Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

It may seem surprising that I still read how-to books despite selling over 70 romance novels and nonfiction titles. Yet the joy of the writing craft is never knowing it all.  These days I aim to discover one new nugget of information from a book. If I get that I consider the investment of time and money well spent. So here are the gems I’ve read this year, not all newly minted, but all with something valuable to say.

1. Doctor Who The Writer’s Tale

Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook (BBC Books 2008)

A 500-page monster I devoured with great glee. The writer of some of Doctor Who’s most memorable episodes, and creator of Torchwood openly shares his doubts, fears, writing methods and “how it really is” to be a writer. Love love love this.

2. Story

Robert McKee (HarperCollins 1997)

McKee’s beautiful prose turns me green with envy. This is not only a breathtaking look at the art of story from an acknowledged master, but pure reading pleasure. My copy is littered with post-it notes and I’ve tweeted more from this book on #quotes4writers than any other book I own.

3. Emotional Structure

Creating the story beneath the plot, a guide for screenwriters

Peter Dunne (Quill Driver Books 2007)

As valuable for novelists as screenwriters,  this books fills the gap between plot and story and makes their differences clear. Shows how to create scenes with heart and soul, so your viewers (or readers) will feel the passion. A very different approach.

4. Writing Screenplays That Sell

New 20th Anniversary Edition

Michael Hauge (Collins Reference 2011)

Any book that gets to a 20th edition is doing something right. Again the content speaks as much to novelists as screenwriters, covering everything from goal setting to brainstorming, editing and writer’s block all the way to the dreaded pitch, though Hauge addresses pitching more fully in Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds.

5. We Are Not Alone

The Writer’s Guide to Social Media

Kristen Lamb ( 2010)

A groundbreaking book on using social media to build a solid platform that connects you with readers. And you don’t have to know about computers or sales to benefit. Without Kristen, I might still be thinking about blogging.

6. Beyond Heaving Bosoms

The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels

Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan (Fireside, 2009)

The creators of the legendary blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, spotlight the good, the bad and the ugly in romance novels. Jennifer Crusie’s cover quote says “I love the Smart Bitches. They look at romance with clear but loving eyes, and they do it with wit, style, intelligence and snark.” As much a guide to what not to do, as a how-to.

And because I can…Heart and Craft

Best-selling romance writers share their secrets with you

Valerie Parv Editor (Allen & Unwin, 2009)

Indulge me for a moment. Imagine how many billions of books (not a misprint) a team including Helen Bianchin, Robyn Donald, Elizabeth Rolls, Meredith Webber, Jennie Adams, Daphne Clair, Kelly Ethan and Alexis Fleming have sold around the world. This book explains how we got there, with insider advice on everything from craft to editing and marketing. This was a “book of the heart” for me to edit and why it’s on this list – so you don’t miss the gems these much-loved authors share so generously.

There it is. Are there books I’ve missed that spoke to you? Share your comments here.


On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook


Comments on: "My 7 favourite writing books for 2011" (3)

  1. Hi Valerie,

    A great list, I will check these out. Another find this year was Ann Patchett’s e-book (available on Amazon) called ‘The Getaway Car – A Memoir About Writing and Life’. It’s very short and very good.


  2. My inspiration when I need to dig deeper is Julia Cameron.’s ‘the Artist’s Way’. An oldie but a keeper. I even have the journal and open at random and do an exercise. It helps me remeber why I write. I have to. It is when I am forcing somwething and the story isn’t flowing that I tend to get stuck. My usual problem is not that I draw a blank, but rather that I have too many things I want to fit in one story. Julia helps me get back on track and focus.
    I love used booksstores and often find little gems there that are from the old writing days. Some advice is no longer aplicable as it is, but it triggers a new direction. I too like screen writer’s books as they make my scenes more sensate. To really have the reader get involved we have to engage all their senses and draw them away from an observer’s role into a participating role.

    Guess I should have done my own blog this morning LOL.

    Thanks for the tips, I am looking into them.
    kathi Robb Harris

    • Thanks Yvette and Kathi. I’ll look for the Ann Patchett book. And I’m glad you came here instead of blogging, Kathi. Your experiences will resonate with many writers. I have Julia Cameron’s book and saw her at an RWA conference. Though I’ve moved on somewhat from her ideas, she inspires huge numbers of writers. Each book serves us in a different way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: