Tag Archive for: books about writing

Sparkle Abbey’s Top Five Writing Books

by Sparkle Abbey

We are list people. By that we mean we like to make lists for just
about everything. On any given day you could ask to see our daily to do lists,
goal lists, grocery store lists, movies we want to see list, books we want to
read list, conferences we want to attend list, places we want to go list, home
improvement projects list, or a vacation/conference packing list (yes, that
really does exist). We love lists! It’s possible some might call us list

Creating lists makes us feel organized, helps us to remember
things, and at times is a way to relieve stress and get focused. Crossing items
off of our list is extremely satisfying. It’s a visual of what we’ve
accomplished. We’ve been known to jot down an item we’ve already accomplished just
to have the satisfaction of crossing it off.

One of our favorite lists is of writers’ reference books. There
are so many amazing books available that a writer’s education can never be
complete. We’re always learning ways to bring new insight and inspiration to
our craft. Even the most seasoned writers have their favorite, go-to reference

There is an abundance of writing books, and we are all ears when a
fellow writer starts talking about a new one they’ve just purchased. Could it
help us find new inspiration?  Has
someone explained “scene and sequel” in a new and interesting way? Is there a
new plotting book that will help us develop a stronger and more intricate plot?
There are books for beginning writers, intermediate writers, and books for the
writer who’s been around the block a timer or two.

Here’s a list of five reference books that we highly recommend and
use frequently.

Full disclosure, this book was written by our publisher at Bell
Bridge Books. But we read this book, breathed this book, and lived this book for
years before we began working professionally with Deb. Goal Motivation and Conflict (or GMC) will teach you how to tell a
clear story by using your characters goals, motivations, and conflicts.

This is a dense book and we don’t recommend reading it
in one setting. He explains the fundamentals of a good story, action and
reaction, and scene and sequel.

If you’re writing a mystery, this is a must have.
Besides breaking down what a mystery is and its subgenres, you’ll learn how to
create three dimensional characters, effective plots, and strategic revision. If
you like worksheets, like we do, this book has them in spades.

There are probably hundreds of books on self editing, but this
book is the one that w have found the most useful. The book helps you identify
what needs editing and revising, and covers everything from, show don’t tell,
voice, dialogue, and point of view along with hands on exercises.

Anne gives advice and inspiration by sharing experiences from her
own life. She will move you from laughter to tears  as she talks about getting past that crappy
first draft, dealing with writer’s block, and finding inspiration in not only
by what’s around you,  but by what’s
inside of you.

We have so many more recommendations, but we thought
we would just start with these five.

What about you? Are you a list maker? Or does just the thought of
making a list increase your anxiety? What about reference books, do you have a
favorite? If so please leave a comment and let us know which ones you
recommend. If
we don’t have it, we probably will add it to our list of books to buy next.

 is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and
Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this
series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue
pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

The authors co-write the best-selling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees,
pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main
characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Caro Lamont, a pet therapist,
and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The two would join forces and work
together if they were speaking, but they’re not.  Midwest Book Review
calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!”

Finding your Voice

by Maria Geraci

As I write this, I have no idea who will be the winner of the new NBC show The Voice. I will say, that I have thoroughly enjoyed the show and really like all four of the finalists. But hands down for me, my favorite has been Dia Frampton, the beautiful, shy, folksy indie singer-songwriter who never fails to blow me away each week.

Dia doesn’t have the most powerful voice on the show. Or the biggest. But for me, it’s the voice I’ve most connected to. And that translates into the voice I’d most likely buy an album from. And as a matter of fact, I’ve already bought one of her songs. If you haven’t heard her rendition of Kanye West’s Heartless, run to go hear it. It’s absolutely fabulous.

I also love the fact that Dia wears flats on the show (sorry, Stiletto Gang!) She’s not a heels kind of girl. She’s not overly glamorous. She’s just her and that shines through in her music. And just like musicians and any other artists, as writers, we too, have to let ourselves be who we are. We have to let our voices shine.

Voice is often defined as that unique quality that you and only you alone possess. It’s your style. Your signature. It’s what makes readers connect to you. It’s your view of the world and how you present yourself to others. No one can teach you “voice.” It’s developed through frequent writing and letting one’s guard down. Stripping yourself of pride and ego and all the walls we put up to hide ourselves from others. Letting your voice shine through is scary. But we owe it to our readers and to ourselves to give them the very best of us. The real us.

FYI: Today, I’ll be over at Romance Divas (a free website for romance writers) doing a workshop called “Picking up your Sagging Middle.” I’m dissecting the novel The Hunger Games to figure out what made it such a page turner. The workshop is being held in the forums section of the website under Workshops and Conferences- NGTCC (Not Going to Conference Conference). Best part? It’s free!

So You Want to Write About Your Life?

Top Writing Tips from Memoirist Theo Pauline Nestor

I’ve been writing about myself or wanting to write about myself since before I can remember. When I finally got into a creative writing program in my 30s, there was no “Creative Nonfiction” track or even a class on memoir writing, so I wrote highly autobiographical stories for my fiction class; but as Dave Eggers once said about fiction writing, I felt like I was “driving with a clown suit on.” After graduate school, I was a mother of two, mostly at home. I discovered a new magazine called Brain, Child, which was filled with creative nonfiction written by mothers. I soon started writing for this magazine and discovered that my true genre is memoir and have been writing that ever since. In 2008, my first full-length memoir, How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed, was published by Crown.

When I’m not writing, I’m teaching a class called “Writing the Memoir” at the University of Washington and coaching individual writers. Many of the students who come to the class come with just a hazy idea that they want to write about their lives, and I love guiding them through the process of discovering what exactly they want and need to write about.

Here’s my best advice for getting started on memoir writing:

  • Read great memoirs—both those that are bestsellers and those that are critically acclaimed. If you want to write a memoir, you need to have a good sense of how they’re structured. If you want to sell a memoir, focus on reading popular memoirs published in the last five years. A few of the memoirs I recommend: The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Lit by Mary Karr.
  • Carry a notebook, just a small one. I actually didn’t set out to write a memoir about my divorce, but I had this notebook in my purse, and I was so miserable that I started pulling it out and writing down random thoughts to keep myself from going crazy. The very first note I wrote down was about a woman in my attorney’s waiting room with hair so thin I could see her scalp and a big stack of legal papers on her lap. This brings me to my next point…
  • Get in the habit of taking your observations seriously. One of the differences between would-be writers and actual writers is that writers follow their own thoughts “as if” they were the thoughts of a great thinker. Memoir writing is a collection of your insights and portrayals of your ordinary life. So when you have an observation or insight, take it seriously even if it seems to be about the most mundane topics—the patterns of shoppers in your local grocery store, your neighbor’s habit of watering the sidewalk with his sprinkler.
  • Get some good books about writing. In my opinion, there aren’t enough of these. But, I have a few that I fully recommend. For encouragement as a writer (and don’t kid yourself, we all need this): Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. For a good sound understanding of a memoir’s structure and some great getting-started exercises: Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer. I also recommend Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington.
  • Take a class or hire a coach. Many universities offer night classes in memoir writing and many writers, such as myself, coach writers over the phone or in person.

To learn more about my coaching, visit me at theopaulinenestor.com.

Theo Pauline Nestor’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in a number of places including Brain, Child, Alligator Juniper, msn.com, austinmama.com, happenmag.com and The New York Times. HOW TO SLEEP ALONE IN A KING SIZE BED was a Kirkus Reviews Top Pick for Reading Groups.

Thank you, Theo, for visiting The Stiletto Gang!