Part of an intermittent series where I read or re-read the writing books on my shelf to see if they’re worth keeping. See previous part here
I’m calling this a slight detour as I’m adding some thoughts about writing books that I’ve read that are not really in the nut&bolts section (in which I’m currently re-reading Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, which I’ll talk about in the next blog post in the series – but, spoiler alert, it’s excellent and I recommend every writer to read it)
I pre-ordered Tim Waggoner’s Writing in The Dark because I saw it being advertised in a writers group on Facebook.
I’m so glad I got this book – it’s an excellent guide to writing dark fiction and, if horror is your thing, you need this book on your shelf. Waggoner’s publisher also put on a mini-con with Waggoner as guest of honour which I attended and it was a blast. Some of what Waggoner discusses can be applied to any fiction (finding an emotional core, how to write action scenes, how to avoid cliché) but, as he says more than once himself, he’s writing for a specific audience – people who want to write horror. It’s also interspersed with short interviews with lots of published horror authors who were asked two questions: What makes good horror and what tips they’d give a new horror author. I got a lot out of this book and I’ll definitely be re-reading certain chapters again, I feel the tips in here will make me a better writer for sure.
On the other hand
I also read this book – been meaning to for a while. Guy N Smith is probably best known for the series of books he did about giant killer crabs (I loved them as a young teenager) this book is generic, dated and not very useful. He skims over the topics and because it was written in the 90’s the information about publishing is very out of date. This went onto the discard pile and I don’t recommend it at all.
I also read a couple of other writing books:
This little book basically gives the standard hero’s journey and then how to apply that to a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I didn’t get much out of this to be honest. The links in the ebook didn’t work but I’ve got a lot more out of the author’s website. If you’d like to know how to write a CYOA this isn’t the book to learn it.
The art of editing by Tim Groenland was recommended to me and it’s very much a deep dive into the editorial relationship between two iconic authors and their respective editors. It’s an impressive feat of research and Groenland has obviously immersed himself in this. But it’s a little dry and it is quite niche, I think if you’d like to specialise as an editor you might get something out of this – otherwise it’s one for die hard Carver/Wallace fans. My early stories were compared to Carver (flatteringly) but having read this book I think they were more Lish than Carver. I got something out of the book – but it’s not one for a wide audience.
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