Monday, June 5, 2017

What is one craft book and one novel that has influenced your writing?



Hi, writers!

In case you missed last Friday's post, where Shannon kicked off our Summer Panel series, here's what's going on. 

For the months of June, July, and August, we thought it would be fun to take a writing-related question and have all three of us answer it. This idea was inspired by how all three of us will be teaching at various conferences this summer, and one of our favorite aspects of conferences are panels, where you can hear writers and other industry professionals give different perspectives about the same topic.

The part we're really pumped about is getting to hear your answers in the comments! Once you've heard what we have to say, we'd love you to use the comments section below to answer the same question. There's so much knowledge and creativity floating around in our community, and we want us to all be able to learn from each other!

So here's today's panel question:




What is one craft book and one novel that has influenced your writing?

 

Shannon Dittemore

Oh my goodness! So many! The first fiction book that comes to mind is Hunger Games. I read it at a really important time on my own writing journey. It was the book that showed me how valuable writing in the present tense could be. On the craft side of things, I can’t nail down a single book; I’m staring at my shelf, trying to decide which one to talk about. A lot of the craft books are written for adults, so sometimes the language is a bit rough, but one of my favorites is definitely Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.






Stephanie Morrill
Oh, Bird by Bird is one of the first and most influential craft books I ever read too! I could also mention On Writing by Stephen King, but I talk about that one a lot too. So I’ll say Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I read it when I was really getting the hang of writing complete stories, and it pushed me deeper into my craft and helped me to think about elements of my stories in different ways.

For fiction, This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen was one of the first contemporary YA novels I read, and I was like, “This! This is what I’m trying to do!”


 


Jill Williamson
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the book that inspired me to write detail-oriented and fully-realized storyworlds. The concept of the Harry Potter books is not all that complex. It’s the way that Rowling takes readers into a fantastical place that adds a sense of wonder to the story that is so impressive. I wanted to create storyworlds like that.

As far as nonfiction goes, Save the Cat really helped me refine my outlining/storyboarding process. Before I read that book, I wrote skeleton outlines for my plot before I started writing. Save the Cat gave me a visual way to do that—and I’ve always been a visual learner. So now I storyboard my novels, and later on, when I get stuck, I pull out that storyboard again or often re-do it, adding and cutting scenes to re-work my plot until it is right.


Now it's your turn! Tell us one craft book and one novel that has influenced your writing.



67 comments:

  1. I've only read one craft book so far and that is the Go Teen Writers book. It was well laid out and it was cool to see the two different perspectives.

    As for fiction, I think every horrible book filled with smut and other awful things inspired me to write what I would want to read. Of course, there were good books, but none really come to mind that made me think, "This is what I want to do." I just wanted to write a good, wholesome book that would be something I would want to read with a mixture of adventure, slight romance, friendship, and also throw in a little of my faith.

    Every week, this wonderful blog has posts that help me with my craft and make me excited to be a writer. Thank you for everything you do for us. I wouldn't have known anything about writing without the help from you three.

    God bless y'all. :D

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    1. Yes! I remember being so frustrated one day with a book, because I just did not agree with something in it. That's when I became serious about wanting to write.

      To contribute something wholesome and good is a worthy goal. God bless you on your journey!

      -Ann

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    2. Thank you so much, Ann. You're so sweet. I hope God blesses your journey as well. There are so many things in books these days that are awful and its time to stand up against that.

      God bless you, Ann. :D

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    3. I'm glad you enjoyed the Go Teen Writers book :)

      Yes, I definitely think we can learn a lot from books that are NOT what we want to write, or that are poorly crafted. If I'm not connecting with a book, I always ask why and try to learn from it.

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    4. Most books that I read I like to some degree, but once for battle of the books I read one that I hated. I think it was supposed to be semi-realistic, but some things that happened were so unlikely. For instance, the main character had a pet skunk and his parents didn't know. He brought it into his room by hauling up a basket that was strung through his window, and the skunk never sprayed him and just happened to always be in the basket when the main character wanted him.
      Anyway, I don't want to write a book like that. It was boring and not fun to read, at least to me.
      ~Mila

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  2. I have not yet read any craft books, but I would like to!
    I would say for fiction books, The Hunger Games trilogy because they were so in-depth and the characters were so well written. At one time I would read a little of one of the three books and then write afterwards because I would do my best writing.

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    1. Neat! Books that inspire our writing are wonderful. Plus when we read, we can say we're working. It's a win-win. :)

      -Ann

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    2. Yep! It could be research!

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    3. That's fun, Maggie!

