Thursday, June 04, 2020

Writing Resources to Help Jump Start Your Writing

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: On days when you can't write, it can help to read the how-to books you've always loved and found helpful. Sherry Howard shares her favorites.

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky. Sherry is the author of the picture book ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, with a starred Kirkus review. Her poems and stories have appeared in multiple journals and anthologies. She also writes for the educational market, with about a dozen books.

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Take it away Sherry...

It has felt so strange to even think about writing something right now. My hometown has been hit by both the coronavirus and strong responses to racial injustices. My prayers go out to any of you coping with either Covid-19 or the pain of carrying the hurt and injustices of centuries.

I hope some little bit of what I share might help you the same way it has helped me. Rumor has it that you should have plenty of time to use a few writing tips.

Do you have favorite reference books—besides this treasure trove of Fiction University Janice hosts, and her helpful books, my favorite of which is Revising Your Novel. I do! And I want to talk a little bit about them and what I love about them. I keep a small stack of books nearby when I am in the writing and editing phases. I use a lot of on-line resources too, but these are physical books I might grab for a quick answer or inspiration.

As a writer, I tend to write slim, and flesh things out in edits. It often takes multiple edits to craft enough detail into my original drafts. Here are a few books that have helped me.

I think my earliest go-to must have been Ray Rhamey’s Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. I once misplaced it and ordered a new copy until I found my original copy. There was something about the simplicity of the language and the concrete examples that I could go back to over and over. I might be a slow learner, but I STILL struggle with show and tell more than anything else. I don’t think anything about fiction writing is nearly as cut and dried as some editors present it. Ray helped me to understand that. My copy of his book is full of mark-ups.

I first ran into Ray on-line in 2015, and used the free feedback he offers on his website. For a long time I studied the sort of feedback he gave to openings. Then I bought his book, and it became a touchstone in my writing life.

For instance, Ray takes positions, such as some adverbs are good, and defends them with specific examples. It’s often his examples that solidify something in my brain. I don’t know what that says for my brain, but I know his book helped me become a better writer.

I also love the layout of his book. The chapters are short and generally cover one specific concept. That makes it so easy to review a chapter quickly if you want a refresher. He covers most aspects of fiction writing, including a focus on strong openings.

Another book that I enjoy is one I won: Jessica Bell’s Show and Tell in a Nutshell. It’s a tiny handbook, but has great examples of telling turned into showing. If I need a reminder, I read one of the scenes she’s developed.

A third book I keep handy is Angela Ackerman’s and Becca Puglisi’s The Emotion Thesaurus. This is an even further extension of showing rather than telling. Again, the arrangement of the material is very appealing, with emotions listed along with physical signs and internal sensations, among other information. This book really broadened my ability to show emotion and to write from deep point of view.

The authors have expanded their offerings, and now provide a membership which makes massive information available. One of my critique partners gifted me a membership. It’s great when you need some inspiration for how to develop your story or characters.

One more resource that I keep handy is Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. Another slim volume that’s packed with helpful examples. If deep POV is a goal, this one helps. If I’m stuck with a scene, I’ll try to find a similar scene and see how Jill developed it in deep POV.

These are only a handful of the practical craft books I keep handy. I have no affiliation with any of the authors.

Do you have a favorite? Share it in the comments. And, write, even if it’s a tiny bit in a journal.

About Rock and Roll Woods

Kuda is a bit of a grump who doesn't like change. So when he wakes up to find new neighbors and loud, strange noises in his woods, he is not happy. Will his desire to be with his friends overcome his objections to loud sounds? And might Kuda's courage help him discover that new things and rock and roll music can be pretty great? Featuring helpful backmatter about Sensory Integration and insider jokes for parents with autistic kids.

Amazon Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound |

1 comment:

  1. I received the book Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling yesterday based on your recommendation and looking at the free pages on Amazon. Already marking it up. I love the amount of examples that he uses in this book. Makes everything very clear. Thanks.