January Meeting Notes

What is your favorite book on writing?

We had a newcomer at today’s Saturday Writers Group. We always love seeing new faces.

New writers often ask, how do I learn how to write? How do I plan a novel and get that first draft written? These are big questions.

Luckily better writers than us have tackled them. Our discussion circled around several times to the same question, what is the best book on writing? We all had our favorites. Here are just a few we discussed.

On Writing

By Stephen King

Stephen King is definitely a master story teller and it’s no surprise that his book on writing is a favorite among several of our Saturday Writers.

Zen in the Art of Writing

By Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is another master story teller and his book on writing, Zen and the Art of Writing is another favorite of our members.

Heinlein’s Five Simple Business Rules for Writing

By Dean Wesley Smith

Science fiction author Robert Heinlein made his living writing genre science fiction by following five simple rules. Dean Wesley lays them out in this book.

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

By Randy Ingermanson

Wanting more practical advice? Try the Snowflake method.

The first two books on the list may help you with creative. Heinlein’s rules deal with the discipline of writing. The snowflake method deals with the bare bones of how to plot out a story, taking you from a single sentence to a fully drafted novel.

Those are our picks for best books on writing. What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments, or come next month and tell us in person.

Defending Dramatica…Against My Own Words!

Ok folks, I have a tendency to say whatever is on the tip of my tongue, or in this case fingertips, without thinking. I now find myself a bit chagrined by one of those previous slips. It’s true that Dramatica cost an arm and a leg or possibly some other vital body parts, but it is a good program.

At the time of said offense, I was struggling with plot twists and points it showed me that never would have come up otherwise. Yes, it annoyed me and I took it out on the poor defenseless program instead of where it belonged. Me! I felt like a complete moron for not seeing these things on my own.

Dramatica works from the writer’s perspective instead of that of the audience, look at this article by Chris Huntley to understand the why and how.

Dramatica lingo can be a little intimidating. When I first started using it, I was frustrated, mumbling about it being a waste of money. I guess I thought I was brilliant enough not to RTFM (read the f’n manual) as my adorable hubby so kindly puts it. It takes time to master, but there is help. I don’t mean the silly help files that come with every program. They give you explanations, theory, definitions and stories to compare as well as the online community. All very helpful.

There are neat little toys such as the Character List. Say bye-bye to all those index cards cluttering up your desk or getting lost, the info is all right there in your computer. You can insert pictures of how you visualize your character, a description, role in the story, gender…you get the picture.

Then there’s the Brainstorming tools. You spin the wheel and it randomly picks a storyform that matches the choices you’ve already made. The Character Generator gives you new characters to play with including name, gender and character elements or you can modify existing characters.

I use it as a safety net, to keep me on track, but it also serves another purpose, it makes you THINK! Do you have the answers to Dramatica’s Twelve Essential Questions for your story? Would you have even thought to ask them?

I took a moment and applied Dramatica Theory to some of the books I’ve read. Suddenly it made sense. My Main Character didn’t have to be the Protagonist (although she is) and the Impact Character didn’t have to be the Antagonist (which he is not) allowing me to see beyond the basic plot. You know, all those pesky subplots that heighten the experience.

I could continue with my biased opinion, but you should judge for yourself. Give the demo a whirl and tell me where I’m wrong or heaven forbid agree with me.

No, Dramatica is not going to write the book for you. What it can do is take a barely alive story and make it better. Better. Stronger. Faster. Ladies and gentlemen, you can rebuild your story…you have the technology!