Writing About Writing About Writing – a slight detour

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 He skims over the topics and because it was written in the 90’s the information about publishing is very out of date.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.

Drop a comment with your favourite writing book or tip here or email me via the Contact page. If you’re a publisher or Indie Author and would like me to review your writing book drop me a line!

Published by suttope

Pete W Sutton is a writer and editor. His two short story collections – A Tiding of Magpies and The Museum for Forgetting – were shortlisted for Best Collection in the British Fantasy Awards in 2017 & 2022 respectively. His novel – Seven Deadly Swords – was published by Grimbold Books. He has edited several short story anthologies and is the editor for the British Fantasy Society Horizons fiction magazine.

3 thoughts on “Writing About Writing About Writing – a slight detour

  1. It took me a little while to get that title — my result:
    [cue drumroll] So the topic you’re writing about is writing about writing. Ah, that just made it foggier! Never mind.
    Writing in the Dark probably captivated me the most, but to be transparent I never write dark fiction, let alone horror. I might one day, when my mind isn’t as easily scared as a nine year old. (That is to say, never.)
    How to Write A CYOA story doesn’t sound interesting to me because, (1) even though my fav genre for reading is YA-adventure-fiction type, it’s really weird that I cannot write it — probably because I know the standard for those novels and feel like what I write sucks compared to professional stuff. (2) Also because, taking your recommendation, it doesn’t seem to be the ultimate guide for that, and if the links don’t work then I’m thinking it’s cheaply unprofessional.
    I’d also like to share a tip to the whole wide world, since 90% of writers don’t consider it: Word count isn’t it all! No, seriously, when writing novels people go, OH I’LL AD 10K WORDS SO THAT MY BOOK IS AN ACTUAL NOVEL. Hey, dude, there are novellas. And people who write blog posts go like, Oh, 2k words is best for SEO so I’ll write 2k words without thinking! Writers, rule number one: Quality over quanity.
    Great post, thanks for sharing your recommendations and warnings with writing about writing about writing about writing. (Okay, fine, I don’t think I got that correctly.)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: