AUTHOR QUESTIONS-Those “How To” Books

When I first started writing I bought a book called How To Write A Romance And Get It Published by Kathryn Falk. That book, a thick paperback, had all the must-do steps to take before you could even think about getting published. I loved that book, I read it from cover to cover and tried to follow every step I could, but boy, there were a lot of steps, including setting up your perfect writing space.

I moved on to other books. Bought Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant, The Romance Writers Phrase Book (which I use a lot, actually). I even took a writing course through one of those correspondence schools.

But ya know, I still just write the way I want to write. Oh, sure, there are certain steps I take-the whole critique and edit process which is absolutely necessary to me. But all those other steps laid out by Ms. Falk. If I followed each and every one of them, I probably still would be working on getting that first novel done.

So, my question, how many people used these writers guides? How many still do? Any words of wisdom that you’ve picked up and follow religiously? What books do you find the most helpful?

Thanks for sharing!

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16 thoughts on “AUTHOR QUESTIONS-Those “How To” Books

  1. As my sagging book shelves will attest I’ve read a lot of those how-to write books. When I look back at them I realize I learned very little from them about how to actually write a really good story. I learned a lot about carving out time to write and setting up the perfect writing space and that I should religiously avoid adverbs but scant little eon the nuts and bolts of writing. I think the problem is that most of these books were written by published authors and not writing teachers. It may be common sense to say that I would rather learn from the masters and not someone I have never heard of but being published doesn’t mean that you have any clue how to relate what you know about storytelling to other people. Teaching itself is an art and one that should be left to those who have studied that particular art.

    1. The old classic “those who can’t, teach.” I agree. Maybe someone needs to go through all these books and pick out the best tips and consolidate them.
      Thanks for stopping in!

  2. I did the same thing Ceri! lol

    And I don’t think it hurt, but like you I write the way I write. I use some of those tidbits of wisdom here and there, but if you try and use it all, I think your story is going to be as stiff as cardboard. You have to let your own voice rule your work.

    My all time favorite book on craft is Debra Dixon’s GMC…love that book. It really clicked with me and has helped me break down my writing to a “make sense” system.

    1. I’ve heard of that book but don’t have it in my collection. Maybe I should look for it. I mainly picked up the books before the invention of e-books and before everyone was on the internet. My goal was to write a Harlequin and those were so cookie cutter that having a guide was actually helpful. The times they are a changin’ though and I think most of these books aren’t too relevant any longer.

  3. I started with You Can Write a Romance by Rita Clay Estrada (of the RWA “Rita” award). Read it cover to cover, and put it aside. Then a couple of months later, I decided to write my first book, and re-read that book, but then went through a book I had just finished (romance novel), and outlined that book. I followed that outline to write Emmaline’s Journey–which I will be re-writing (now that I know what I’m doing, lol), as soon as I finish polishing my current WIP. BTW, I use the Romance Writers Phrase book so much, it’s falling apart, lol.

    1. I know the Romance Writer’s Phrase Book is a little dated, but it still has lots of awesome suggestions. I know so many writers who keep it next to them.
      Thanks for stopping in, Callie!

  4. Ohhhh, mention how-to books and you’re talking Virgo language for sure! LOL. I have close to 200 and love each one. My two most favorite are: Chapter by Chapter by Heather Sellers (a real wisdom guide I read from almost every day and just love seeing it on my writing table), and Blockbuster Plots by Martha Alderson. I also use other stories that really excite me as a guide and for inspiration.

  5. I think Ms. Falk’s hardback version of the book was my first writing book I purchased, too. I never made it all the way through but loved it every time I opened it. I gifted it at my first attended chapter RWA Christmas Dirty Santa party several years ago because they said to ‘bring a book that means something to you’ and that was the only one I had that mattered. Novice move that I regret now that I know it really could be just any old book. lol Since then I have gotten a few others, the phrase book is what I stole from the talented Callie Hutton, I believe it’s the same one, at this last Dirty Santa party. Poor thing said hers is falling apart. Mine’s in nice condition! 😉

    1. Both my K. Falk book and my Phrasebook are in sad condition but it’s because they’ve been well used. I really treated Ms. Falk’s book as my writing Bible when I first started. I don’t know where it is now, on some bookcase somewhere (I have a ghost story related to finding that book when I thought it was lost a few years ago).

    1. There’s definitely no step by step formula that everyone can follow. Sure, you can take advice, and tips and be successful, but you really have to do it your own way. And when you do figure it out blog about it! LOL

  6. I have many, many writing books. I started out trying to read them all cover to cover, but over time I’ve found they’re more helpful to look up something specific. My two favorites are GMC by Debra Dixon and The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami Cowden, et al.

    It’s not a book, but right now I’m taking one of Margie Lawson’s online classes and it’s fantastic! I know I’m going to refer to the lecture materials regularly. In fact, even though I’m usually a toner Nazi, I’ve printed them out and put them into a binder to create my own book.

    1. That’s a good way to do it. I know some writers who took classes. It was a great way to meet and network with other writers and it really benefited them. Years ago I signed up for a correspondence course. The school went under before I ever finished, but I still have all the books they sent. I wonder if they could teach me anything useful now.

  7. If I could only keep two of my books, I’d keep: “On Writing” by Stephen King and “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” by Donald Maas. The second one, especially, is amazing.

    1. I still have my copy of “Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook”, Marianne. Weren’t we going to do a study group for that book? Did you ever do it? I’ve never read the Stephen King book.

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