I own a bunch of books that promise to impart wisdom on writing. They tell me to get a notebook, dive in, discover myself and have faith. They advise me to write concise scenes, deep characters and great dialogue.
Often, though, they fail to tell me how. Sound familiar?
One common failing of these books is that they concentrate on writing, not on story. The distinction is vital for those who want to publish.
Books on writing explain the qualities that our writing should have; sometimes they describe the elements of writing that one must master, such as pacing and plot. But without the context of story we’re lost in the funhouse. We don’t know what we’re about. We try to fix things piecemeal instead of holistically.
We’re missing depth, structure and context. The key to all this is story.
The Straight Scoop on Story
This is why I’m so pleased to see some of the newer books on writing focusing on story. You can still deepen in the major elements of fiction, but it’s so much more helpful to do that in context of a story that’s going somewhere. A story that’s about something.
Without further ado, here are my latest recommendations for books that will help you write a better story. (And, let us not forget, just in time for Christmas!)
In the Golden Theme, let that superb teacher, Brian McDonald, show you how to approach and tell a story with purpose and passion. I love the subtitle: How to make your writing appeal to the highest common denominator.
Get deep with your rewrite. In The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel, let Robert J. Ray show you how to get at the structural connective tissue that will flesh out a mediocre novel and turn it into something fine.
The classic book on structure from Larry Brooks. He taught this approach at the 2010 Write on the River conference and wowed the attendees. Me too!
And watch for his forthcoming book: Story Engineering. February 2011.