Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Cornucopia of Recommendations for Aspiring Writers

It’s always nice to get out of my little novelist cage and talk to others about writing.  Sunday night at the Writers’ Ink meeting was a fun opportunity to do just that; I’m glad to say that my talk went well, and I noticed that the members of the group seemed especially interested in the recommendations I made of books and further resources to help them with writing and publishing.  And so, for those who were present and would like a condensed list of the resources I mentioned, or for those of you out there who are aspiring and/or beginning writers, here are some recommendations to keep your reading list full and your Internet usage fruitful:

Books I recommend for improving craft (in order of what I consider most useful to beginning writers to most useful for advanced writers):
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  Support for dealing with the daily reality of being a novelist, with a side of Lamott’s irresistible humor. 
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.  A must for learning how to read intentionally and with an eye towards improving one’s craft.
  • Writers Workshop in a Book ed. Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez. Short, helpful essays on topics from starting a novel to recognizing when one is done and many things in between.
  • Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster.  “The” classic book on novel-writing.
  • The Craft of Fiction by Percy Lubbock.  Another classic—part literary criticism, part sage advice, like Lubbock's reminder that “scene is expensive.”

Practice reading intentionally with the following contemporary books:
  • The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon.  Read this for a study in voice.
  • Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman.  Read this for a study in character.
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Read for structure.
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.  Read for mode—here, comedy of manners.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Okay, not so contemporary, but read this for economy.

And some classics:
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Read this for overall awesomeness.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  Read for character and scene.
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.  Read for voice and humor.
  • And whatever you want by Thomas Hardy.  You can’t go wrong with him. 

Resources for getting published:
  • How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis

A bit of a misnomer—this book actually prepares you for how to be an informed client of an agent.  The book includes a detailed breakdown of book contracts in addition to insight into many other pieces of the New York publishing scene.  The book is slightly outdated and doesn’t do much to address ebooks and how they have changed the scene, but there are still helpful hints here.

Sign up for a free account to track your submissions and see the full information on every journal.  One of my favorite tools for discovering journals is the “People who have submitted work here have also submitted to…” feature.  Let’s say you love Image journal (I do!).  You can see that work sent there has also been sent to The Missouri ReviewTin HousePloughsharesNew England ReviewHayden's Ferry ReviewThe Cincinnati ReviewRuminateCamera ObscuraPackingtown ReviewThe JournalThe Idaho Review;Massachusetts Review 

A helpful, and up-to-date, look at topics in writing and publishing. 

And, as always, if you’re trying to familiarize yourself with conferences, workshops, or publishing opportunities, check out:
Writer’s Market (book)
Poets & Writers (magazine as well as website)

So there you have it, a feast of recommendations for your Thanksgiving week.  Read on!

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