      And some writers don't enjoy craft books, so there's nothing wrong with that :)

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  3. Winnie the Horse Gentler for fiction. It introduced me to first person POV and made me want to write the same.

    And for craft, probably Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland. I read it this year and it's helped me dig deeper into theme. I've tried lots of craft books, but like Ms. Dittemore said, the language can be rough sometimes. So I end up never finishing them. :(

    -Ann

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    1. K.M. Weiland's stuff is always very clean, which I appreciate. I love her. James Scott Bell has very clean, helpful craft books as well, if you decide to look for others.

      I have Winnie the Horse Gentler to read with my daughter soon!

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    2. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Neat that you're about the read Winnie! I hope you two enjoy. :)

      -Ann

      -Ann

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  4. The fiction book the influenced my writing would have to be In Between by Jenny B Jones. That book introduced me to fist person pesent and the tone of humor.
    For a craft book the Go Teen Writers book realy helped me learn more about writting and got me to outline. (I've never liked to outline even for english papers)
    -Emily D

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    1. I love anything by Jenny :) She's so funny. Lovely writing too.

      I'm glad you liked Go Teen Writers! I have a hit-and-miss relationship with outlining, so I understand!

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  5. My love for C. S. Lewis's first five books of The Chronicles of Narnia eventually sparked the first desire to write novels. Even mow, his writing style and voice continues to influence my own. Embarrassingly enough, I must admit that the Star Wars prequels also has a heavy influence on my stories. But if it weren't for my little brother forcing me to watch the LWW movie, I don't know if I'd ever become such a geek or an aspiring writer.
    Now, I haven't read too many craft books, but I would say that K. M. Weiland's blog- especially her series on Structure and Character Arcs- influenced the way how I plan my stories. Along with instruction from Brandon Sanderson's BYU writing classes I came across on Youtube, these two helped me develop my style of planning and writing my stories.

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    1. I don't think anyone around here will judge you for enjoying and being inspired by Star Wars prequels :)

      K.M. Weiland's blog is incredible. She's an excellent teacher. As is Brandon Sanderson.

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    2. Sorry- this is a little unrelated to the post topic- but did you know that Brandon Sanderson revealed that all his books (except the ones that take place on versions of Earth) are all part of the same universe, the Cosmere, and at some point he's going to write a series connecting all of the books?
      The only book of his that I've read so far is The Rithmatist, but I still think that it is a really cool idea.
      Also: Never be embarrassed for being inspired by Star Wars. Never.
      ~Mila

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    3. Yeah I heard about that! He's also said that his YA novels aren't part of it, but only his adult books. Still, it's a great idea.
      The Rithmatist's had such fun characters in it (it's the only one of his books I've read in its entirety). I also have a copy Steelheart waiting to be finished.

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    4. So does that mean Mistborn? -Mags

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    5. I think he considers Mistborn adult fiction, even though I've heard some could consider it YA. I haven't read it.

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  6. I remember that Gail Carson Levine's Princess Tales series prompted me to begin writing my own stories when I was around nine years old. They were what started me on my writing journey, because I wanted to create something in a world similar to the fantasy realm that those characters lived in.
    I haven't read that many craft books, actually. I checked out a lot from the library when I was around eleven, but can't remember any of them. Writing magic, also by Gail Carson Levine, was probably the only craft book that I remember reading. I wanted to read it for a lng time, but no library around me had it - so I thrived on the first few pages that you could preview on Amazon. And her advice of never throwing away any writing is something that has really stuck with me (and really cluttered my desk).

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    1. I love that last bit you added. (and really cluttered my desk.)

      That's pretty good advice, though. I wish I didn't delete some of my work, but I've gotten better now. I just start new documents, which means I have a large writing folder.

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    2. I know! My writing folder is huge! I have so many folders (physical and digital), notebooks, scraps of paper and emails from myself that all have pieces of my writing. It takes up so much space, but I'm so glad I kept it. I can see how my writing has improved, and I had lots of old ideas I can use. Organizing it all, however, is something that I struggle with a bit more.

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    3. Preach! I'm able to organize it, but it still looks like a lot of stuff. My problem is I focus on my WIP, but I still get ideas and work on those on the side. :)

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    4. Writing Magic is an excellent book for young writers. I'm glad you found it! I know it would have meant a lot to me as a kid if I had known about it.

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  7. By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson (you're amazing, Jill) really inspired me and prompted me to make the second book in my series more medieval feeling. Now, I think medieval is really my niche. I also enjoyed watching The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, though I haven't read the books yet.
    Of course, the Go Teen Writers book is my favorite craft book. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine was also good.

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    1. Jill is definitely amazing :)

      Glad you enjoyed the Go Teen Writers book!

