From the plots swirling in my mind to the words flowing from my fingertips to the keyboard, I love writing. There’s one caveat to that. I am always learning to become a better writer. This year, I’ve added several writing resources to my shelf that I love to use in my time of need.
How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. If you’ve spent anytime in writing circles, you know that many writers are known as either planners, pantsers, or something in-between. In other words, either you plan each moment from beginning to end, you write at the seat of your pants and see what happens, or you blend the two. The snowflake method takes you from one summary sentence to a full synopsis to pages of planning that–for me–aid with the flow of my story. I’m currently working on two WIP’s, and I’ve used it with both. You can also visit his website and see the steps. The book goes into more detail, but Advanced Fiction Writing is a great place to start.
The Story Equation by Susan May Warren. Susan May Warren weaves a method so deep that by the time you finish planning, you know not only your characters, but their problems, their motives, their quirks, and what makes them tick. I like to mix and match aspects of both Ingermanson’s and Warren’s methods in my planning process to make it work better for me.
Romance-ology 101 by Julie Lessman. Have you read Julie Lessman’s books? Swoon-alert! Turn up the heat. Clear your calendar. Be ready to spend all day curled up on the couch with one of her novels. On top of that, Romance-ology 101 delves into how to write romantic tension that keeps your readers on the edge of their seat. I can tell you this, my writing amped up after reading this book.
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. In this book, you can find an emotion and see a list of suggested physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and more. I prefer to have this within arm’s reach when I’m writing. I let the words flow, but when my brain freezes, I take a peek to come up with a natural response for my character’s emotion.
You want your characters to have a variety of responses to their emotions that click with each character. This list gives you a starting point. Then you can twist, change, add metaphors, and make it yours.
Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan. This is another “starting point” book. Donovan created lists for description, settings, plots, dialogue, names, and traits. Again, I like to have within reach when I’m writing. However, find a concept you like, then weave it to make it your own. I do recommend this book, but with one caveat. The author writes in a different genre so there are some aspects in this book that I would not use in the Christian genre. I skip straight past those pages and use the rest.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction by Ron Benrey. I was given this as a gift in 2014. I’ve used it so much! It deepens understanding about the genre of Christian fiction: expectations, do’s and don’ts, traditional and indie publishing, writing conferences, and critique groups.
The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This is a great planning tool when creating characters. All relatable characters have both flaws and strengths. I purchased this book when I realized that one of my characters was a little too perfect. It helped me flesh him out and make him more relatable.
Each flaw is defined with suggestions as to associated behaviors and attitudes. It even lists traits in the supporting character that can cause conflict. When you create the right flaws for opposing characters, it adds the perfect level of tension to keep your readers turning the page.
I like to use this to help narrow down negative and positive traits in my characters, but then based on the associated behaviors, I can come up with ways for my characters to sabotage themselves.
The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I don’t have this book, but it’s on my to get list. Basically, it’s the opposite of the negative trait thesaurus.
How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell. Dialogue is one of the trickiest aspects of writing. It needs to feel genuine, but real conversation isn’t easy to follow. We add “um’s” and pauses. We skip words and shorten phrases. So, when you write dialogue, it has to feel like someone might actually say those words, but it can’t be so real that you can’t follow. It’s a fine line and delicate balance. This book was a great learning tool that taught me how to find this balance.
Other books in your genre. I write Christian contemporary romance. So, the best way to grow is to read other Christian contemporary romance. When I read, I don’t just read for pleasure. I notice what I like and dislike. Did the author pull me in? How? When did she break the rules? How did she turn up the heat? Did I lose interest? Did the plot fall apart in the middle? Why?
Each book I read is for a purpose. When I need inspiration, I turn to my favorite authors. When I need to edit, I read books that aren’t as well-written and critique them in my mind.
In the comments below, feel free to share any resources that have made a difference in your writing.