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Posts tagged ‘Benjamin Cook’

My 7 favourite writing books for 2011

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.


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Why do writers love quotations so much?

Is it because

  1.  We admire others who have a way  with words
  2.  Quoting another writer is easier than writing our own words
  3.  “Impudent criticism. No answer.” ~ Evelyn Waugh.

Reading Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale, “the untold story of the BBC series” by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook made me think about how often we writers quote other people, simply because I found it so irresistibly quotable. This 512 page behemoth of a book came out in 2008 – how did I miss it for so long? The format of  a year’s worth of actual emails from  RTD, head writer and executive producer of Dr Who and creator of Torchwood keeps the content very much “in the moment” showing how a writer actually works. I loved RTD’s description of the head-desk times when ideas don’t come and deadlines loom.  I‘ll start writing at 10am. Nothing. Okay, noon then. Still nothing. 4pm. Nada. I’ll start  right after dinner and work till late. Every writer knows these times but rarely speaks their name. Discovering that such a brilliant writer experiences  the same torments as the rest of us made me feel infinitely better. What’s that about a trouble shared is a trouble halved? Another quotation, although not always true in times when troubles shared can end up viral on YouTube.

My only problem with The Writer’s Tale is that it’s printed in mice-sized font. I had to keep resting my eyes by looking at the many pictures of David Tennant as Dr. Who. My story and I’m sticking to it.  Despite the tiny type and sheer weight of the volume, I perseverted for the delicious glimpses inside a writer’s head, my most and least-favorite place to be. There are so many great quotes that I started tweeting them and I’m only halfway through the book. Examples:

“No one [character] is fixed. They are all capable of change – not just once in some plot-reveal, but all the time.” p.201

“Dialogue is just two monologues clashing.” p.207

“If a fault is fundamental, if it’s in the concept, you can never fix it up.” p211

“I’ll have to panic tomorrow.” p197

Follow me on Twitter @valerieparv to read more.

Gratuitous picture of David Tennant

Last time, I posted about how much I enjoy how-to books on writing for the sheer joy of discovering some new glimmer of wisdom to add to my store. This books adds a whole galaxy of insights, not only into the writing process but how it is to be a working writer.  To end on a RTD quote, “All the joy and fear and fun and despair is in the writing, not in the flow charts.”








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