Monday, February 9, 2009

Resources for Writing and Stuff

Besides thick, leathery skin, fierce determination and maybe a multiple personality disorder, here’s the basic stuff you need in your writer’s arsenal to make sure your book is so well written, it jumps off the shelf:

A dictionary. Sometimes you’ll use a word and…well…people will laugh, because it totally didn’t mean what you THOUGHT it did. Not that I’m talking from personal experience, nope, not me.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th edition. 1995. Oxford Press. ISBN: 0198613199

A decent rhyming dictionary. The one I have on my coffee table is a bit old, 1992 – but still kicks butt. A rhyming dictionary is a must have for songwriters. Great for creative spell casting, ancient curses and prophecies, too.

The Complete Rhyming Dictionary Revised. Edited by Clement Wood. Random House. 1991. ISBN: 0440212057

A book of clichés. There’s nothing more witting than starting with a cliché and twisting it in unexpected ways. Listen to popular tunage – most songs are built around a familiar hook, a cliché – just make sure you give it some of YOUR attitude and creativity and you’ll have people listening to your awesome lyrics, as well as your trance inducing melodies.

Cassell’s Dictionary of English Idioms. By Rosalind Fergusson. Cassell Reference. 2003. ISBN: 0304363847

A thesaurus. Actually, you’ll need several. And the lame one in Word doesn’t count. I have a few modern ones for current lingo, but I also scour library discard shelves for older editions with fantastic, rich words hidden inside their yellowing book covers. Each thesaurus will have different levels and depths.

The Synonym Finder. By J.I. Rodale. Rodale Press. 1978 (told ya I had an older one). ISBN: 0878572368.

Resources for Writing Techniques

You can borrow these from the library or purchase them to read again and again…oh, and again.

Books for Writers:

Hooked: Write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go. By Les Edgerton. Writer’s Digest Books. 2007. ISBN:9781582974576

Plot. (Elements of Fiction Writing Series). By Ansen Dibell. Writer’s Digest Books. 1999. ISBN: 9780898799460

Beginnings, middles, & ends. (Elements of Fiction Writing Series). By Nancy Kress. 1999. ISBN: 9780898799057

You Can Write A Novel Kit. Sounds lame, but is SUPER fantastic for the newbie author. By James V. Smith, Jr. Writer’s Digest Books. 2008. I never realized how many of their titles I have until I started this list – but they are all amazing. ISBN: 9781582975269

Self-editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print. OMG – every writer must know how to EDIT! And learn some grammar! By Renni Browne & Dave King, 2nd edition. HarperResource. 2007. ISBN: 0060545690

Writing Dialogue: How to create memorable voices and fictional conversations that crackle with wit, tension and nuance. By Tom Chiarella. Story Press. 1998. ISBN: 9781884910326

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints. (Write Great Fiction Series). By Nancy Kress. Writer’s Digest Books. 2005. ISBN: 9781582973166

Spunk & Bite: A writer’s guide to bold, contemporary style. Like butta, this book is. Writing just isn’t tasty without it. By Arthur Plotnik. Random House. 2007. ISBN: 9780375722271

Writer Magazines

Writer’s Digest
West World: Magazine of the Writers Guild of Alberta
The Writer
Quill & Quire: Canada’s Magazine of Book News and Reviews
Writers’ Journal: The Complete Writer’s Magazine
Storytellers’ Journal: Real-Life Stories from Your Favorite Fiction Authors

My Personal Favourite Writing Resource:

Nothing shows you how to write witty dialogue charged full of characterization, purpose and punch better than reading the script of your favourite movie or TV show episode. You can also learn a ton about plot structure, character development, subtlety, larger than life moments and how to NOT KILL THE TENSION.

Film scripts I revisit often: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Smart People.

TV scripts: The Office, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother

Newmarket Press publishes scripts under The Shooting Script series. You can order them through your local indie bookstore - and the service is awesome! Or online at Amazon/Chapters/whatever.

You can also read scripts for free online in PDF format at: The Twilight script is up if you’re interested.

Just For Teens.

I found these resources after a quick Chapters search. Haven’t read them, but they look great. There are also a ton of resources online. You just have to look.

Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write. By Victoria Hanley. Cottonwood Press. 2008. ISBN: 1877673811

Whats Your Story?: A Young Persons Guide to Writing Fiction. By Marion Dane Bauer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1992. ISBN: 0395577802

Critique Groups:

There are lots of different ones online. Here’s my fav: - Critique Circle is probably one of the best spots to connect with other writers and develop a core group of critters. You can join for free – I wouldn’t pay for the advanced membership stuff. You don’t really need them. There’s even a teen writer section for teens to crit for teens.

Want more face-to-face feedback? Form a critique group at your local library where you meet once a month and chat about your writing, do readings or swap stories for quick crits. Or start one with your friends – it’s easy to set up a group in Yahoo – you can control membership, post files and set up a critique schedule (say on Monday post new story/chapter and everyone has to crit / be critted by the next week).

After Your First Draft is Finished:

Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider advice for taking your fiction to the next level. By Donald Maass. A big shot literary agent – aka – listen to this guy. Writer’s Digest Books. 2001. ISBN: 9781582971827

Bird By Bird: Some instructions on writing and life. By Anne Lamott. Random House. 1994. ISBN: 9780385480017

Agents / Publishers

There are so many publishers and literary agencies out there that it is impossible for me to list them all for you. But these sites will help you narrow your search to the best agent to represent YOUR writing and the publisher who’s going to give it a home. – once your book is critiqued, revised, hacked and slashed, and polished to perfection, this is where you go to find someone to sell it for you. - and here’s where you go to make sure your agent or publisher isn’t a fraud and gonna steal all your money.

Okay, that should get you started.
Now - go forth and WRITE!

NOTE: I totally didn’t follow the correct way to cite sources in this document, and I probably made a ton of grammatical errors. Oops. My bad.


Tami Klockau said...

Great post, Tracy! I have to pick up a few of those. Writing a few down right now. I love my copy of Bird by Bird.

Thanks for sharing. :)

HeatherMarie said...

Thanks for the great post! :) I've been looking for a list like this. There are a couple of books I'm planning to order from specific to YA writing. They look pretty good. One is the Complete Idiots Guide, the other is fairly new, but I can't remember the exact title as yet. Hey speaking of YA is there some kind of Teen Speak dictionary so you can make sure your characters sound like actual teens?

Tracy Belsher said...

HeatherMarie - a Teen Speak dictionary - wow, I think you just titled your next book! You could do a survey of teens in various regions and create a slang dictionary site for hapless writers (or parents in need of a translator).

Unfortunately, I think by the time you create a print dictionary - a lot of the terms would be "uncool".

Put it online and charge a subscription could have a team of teens who contribute and constantly update the info. :)

I jotted down pages of notes when I accompanied my high school basketball coach/teacher husband and his team on a tournament a few weeks ago. I felt like Jane Goodall and her chimps. ;)

But here's a few I found online:

HeatherMarie said...

Thanks Tracy! I only graduated from HS about 7 years ago, but even in HS I didn't always talk like my classmates. I actually cared about grammar. lol