Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Writer's Life: Education (Sarah Sawyer)

Excellence in writing craft matters a great deal to me, as I suspect it does to most writers, and I hope to grow and improve with each book. Of course, the most important educational process comes from the act of writing itself, of birthing a book, editing, and refining it. But I’ve also found great benefit in reading craft books (and excellent novels), listening to podcasts, and taking courses.

Even in seasons with limited time, there are often creative ways to squeeze in a bit of professional development, whether through listening to a podcast while doing dishes (in my home this only works after the kids are in bed, otherwise there’s constant conversation!) or squeezing in a few minutes here and there to work through a craft book (late night nursing sessions, anyone?).

Many resources I’ve found through the recommendation of other writers, so I’d like to share five favorites with you—and I’d also love to hear which books you’ve found particularly helpful. 

  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction and The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I’ve read several of Donald Maass’s books, and these two definitely impacted me most. Maass brings his experiences as a reader, writer, and literary agent together to offer insightful and informative works. I love how these two books focus on the emotional experience of fiction and how to provoke that in a reader, examine the deeper elements of storytelling, and provide questions to spark creativity and reflection.
  • Structuring Your Novel and Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland. These two compliment each other nicely, one focusing more on the external elements of plot, and the other focused on the inner journey. I started my writing life as a pantster, but over the years evolved into a plotter, and K.M. Weiland’s books and website provided a springboard for developing and refining my own outlining methods. I appreciate the practical way she breaks down various elements of craft, structure, and storytelling. While I read these years ago, I still refer to them from time to time. 
  • How to Write a Series by Sara Rosett. I wanted to include this one because it covers a topic I don’t often see discussed. Relatively few resources exist on the topic of series, and those that do often carry the underlying assumption that the series will be a trilogy, but I favor (and write) longer series which benefit from a different approach. I appreciate that Sara examines different aspects of what makes a long-running series work and provides questions to consider when undertaking projects that will stretch over many books. She writes from the perspective of a hybrid author with experience in both the traditional and indie arenas, so that’s an extra bonus.

Now it’s your turn…what writing craft or business books do you recommend?

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