Goodreads Giveaway Winners!

Hello Friends!

Shonna and Stephanie and I are looking into ways we can continue to be of service to you. We’ll be putting up occasional posts about things that may be helpful, so please continue to check in at Routines for Writers. Soon I’ll be announcing a new class that I’ll be teaching in the fall. It will be a video-based class on how to self-publish your book. Details will be posted on the Classes page on my own web site.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to announce the winners of the Goodreads Giveaway that ran from mid-June to mid-July. All ten winners received an autographed print copy of Unexpected Superhero. (Books should have already arrived at your homes by now, my friends!)

Thank you to the other 662 people who entered the giveaway! I’m so pleased that you were interested in reading the book. Thank you for adding Unexpected Superhero to your To Be Read queue.

Super_ip09_FINALCongratulations to –
Jessica from Brampton, Ontario
Trannae from San Dimas, California
Wendy from Abilene, Kansas
Emily from Yuba City, California
Winnie from Vancouver, British Columbia
Krystel from Sudbury, Ontario
Robyn from Stratford, Ontario
Kai from Los Angeles, California
Marie from Pomona, California
Julie from King George, Virginia

Happy Reading! 😀

Treasure Found in the Old Stack

          There are a lot of new books on creating characters. I haven’t read them. I might in the future, but for now, I’m relying on my old, but treasured books to help me. They are full of a lot of good stuff. Here’s a few of the better ones I found on my bookshelves.

Creating Character Emotions” by Ann Hood.
          There’s a short general section on how to write emotion and thirty-six chapters detailing specific emotions. Each chapter lists and discusses some good examples of how to create that emotion and some bad examples. There are also exercises suggested for practice creating that emotion.

Dynamic Characters” by Nancy Kress.
          This 25-chapter book has three roughly equal sections. These sections discuss and give examples for using the external, the internal and plot to create characters. Each chapter also has a bullet list summary of the concepts and suggestions in that chapter.

Building Believable Characters” by Marc McCutcheon
          This in another book that has a short section on how to create characters before multiple lists and examples for building those characters. There is an extensive character questionnaire, a character thesaurus that lists alternate words for body features, personality traits, facial expressions and more.

          These are mine. What are some of your favorite books on building characters?

Creativity Books

          A little over a year ago I decided I was going to work through “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I’m not sure why I decided I needed a book to help me be creative. At that time I was writing at least an hour every day and was adding to my story collection. I might not have been finishing anything, but I was creating. I didn’t need to rediscover my creativity.

          What I really wanted was to produce more, to finish projects, to transform the hard but fun work of wrestling with characters, emotion and plot into easy, ordered “workday” where I could check off progress. For some reason, I thought I’d be able to up my productivity by focusing on my creativity. What a dunce! Is it any surprise that the more time I spent in the book, the less productive I became? I tried to turn a fun, organic process into a quantifiable, quota-driven exercise.

          And I tried to do it by exploring the things that hindered my creativity. Double whammy. Several of the exercises had me scrutinizing those events and memories of my life that hindered my creativity, that discouraged me from creating, or that kept me from enjoying the process. While I know the author meant for those exercises to aid the reader in breaking through blocks, this apparently was not something I needed. Rather than helping me jettison past hurts and failures, these exercises spun me into a brooding downward spiral of insecurity and unproductive angst.

          I’m only just now recovering. 🙂

          In my continuing quest to stimulate my productivity, I found yet another creativity book. “The Creative Call” by Janice Elsheimer is different. The exercises and discussions in “The Creative Call” are slowly pulling me out of that angst, drawing my back, inch by inch, to a creative-affirming productivity.

          There are a variety of possible reasons. (I’ll be exploring some of them on my personal blog, Stephanie’s Musings, later this week.) I think the most important is the perspective of the author. Janice Elsheimer begins with the assumption that we are created by God, created in His image and created to create. We all have the talents, the gifts, the ability to be creative. It could be writing, drama, woodworking, or even engine mechanics or tending babies, but we are all created to be creative. When we fail to use our gifts, life lacks something.

          So instead of dwelling on the past, she encourages me to look forward. Instead of spending time trying to discover why I’m not more creative, she suggests exercises to practice creativity. Instead of dwelling on my inability and my failures, she brings up points that remind me that my gift is a calling and with that the calling comes the enabling.

          If you have a Christian faith-based worldview and want to explore your creativity, you will probably get a lot out of “The Creative Call” by Janice Elsheimer. If your faith is less traditional or you are trying to recover from a past that debilitated your creativity, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron may be helpful. Just be sure you aren’t sabotaging your creativity. 🙂

          Happy writing to you all!

So Many Books, Too Much Time

Don’t waste your time.

I’ll say it again: Don’t waste your time reading books on writing.

Shocking? Think about how many hours a month you spend reading about how to write better, and how many hours you spend writing. That might be shocking. No matter what you need to learn, you won’t learn it if you’re not writing. And every writer at some point comes to the conclusion that we have read enough about it and now just need to do it.

If this is ringing any bells with you, stop reading this and go write for 15 minutes! This site is meant to help you write more. Practice is key to writing better, regardless of how many books you’ve read about how to write better.

