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Author Topic: Your favourite Writing / Resource books  (Read 6582 times)

Offline Overlord

Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« on: August 23, 2013, 07:28:35 AM »
Really good article by Eric on the main site today: http://fantasy-faction.com/2013/18092

I'm wondering what books you guys, as writers, have read or use for your fantasy reading.

For myself, I have read both the ‘The Time Traveler’s Guide To Medieval England’ and ‘The Elements of Style’. I really, really enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Guide – I thought it was incredibly vivid, the description of the towns was amazing. I truly felt I’d learned a lot about the time I like to base my stories in after reading it. Elements of Style probably doesn’t need much more talking up than it already gets – it is pretty much ‘THE’ book to read regarding style. It’s short, to the point and will make your writing better.
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Offline Shadowhand

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2013, 08:23:11 AM »
Phil Athans frequently does posts with recommendations of books writers should read or reference. He had another great one earlier this week.

http://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/reading-writing-about-writing/
Language is Power

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2013, 09:32:43 AM »
I've read a gazillion how-to-write books, and I would recommend:

* Self-editing for Fiction Writers, by Rennie Brown and Dave King
* Word Painting, by Rebecca McClannahan (especially if you struggle with description)
* Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
* Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell (mostly because it doesn't preach The One True Way of Outlining - or not outlining)

I'd also (reluctantly, because of his recent political activities) put in a word for Orson Scott Card's "How to Write Fantasy & Science Fiction" - the chapter on exposition in particular.
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Overlord

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2013, 07:32:53 PM »
I've read a gazillion how-to-write books, and I would recommend:

* Self-editing for Fiction Writers, by Rennie Brown and Dave King
* Word Painting, by Rebecca McClannahan (especially if you struggle with description)
* Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
* Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell (mostly because it doesn't preach The One True Way of Outlining - or not outlining)

I'd also (reluctantly, because of his recent political activities) put in a word for Orson Scott Card's "How to Write Fantasy & Science Fiction" - the chapter on exposition in particular.

Does he vote UKIP? :P

I've read all of those books, Anne and can confirm that it's a pretty awesome list. I'd add 'The Guide to narrative craft' to it and say that it's pretty much the perfect 5 (now 6) to buy to get you started. I found OSC's more Sci-Fi-y than Fantasy, but did still enjoy it.
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline HAnthe

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2013, 07:43:46 PM »
As a library worker I have access to a lot of resource books I wouldn't normally purchase, but that have still been really helpful to my writing.  The worldbuilding side of it, anyway.

First among those is a visual dictionary, because a lot of times I have a picture in my head of something but I don't know how to describe it to a search engine so I can figure out what the heck it is.  Hats!  Architectural types!  Unusual musical instruments!  Sometimes tripping over an interesting picture and having its use described right there is incredibly inspiring.

Next are general books on costuming through the ages (391.009 in the nonfiction if anyone goes looking) -- really helpful for figuring out or cobbling together fantasy dress styles.

Not last but last-for-this-post, I really have to recommend children's cutaway books.  Adult-level books are great for information but often don't have much illustration, and there are a lot of children's nonfiction books with fantastic illustrations of the insides of castles, homes, warships, et cetera that can be really helpful for understanding the scale and shape of these bygone things.

Offline DjangoWexler

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2013, 01:17:20 AM »
Most books by writers about writing are a bit on the wanky side, but one that has been genuinely useful to is Stephen King's ON WRITING. 
The Thousand Names -- released July 2!
http://djangowexler.com/book-info/

Offline Tenfingers

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2013, 08:36:08 AM »
Some great suggestions here and well as On Writing, I'd also go for Sometimes The Magic Works by Terry Brooks, although it's more inspirational than technical.
Elements of Style is superb; short and to the point, without being preachy. Its mantra 'omit needless words' is incredibly useful  :)
"Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens."
- Ray Bradbury

www.mister-alister.blogspot.co.uk

Offline vgunn

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2013, 03:46:37 PM »
Not already mentioned:

The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing  by David Morrell

 How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

Mother Miller's How to Write Good Book by Sasha Miller

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Offline Bruce McKnight

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2014, 07:42:22 PM »
I'm a big fan of What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank by Krista D. Ball.

It's a small topic that I think can add a lot of texture to a fantasy story.

