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.
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 (whodareswinspublishing.com 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