I will read anything, but I love nonfiction (which might be why I am primarily a nonfiction writer), but I do have a list of favorite fiction authors whose books I never miss. Somewhere in the last two years I decided that I wanted to write the fiction that I loved to read. I got tired of waiting years between books and was craving more stories. Maybe it was being locked away working at home for a couple of years, or maybe it was just time, but I decided to try my hand at fiction.
I try to learn as much about something that I can before I start it; I’m the one at the library with 30 books on rock painting. So, I started looking for instructions on how to write a novel, and I spent time reading everything I could get my hands on. From freebies on Kindle to manuals on how to write, I was trying to find my place in the fictional world.
It turns out that there are bad instructions, and there are great instructions, but there are a lot of mediocre instructions in between. I do agree that the best way to write a novel is to read as many of them as you can, and never stop reading. At some point, you have to put pen to paper.
Here is a list of my favorite books on novel writing that I used to help me write my two novels:
Outlining Your Novel – Map Your Way to Success – K.M. Weiland
Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland was not my first choice when looking for advice, but only because I didn’t know what I was even looking for. Once I read this book, I knew what I needed, so I bought all of her books in Kindle format.
Then I realized that I needed all of her books in print, so I bought those, too. Her whole series of Helping Writers Become Authors is a cornerstone of my reference library. While I do not write Sci-Fi or Fantasy, her tips on world building and story outlining kept me from spinning out of control while putting my book together.
The word OUTLINE tends to make people squirm, but your outline doesn’t need to be complicated. The first Act / Chapter can be something as simple as ‘the main character went shopping and found out she had a long-lost sister’.
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing – Writer’s Digest
The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing is a compilation of notes, hints, helpful ideas and tips from many of the top authors of today, as well as from editors and agents. It helped me to get an idea of the process of writing, as well as the importance of making your first draft a unholy mess!
It helped me see writing from a different perspective by seeing the parts of a story and how the parts all work together in the end. I found it so much easier to sit down and craft a chapter with the knowledge that it was just a part in the overall plan. There’s a lot less pressure that way. It’s from Writer’s Digest, and I have been reading their magazine and using their annual marketing list since the 1970s.
I have this in softback, so I can reference it easily.
The Writers Helping Writers Series of Books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Or you can buy all 8 of the books in this series here: https://amzn.to/3bXxfDgThe Writers Helping Writers Series is an amazing tool, and I have all of them in Kindle format. They are not expensive, and they will add so much more depth and reality to your characters.
Learn how the body language helps to portray an emotion, how to create conflict, or how to write rural or urban settings. The possibilities are endless, and each book will help you craft a character that we want to care about or hate with a thousand rays of sun.
On Writing by Stephen King
On Writing by Stephen King is on everyone’s list of books that actually help a budding novelist get started. This book offers a blueprint for the way that stories develop, and in Stephen King’s mind, there is nothing normal about that blueprint.
Since I had spent months reading about structure, outlines, building blocks and more, this book was a cold blast of water that made me want to write even more. I do not write by the seat of my pants, but I do write by the seat of my pants. This book gave me permission to just throw it all up in the air and go with it. What I also learned was that approach didn’t totally work for me!
I wrote my first novel with a loosely structured outline and seat of the pants writing. (For some reason, I hate the term ‘pantser’, so I refuse to use it.) When the first draft was done, I realized that maybe I should have had a bit more structure, so I sat on it.
Then I wrote the second book in the series with more structure and less seat of pants, and it went along smoothly. Now, I am tearing apart my first book to completely rewrite it with less pants and more structure. So, it is up to you as to which method defines you, but this book reminds you that not everything needs to be so uptight!
I also discovered that I am better at editing as I go along rather than letting it simmer like a really stinky stew!
I hope that my writer’s tool recommendations help you get from aspiring to slogging through your first draft. I know that all of these and more helped me get past the stage of wanting to write fiction to actually writing fiction. Now, if only someone would come along and unscramble my first draft, that would be awesome!