These will let you see the forest - what you're up against.

After that, drill down to specifics - plotting, dialogue, scene and sequel, goal, motivation and conflict that will allow you to see each individual tree and work on it.
posted by THAT William Mize at 8:04 AM on February 22, 2012


For nuts and bolts, step-by-step character stuff, with all kinds of helpful troubleshooting for why scenes might not work, I thought a really good book was The Dramatic Writer's Companion, by Will Dunne.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't a book and it's more topical than your request, but if you're writing sci-fi/fantasy genre fiction, Writing Excuses is a great podcast.
posted by Hawk V at 8:35 AM on February 22, 2012


Queryshark is a great how-to (or how-not-to) on querying agents for fiction.

I'm a big fan of On Writing, although I think it's worth more as memoir than instruction.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:10 AM on February 22, 2012


This David Mamet memo is the handiest short piece of coaching I have ever read, and also might be right up your alley.
posted by steinsaltz at 9:42 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


My first writing instructor used Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction as a textbook.
posted by brujita at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2012


An excellent book that is not precisely a "writing manual" but I did find immensely helpful is How Fiction Works by James Wood.
posted by the foreground at 10:42 AM on February 22, 2012


Take a look at "Bird by Bird" by Anne LaMott.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2012


I enjoyed Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. He has a blog also at storyfix.com.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2012


"25 Things I Want To Say To So Called Aspiring Writers".
posted by THAT William Mize at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2012


40 Things about Writing
How to Write a Novel and How to Write a Great Novel
Learn Writing with Uncle Jim is a million miles long, but includes lots of great stuff at all sorts of levels
The old SFWA Articles on Writing included a lot of great stuff.

Story by Robert McKee (drags a little at first)
Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight.
Writing for Comics by Alan Moore (most is applicable outside of comics)
Impro by Keith Johnstone (OK, it's nominally about improv, but really it's about creativity)
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (nominally about comics, but really about communication)

I enjoyed Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

I kept wanting to throw this against the wall ("Top Gun" as an exemplar of character? really?), but it does have a really good analysis of story structure.

Take a look at "Bird by Bird" by Anne LaMott.

Seconded.

There, that ought to be more than enough to keep you safely occupied doing things other than writing for a while...
posted by Zed at 1:36 PM on February 22, 2012


Thanks so much for the answers so far!

There, that ought to be more than enough to keep you safely occupied doing things other than writing for a while...

Ha! Exactly.
posted by shivohum at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2012


The ones I've liked are Bird by Bird, though I can't stand Lamott's sense of humor, King's On Writing and Ariel Gore's How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead. The latter two are big-time heavy on developing discipline.
posted by Brittanie at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2012


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