Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to Get Sarted

In my last posting, I mentioned how I began writing my first novel by jumping into the project with wild enthusiasm. Don’t do it. First do some research and arm yourself with the proper tools. It will save you a lot of time and frustration.

You can start before your nest is empty by teaching your students the basics of story writing: structure, plot development, character development, dialogue, point of view. There are myriads of books that concentrate on specific aspects of story telling. To get started, you only need a few.

First on the list are a couple dictionaries. I was amazed to find several words that appear in my mom’s dictionary are missing in newer editions. Likewise, new words like google and tweet don’t appear in the older editions. Get both to broaden your vocabulary. I also have Spanish and German dictionaries for foreign words I may wish to sprinkle into my manuscripts, when appropriate.

A thesaurus is a must. I use Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. It assists with word choice and explains differences in meaning between similar words.

A couple classics are Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Elements teaches one to write with simplicity and orderliness. Self-Editing introduces editing techniques used by professionals.

The best comprehensive book I’ve come across is Dwight V. Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. It demonstrates how to group words into scenes and scenes into stories.

My favorite newer book is The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. It gives a battle plan for writing a novel, covering tactics and strategies for developing, finishing, and publishing a story,

I found all these books at my local bookstore. They are also available through Amazon.—Quinn

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