This past quarter, I read books on the side between my crazy class schedule, work, and the magazine. I should write my typical Worderella review on them, but instead I’m going to list these books and give a little blurb about why you should add them to your To Be Read list. If you’ve read these books, let me know what you thought about them.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
This book kind of changed my life. My writing life, that is. I have it sitting next to my Strunk and White on my shelf of books on writing. It taught me it’s ok to be brutal and take out something you were “iffy” about in the first place. If you’re questioning that paragraph, rest assured that your agent and/or editor will do the same, except the solution to the problem won’t be you deleting the paragraph, it will be the sight of your beloved manuscript thrown in the nearest trash. If you aren’t sure about it, as the author and creator of your book’s mini-universe, your reader, agent, editor, and publisher probably are unsure about it too, which is dangerous in this mad business.
Self-Editing has a chatty, enjoyable tone that makes the pain of realizing all the work you need to do in order to improve your WIP bearable. Each chapter focuses on a different facet of fiction, ranging from high-level topics such as plot, characters, and dialogue, to low-level topics like proper grammar and good, action-oriented sentence structure. If you have a writer in the family, this is a great holiday gift. It may make them cry for a few days as they rip apart their WIP in order to improve it, but afterward, they will thank you. Maybe even shake your hand. Take my word for it: all writers ought to read this book. If anything, it’s a good book to fall back on if you need to charge your writing through a rough spot.
On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels
Finally, a book that definitively tells me what is the difference between erotic, erotica, sweet, and mainstream romance, as well as what makes a book historical fiction or historical romance, or a romantic historical! Another great book with an amusing and informative tone, what might sound like a manual or text book to others was my nightly read before bed. This is a good reference for anyone writing in the romance genre because it not only defines the different levels of romance, it goes into the history of the subgenres, giving a chronology of which subgenres were popular and even ones that have fallen by the wayside.
This is a great marketing tool because for every example cited, two or three other similar works are mentioned. If you want to learn more about Sweet Romance, this book has a lot of great examples, and lists more in the back. That really excited me, because I’m under the impression that I’m one of a very small number of sweet romantic writers.
On Writing Romance also includes example query letters, synopses, and cover letters for those of you going the traditional publishing route. I’ll be honest, this book had me thinking maybe I shouldn’t go the self-pubbed route and instead try my hand at traditional, just because I had some great examples staring me in the face. It sort of makes you think, “I can definitely do that.”
A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman
Ok, so I haven’t read this one yet. But it’s on my Amazon wishlist and my To Be Read list. Like the previous two, it has high marks on Amazon reviews, and, as I’m a sucker for good books about writing, even punctuation, this is on the list. I feel that we as a culture have forgotten the high points of the written word, most especially punctuation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books and thought, “Oh man. He definitely missed the opportunity to use an em-dash there,” or when I point out a passage to a friend or my mom, saying, “See this? She would have had a better sentence if she used a semi-colon.”
Maybe that’s just me. I love punctuation though, so I’ve put this on the list. If you’re like me, give the book a chance and let me know what you think.
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Title: Bath Tangle
Author: Georgette Heyer
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: 409 pgs
Summary: The Earl of Spenborough has just died, and his only child, daughter Serena Carlow, is devastated. The reading of Lord Spenborough’s will, however, holds a few surprises for stubborn Serena, namely that her inheritance is to be held by a trustee until she marries. But that’s not the worst of it! The trustee is none other than the Marquis of Rotherham, the man she jilted… days before their marriage!
pg 28 – His hands were his only beauty, for they combined strength with shapeliness. Any of the dandy set would have used all manner of arts to show them off: my Lord Rotherham, dug them into his pockets.
pg 218 – Lady Theresa prophesied disaster for all concerned, and hoped that when Serena was dying an old maid she would remember these words, and be sorry. Meanwhile she remained her affectionate aunt, etc.
Why should you read this book?
The voice is quick and sparkling, easy to read. Serena and Rotherham are hilariously clever, stubborn, and have cutting wits. They literally argue for pages; rather than seeming a gross wordiness from Heyer, the tension between the characters is tangible. Both Serena and Rotherham are used to getting their way, to being in charge, which is great. The other characters are eccentric, and all have their own mini-romance subplots, which is something that annoys me about Heyer’s books: Everyone, and I mean everyone, ends up with a romance. Except if you’re a servant, I think. I’ve only read two of Heyer’s books, so I really shouldn’t assume the other 50+ are the same.
I have to say, however, that after reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers I cringed through the first half of Bath Tangle, as Heyer breaks just about every rule for contemporary fiction writing. A lot of her backstory is blatantly thrown into pages worth of dialogue about people I’m not sure I care about; I easily jumped more than one entire conversation in the beginning and didn’t feel like I lost a beat of the plot.