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  8. Percy Jackson (the whole lot). It introduced me to the incredibleness (is that a word?) of contemporary fantasy, and how a character's personality can ooze throughout a narrative.

    For the craft-y thing, what's influenced me most is a certain blog you might have vaguely heard of called Go Teen Writers (so the Go Teen Writers book if it has to be a book).

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    1. I love the Percy Jackson books.

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    2. We're writers. We make words. It's what we're supposed to do. Oh, and I think I might have heard of Go Teen Writers, but I'm not quite sure. ;)

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    3. Ha ha :) We won't be legalistic about making it be a book! Glad you find this to be a helpful place to hang out!

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    4. Wait, what? Go Teen Writers? I feel like I've heard that before somewhere... I thought it was from a dream, but I guess not if you guys have heard of it too! We must investigate this mystery further!
      ~Mila

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  9. The craft book that has influenced me most is Seize the Story: A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write. It definitely got me thinking about the inner workings of a story and the technical aspects of writing. For novels, it's The Lord of the Rings, hands down. It showed me what an epic fantasy should be and inspired me to write sweeping stories and push a perfect level of detail in every book.

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    1. I haven't heard of Seize the Story! I'll check that out.

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    2. Tolkienites like us know the secret to life.
      ~Mila

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  10. Definitely the Harry Potter books. They taught me that a good YA/kids book doesn't have need over the top romance, cursing, or inappropiate humor.
    Recently, I have been inspired by Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone. I read the book in about two hours, and instantly loved it. I have always been hesitant to use the first person tense, but her book inspired me to try. Now I am currently writing a story in first person about four friends on a road trip to Florida. :)

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    1. Oh, that's fun, Allison! I've seen Since You've Been Gone and have wanted to read it.

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    2. It is such a good book! :) Her other book, Second Chance Summer, is also really good.

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  11. What inspired me to write with an intention to publish is not really a certain book, but an entire aisle of them. I was walking down a row at a bookstore, looking at all the covers and thinking "I want to buy a new book, but I can't in good conscience pick any of these because of the content (indecent romance, fowl language, worldview/opinions, you name it) that might be in them that I just do not want to read. I'm going to have to write the books I want to see on the shelves."

    As to writing books themselves, I have read a number from my library, but I can't remember the titles (some were helpful, others were not). I've also read the GTW book (great job, y'all, btw!). Most of my writing help comes from my fellow writing group members or else Professor Google and blog posts.

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    2. There's just no replacement for fellow writers when it comes to knowledge. I'm glad you have people!

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  12. I don't read many craft books, just blogs and vlogs, so I can't really say on those (maybe Editing for Fiction Writers), but the story that made me realize I could write too was Dragons in our Midst by Bryan Davis. Before that, I liked stories but had no idea would write.

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    1. I love that. It's wonderful when you find a story that reveals your own passions to you.

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  14. I read a great craft book called "Writing Magic" by Gail Carson Levine. It is geared towards young writers and has given me a great perspective in character development, plot structure, setting, etc. The most influential novel I've read is the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans. I've learned that the usage of an advanced vocabulary, advanced characters, and a villain with a great backstory adds a level of sophistication and interest to your writing.

    Hunger games as well, because I always thought present tense in fiction was weird and out of place.

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    1. Oh! I've read Writing Magic too!
      ~Mila

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    2. Writing Magic has been a popular title in the comments section. And for good reason!

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  15. I just read a craft book by Gotham Writers Workshop that helped me a lot, although of course I love GTW too. I also read Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley which helped me come up with my first novel, which I never finished (the novel, not the craft book) but helped me a lot. -Mags

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    1. Shannon has mentioned the Gotham Writers Workshop book! Seize the Story is new to me, but several have mentioned that one now. I love hearing all these different suggestions!

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  16. Wow, it's so hard to pick ONE book!! I guess I'd have to say the craft book that influenced and improved my writing the most is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Seriously, that book is amazing! And as for novels, all the novels I read influence my writing in one way or another... but I'm going to say Ted Dekker's Circle Series. There was a time in my life a few years ago where I was absolutely obsessed with his books. I think he's literally all I read for the first year and a half or so around the time I started taking writing seriously. So naturally his books influenced my writing, I guess. But seriously, I could give you a list of the novels I have read and tell you specifically how each of them inspired my own writing. I'm rambling (again), but anyway, there you go: The Emotion Thesaurus and the Circle Series. :)

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    1. I found a free one for my kindle that was supposed to be an extension of The Emotion Thesaurus. I felt like the free one was a little helpful, but it didn't have more common emotions. Did the actual Emotion Thesaurus have common, basic emotions along with more complex ones?

