Tuesday, January 08, 2019

5 Inspiring Books for Writers

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

Part of the How They Do It Series (Contributing Author)

JH: If you're looking for a little inspiration to get your year started, here are some great books to grab.

Did you resolve to finish your novel this year? I salute you. The bad news is that 80% of those who set New Year’s resolutions give up by the second week of February, according to U.S. News. If you need a little help staying inspired this year, here are the best books to keep you going.

I'm always on the lookout for new books to add to my shelf. What titles have you found to be especially useful, interesting, or inspiring? Leave me a comment below, or contact me on my author website at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com.

#1. The Fiction Factory by William Wallace Cook

In this writing memoir, the author laments how it was so much easier to get published in the 80s and 90s “when conditions were different” in the publishing world. I hear the same complaint from aspiring writers all the time. The difference is, this book was written a hundred years ago -- Cook was reminiscing about the 1880s and 1890s!

William Wallace Cook (writing here under the pen name John Milton Edwards) was one of the most successful pulp writers of all time. He was nicknamed “the man who deforested Canada” because he cranked out more stories than any other writer in the world. On a manual typewriter, no less.

His rags-to-riches story is an inspiration to every aspiring writer everywhere. Discovering that some writing struggles are universal gave me a boost when I needed it most. This book is a real treat.

#2: The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham

Sometimes, the best inspiration comes from getting back to the basics.

Every time an aspiring writer asks me for fundamental writing advice, I recommend Jack Bickham’s books. He wrote 75 novels in his lifetime, and every single one of his books on fiction writing is a treasure.

This one provides eye-opening tips and techniques delivered in short, easy chapters that will get you back in the writing groove. Bickham packs an amazing amount of wisdom into this basic primer. Every writer should have it. That includes you.

#3. Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge

I've said before that Hague is a storytelling genius, and this essential book proves it. By focusing just on a handful of core elements of your novel, he helps you zero in on what's really important in your story.

And as the title promises, he gives you everything you need to create a one-minute pitch for your novel that really gets people interested. Every time I have used his method to pitch a novel to an editor, their eyes light up and they ask for the manuscript. It doesn't get any more inspiring than that.

#4: Plotto, the Master Book of All Plots by William Wallace Cook

Cook (the author of The Fiction Factory, above) was the most prolific writer of his time. His big break came when he spied a friend using newspaper clippings for story ideas. It was a lightbulb moment. Cook started developing his own intricate plotting system, using thousands of interconnected plot elements logged on index cards. Many years later, he published his Plotto system in this book.

Make no mistake: this book will not actually generate a complete and masterful plot for you, even if you learn Cook’s complicated and tedious method. (Which I have. Trust me, it's not exactly a barrel of fun.) But that's not the point.

What this book will do, if you flip it open to a random page, is get your brain fired up in a fresh new direction. And that will break you out of a storytelling rut. You might even find an idea in its pages that inspires you to write a whole new novel and get it published. (It worked for me.)

Plotto is especially handy for subplots. For example, I just randomly flipped the book open to entry 882, which describes a character’s charity facing financial ruin -- and the character, a supposedly reformed gambler, decides to keep the charity funded by rigging crooked card games.

Hmm. Not exactly award-winning story material, but it has possibilities.

So if you need a shot of story inspiration every once in a while, keep this book handy.

#5. The Pulp Jungle by Frank Gruber

In the early days of pulp fiction, Frank Gruber moved to New York, penniless, with a burning desire to write for a living. His evocative descriptions of nearly starving in a cold-water flat during the Great Depression will make you thankful for your modern amenities. His grit and ambition will make you itch to write faster. And his astonishing story of building a pulp-writing career on wits alone will make you stand up and cheer.

If, that is, you can find the book in the first place. It has been out of print since 1967, which is a crime. If you can't find it online, try asking your local library about an interlibrary loan.

What are your favorite writing books?

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. His work has been praised by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Colorado with his wife and too many old cars. Try his stories for free at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

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About No Sleep till Doomsday (Dru Jasper, Book 3)

An inexperienced sorceress must retrieve a priceless artifact from the enchantress who stole it, break the curse on her half-demon boyfriend, and stop her friends from turning on each other before the enchantress calls down doomsday.

When a wicked enchantress steals a cursed doomsday amulet, crystal sorceress Dru Jasper has only twenty-four hours to get it back before the world will come to a fiery end. With this supernatural amulet in hand, the enchantress intends to break the sixth seal of the apocalypse scroll--making the seas boil, the stars fall from the sky, and the earth itself split apart. Overall, bad news.

Dru must hit the road to get the amulet back. But she suspects her half-demon boyfriend, Greyson, and his demon-possessed muscle car, Hellbringer, are hiding a dark secret. Can she trust them to help her stop doomsday? Worse, tracking down the enchantress runs Dru smack up against a pack of killer shape-shifters, the grim mystery of a radioactive ghost town, and a dangerous speed demon even more powerful than Hellbringer.

As the clock runs out, Dru is locked in a high-speed chase with the enchantress, fighting a fierce, magical duel she can never win alone. Can Dru and her sorcerer friends unravel Hellbringer's secrets, outwit the shape-shifters, and retrieve the stolen amulet before the dawn of doomsday?

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