Now that I’ve done my duty and reminded you of your priorities, let me tell you about my favorite writing books.  🙂

FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS by Karen Wiesner – Love to flip through this and use some of the worksheets when I’m starting a new story. (Look in our archives for posts by Karen!)

PLOT & STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell – Love to flip through this one when I’m in the early and mid planning stages, trying to make the plot better, hoping to remember anything I forgot. (Look in our archives for a post by Jim!)

REVISION & SELF-EDITING by James Scott Bell – Just started flipping through this new book, and love it as much as the previous one, will use it more when I get to the revision stage on this book.

WRITING THE ROMANTIC COMEDY by Billy Mernit – Enjoyed reading the book, and refer back to the “Seven Basic Romantic Comedy Beats” in chapter six when starting a new romantic comedy.

WRITING THE CHRISTIAN ROMANCE by Gail Gaymer Martin – Still working through this one as I try my hand at writing an inspirational romance, enjoying it so far.

BOOK OF POISONS by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon – I can’t help it, I love this book!  LOL!  Just flipping through it can give me plot ideas. It’s part of The Howdunit Series from Writer’s Digest Books. Great books. I also own Police Procedure & Investigation, Missing Persons, Murder One, and Rip-Off.

WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL (and Workbook) by Donald Maass – Perfect to go through between drafts 1 and 2 (for me, at least). If you ever have a chance to go to one of his workshops, do it! Excellent teacher, and he has a new book coming out later this year called THE FIRE IN FICTION, which I am dying to buy.

THE WRITER’S BRAINSTORMING KIT by Pam McCutcheon (available at Gryphon Books for Writers) – Love using this book and the deck of idea cards when I want to come up with some more book ideas. Very fun for use in a small group!

WRITING THE FICTION SYNOPSIS by Pam McCutcheon – Also from Gryphon Books, this is an excellent reference when writing a synopsis.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND ME by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates – Excellent reference for figuring out what personality your characters have, what their “cue words” might be, and “sources of misunderstanding” for all 16 types (you know, like INFJ or whatever you’ve tested to be 😉 ).

IMMEDIATE FICTION by Jerry Cleaver – This book covers a little bit of everything in writing, as so many books do, but for some reason the way this guy says it really hits home for me. I like to read it every couple of years.

So there you have it, my not-so-short list of books I can’t live without.   🙂   I hope you find a new title or two to look into. Just promise me you’ll remember – don’t read about writing more hours than you actually write, no matter what level of writer you are.   🙂

Books, Books and More Books

         Each writer is influenced differently. We read books or attend classes, join critique groups or go to conferences. Some of us need time alone while others of us need lots of interaction with other writers to maintain our motivation and inspiration. Over the next month, you’ll get a glimpse into some of the things that motivate me and Kitty and Shonna. As you read what we have to say, I hope you get inspired and encouraged in your own writing life.

         Books have always been a major part of my life. I discovered the library very early and it is still one of my favorite places to hang. I have my own library of books I just can’t part with. While it would be impossible to list all the books that have influenced me as a writer, here are a few.

         “Discovering the Writer Within,” by Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane and “The Creative Call,” by Janice Elsheimer are books I regularly return to for exercises and insights that focus and ignite my creativity. I especially like “The Creative Call.” This book is similar to the more well-known “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron, but with what I see as a significant difference. In my opinion, “The Artist’s Way” spent an inordinate amount of time delving into what hinders or has hindered creativity in an artist’s past. In contrast, “The Creative Call” focuses more on how an artist’s creativity is an expression of worship that grows out of a relationship with a Creator and the exercises are designed to foster that creative relationship.

         Other books in my library help me develop and hone the skills I need to craft interesting stories. “Techniques of a Selling Writer,” by Dwight Swain, Writing the Breakout Novel,” by Donald Maass (both book and workbook) and “Plot and Structure,” by James Scott Bell are my most used. These books help me focus on the intricate details of conflict and dialogue and action and all the little nuts and bolts and screws that make up a story. For the high-level structure of the story, I often refer to “The Writer’s Journey,” by Chris Vogler and, more recently, “Save the Cat,” by Blake Snyder. Both of these systems help me analyze and evaluate my stories for plot holes and weak motivation.

         Since I write a lot of fantasy, I often have a hard time coming up with names. “Character-Naming sourcebook,” produced by Writer’s Digest Books is a wonderful resource. I refer to it often.

         Another book I have read multiple times is “Time Management for the Creative Person,” by Lee Silber. While not necessarily a writing book, it has helped me discover creative ways to motivate myself and increase my productivity.

         Most people who know me know that I call myself a Christian. My definition of a Christian is one who lives by what is taught in the Bible. This is the one book that has influenced me more than any other. I find insights and guidance here for living my life. I find compelling stories of good and bad and the battle for both. I find inspiration and examples and all manner of fodder for my imagination.

         I know I’ve only scratched the surface of all the books that are and will be influential in my journey as a writer. I’m off to find more! Oh, before I go . . . what books do you recommend?