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    2. Yes, the actual Emotion Thesaurus has both common and complex emotions. The free one is helpful with some things and I like it as well, but it's not really about actual emotions. Hope that helps. :)

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    3. Okay, thank you. Have you read any of their other books? I know they have a bunch of craft books, but I'd rather have a second opinion before I decide if I want them or not. Thanks again. :)

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    4. Those are both good ones to mention, Talia!

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    5. Ivie B, I love all of their craft books! They are definitely worth buying, in my opinion at least. I don't use their Positive and Negative Trait Thesauruses quite as much as the others for some reason, but I still like having them. I find their Setting Thesauruses especially useful. Each thesaurus helps you in a specific area of your writing. Plus they're all really fun to read through. :)

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    6. Okay, I'm definitely looking into that, then. Thanks for answering my questions. :)

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    7. Yeah totally!! I love recommending my favorite books. :)

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  17. I have been a reader-reader from a reading family forever, so I think there are a million books that have inspired my writing! But when I was 11 or 12 I listened to a ton of audiobook classics with my siblings, you know, lying on the living room floor around the radio, for hours at a time. The Railway Children, The Pushcart War, Snow Treasure, Bud and Me, Carry On Mr. Bowditch--I have vivid memories of those books to this day! Edith Nesbit's The Treasure Seekers was one I kept coming back to, though, and really inspired me when I read it as a writer later. The amusing, conversational voice of the boy narrator was something I wanted to be able to imitate (maybe a more modern, American version, though!).
    I've actually read quite a few craft books, and hands down the best was Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. I don't think it's for everyone, but it spoke to the way I wanted to write (no outlines!), and helped me strengthen things like plot and structure without killing my love of inspired writing.

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    1. Hannah, I absolutely love audio books. Like you, I've found they really stick with me.

      And I think that book is fabulous when you're at that place where you're overwhelmed with all the writing "rules" and you need to be reminded that it's about telling a good story. Great suggestion!

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  18. For the fiction book, I have to say quite a lot of books inspire me, but one that I can significantly remember is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I had been working on a story about a group of people in a magical world where everybody had a different magical power. I was on page 68 and about a third of the way through the book. I thought that was pretty good. Then I re-re-re(possibly another re, I'm not sure)read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and realized that Harry didn't even read his Hogwarts letter until page 50.
    I haven't read the Go Teen Writers book yet, but this site is by far the most helpful thing for writing. (By the way, thank you so much for the post on how to show your story rather than telling it. That helped me a lot.)
    ~Mila

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    1. I forgot to add this in there, but when I was about nine I read a book and when I was finished had that sense of waking up and looking around that comes at the end of a really good book. I got up and thought, "Now what?" and then, "You know, it's so hard to find a good book to read when you're done with the one you have and don't have any on your to-be-read list. I want to help people with that."
      And that was the beginning of my writing career.
      Very sadly, I don't remember that book that I read that made me think of becoming a writer.
      ~Mila

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    2. That's so interesting, Mila! What a great way to start writing!

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  19. So... it's sad... but I haven't read too many craft books (trying to change that) because of not having a lot of book money. However, I did just pick up Bird By Bird and want to read it this summer. I did read parts of a couple of good playwrighting books last semester... The Perfect Ten (for ten minute plays) and The Art and Craft of Playwriting. I want to read more craft books!

    A fiction book that influenced me... many... but one of the early ones was The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson. That was one of the first Christian fantasy novels I read (not counting Narnia) and one of the first fantasies in general. It really opened up the door for the love of fantasy that would become me writing in this genere.

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    1. And when you're in college and have a loooong list of books you have to read, plus other school work, it's really tough to take time for other reading.

      I hope you enjoy Bird by Bird! It's a favorite of mine :) (And Shan, apparently!)

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  20. Craft book that interested me... Jill's Storyworld First. Partly I think because it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one that got the Worldbuilding bug.

    Novel: So many have at so many different stages at my life. From Narnia and the Boxcar Children when I was six and just starting to write, to LOTR, theWingfeather Saga books and Agatha Christie as I grew older. I guess you can see my interests :)

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  21. I haven't read as many craft books as I'd like to (Bird by Bird and On Writing are on my to-read list!) but I found Save the Cat useful for learning how to plot. I actually won my copy of it from a GTW competition, so thank you guys!

    I think Maggie Stiefvater's novels (The Raven Cycle especially, but also The Scorpio Races) have made me a better writer. Reading her books is like taking a masterclass in crafting realistic characters and writing good prose :)

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