Offline fairbetty

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2014, 12:49:43 AM »
A big yes to Stephen King's ON WRITING and also to Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne...both of those books are full of highly useful information.

I'm also reading The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner right now, very interesting.
Freelance editor of fiction, fantasy and sci-fi.

Offline AshKB

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2014, 02:42:50 AM »
On Writing is great.

Reference books....uh....*eyes private library, currently triple-shelved in some places* Depends on what I'm researching/feel like reading. The two often blend together, and the latter can wind up influencing the former because what I've already read stays in my mind as I'm creating.

But in general, I'd say that Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life (a.k.a. What Does a Martian Look Like?) has been very useful in poking me to think outside the box as far as cultures and creatures and possibilities are concerned.

Stephanie Cootz's "Marriage, A History" is also excellent - it's a wide overview of different marriage customs and expectations over time and place, and so is really good for giving ideas on different cultures (both historical, and made up).

I try NOT to look into general books on Europe or England. Specific books on a certain topic or part of history? Yep. But in trying to get out of the Typical Fantasy Land, I find it useful to actually look at other places and aspects of history. I also tend to read a lot of essays and online resources, but not sure if that'd fit in with 'books'.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 02:51:54 AM by AshKB »
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2014, 03:06:16 AM »
My favorite writing/resource books are actual fiction novels. I can't stand stuff like On Writing, or the three writing books I got for Christmas years back but never opened. The technical descriptions just don't work for me. I'd rather learn by doing or watching (reading) than being told. See what works and what doesn't than go by a strict guideline, set of rules, or some such stuff.

As for references/research and all that jive, I'm more inclined to sporadic studies over a broad set of books, articles, what-have-you than single reference materials. But that's not to say that one source can't be excellent. (Truth be told, I don't do a lot of research when it comes to writing. Practically none, in fact. Or, at least, I don't do conscious research.)

I think it's weird because I'm a very "plotter" kind of writer.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 03:13:59 AM by C.Hill »
“It’s a dangerous thing, pretense. A man ought to know who he is, even if he isn’t proud to be it.” - Tomorrow the Killing, Daniel Polansky

Offline Richard Bendall

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2014, 10:15:17 AM »
Sorry to upset the apple cart, but a big meh bordering on a no for King's 'On Writing' here. I felt it was too much his life story and not enough on the writing tips.

The best book that I've found for making my writing better and stronger has actually been Sol Stein's 'Stein on Writing'. Filled with detailed points to improve your writing and accompanied with good explanations on how to fix it and why you should. It's the number one book I'd recommend for ALL writers of any genre. It has nothing about plot, story or structure. It's centered on use of language, strengthening sentences, avoiding cliche phrases and making your writing read better in many ways. I've seen some of the points in it (definitely not all) covered in other books, but this one is a definite one-stop book for improving your writing before sending it to an editor or agent.
"That which is imagined can never be lost." - Clive Barker

Offline Phil the Drill

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2014, 10:16:54 AM »
I've recently backed off on getting writing books, but some I've enjoyed over the years are:

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
Writing Fiction for Dummies by Peter Economy and Randy Ingermanson (the latter of which is known for his Snowflake Method blog which I really like)
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
Any of Chuck Wendig's books for their humor and bluntness

I like a lot of the others that people have already mentioned as well (Bradbury and King specifically) but these were some that stood out to me for one reason or another.
“I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, & am content.” Robert E. Howard

Offline DMHamilton

Re: Your favourite Writing / Resource books
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2014, 11:02:35 AM »
I've just read 'Wonderbook' by Jeff Vandermeer, and thought there were a lot of gems in there. It's certainly not the traditional approach to writing craft books though!

Others that I think are worth looking at (in no particular order):
-Stein on Writing - Sol Stein
-The Writer's Journey - Vogler (Or 'The Hero With a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell, if you want to get back to the source of this concept)
-The Techniques of Selling Writers - Swain
-Self Editing for Fiction Writers - Browne & King

For nuts and bolts, these two books are always within arm's reach:
-Elements of Style - Strunk & White
-Oxford Style Manual (I expect US writers will prefer the Chicago Manual, I haven't used it though)

There's also a lot to be said for reading across the genres with an analytical eye.

I actually just ordered 'The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England' a couple of days ago, so its nice to see a recommendation for it here.