Thursday, January 12, 2012

A quartet of extremely helpful how-to books

Decades ago, as I was first learning the craft of writing fiction (and, hopefully, you and I will always grow as writers) I read about three dozen how-to books on the subject. Here are the four I found most helpful (two of them are by one of my favorite novelists, Orson Scott Card).

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern, a well-loved writing teacher from the MFA Writing Program at Florida State University.

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, the highly skilled author of fantasy and science-fiction (who won both the Hugo AND the Nebula two years in a row, for Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead). This is one of the most practical, helpful writing books ever penned. If you can only afford one of these books, buy this one.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, also by Card, should NOT be considered a book that would only be of use to writers of speculative fiction. It also contains terrific general advice on craft that will be useful to a writer in any genre.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. Read this and painstakingly follow its excellent advice for polishing your manuscript BEFORE you submit it to an agent or editor. (Of course this book is a MUST for self-published authors who are skipping the services of editors altogether.)

"Second Nature" free to read...

I've just posted my science-fiction romance, Second Nature, to a website called Wattpad. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America, and Wattpad was recommended in the latest issue of their monthly Romance Writer's Report as a good place to get oneself discovered by readers---it's got millions of them. I'm not making a cent on the experiment, but I uploaded the novel yesterday, and I've got 104 readers today. We'll see how it goes.

The three fattest pleats in the manifold game of selling storytelling are 1) generating a terrific story idea 2) writing the story, and 3) getting your completed story discovered. If a mighty sequoia comes crashing down in a forest and no set of ears is there to hear it, does it make a peep?

Thank the muses for the Internet, because it has given us writers a far greater chance (but not a guarantee) of getting noticed. Call it the age of digital "discoverability."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Hero's Journey

Joseph Campbell, the scholar of mythology, wrote about the classical story structure he called "The Hero's Journey." Campbell was close friends with filmmaker George Lucas (the old professor died in a home Lucas provided on his ranch). It is no accident that "Star Wars" clearly follows the mythic story structure of "The Hero's Journey."


  • Ordinary world
  • Call to adventure
  • Refusal of the call
  • Meeting the mentor
  • First threshold (first test)
  • Meeting allies, enemies
  • More tests (complications, set-backs)
  • Approach to the inmost cave
  • Supreme ordeal
  • Reward (seizing the boon, or, in some myths, resurrection)
  • The road back home
  • Arriving at home with the boon (the elixir, the wisdom, the renewed person, etc.)