Monday, February 27, 2012

Online Course: So Not Chick Lit: Writing Novels About Women's Lives

Want to let you know that registration for my online class, So Not Chick Lit: Writing Novels About Women's Lives, for Stanford Continuing Studies Online Writer's Studio is open now! This is a fun and informative class for all levels of writers and, since it's online, you can take it from anywhere in the world!

Here's some info from the description:

Since women buy the most books and make up the majority of book groups, it’s no wonder that publishers are always looking for well-written “women’s fiction.” But what exactly is women’s fiction? In this course, we define it as novels by and for women that explore women’s lives and issues, often focusing on, but not limited to relationships between mothers and daughters, siblings, friends, spouses, and so on, and those that showcase female protagonists. Through lectures, specific examples from current novels, and extensive feedback on your own work, you’ll learn techniques that will enable you to write successful women’s fiction in fresh, unclichéd ways, while still maintaining accessibility and appeal. We will especially look at developing a strong voice, how to use humor effectively (when appropriate), and ways to avoid preachiness and pretension.
In this course we’ll be doing close readings of three terrific books about women’s lives, The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, and Good Grief  by Lolly Winston, as well as looking at excerpts from some other fine novels. We’ll analyze the author’s voice, which includes attributes such as diction (the words the writer chooses), syntax (how she arranges and groups the words), structure (the order of how she presents events), and tone (the attitude toward the characters, subject and events of the novel). You’ll also discover choices you can make about point of view and past or present tense.

We’ll also be reading and discussing topics from an excellent book on craft, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction, a book I think you’ll find to be a handy reference and inspiration not only now, but long after this course is over.

If you're interested, please check it out here. Class starts April 9!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Favorite Books on Crafting Fiction

Dusting off the cobwebs of this blog and hoping to keep it more active!

Over the years, I’ve found a number of books on the craft of fiction writing to be most helpful when I crave a creative boost or when I need a few reminders. Of course there’s the old standby, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I think everyone knows and is popular because it’s so good, especially if you feel like receiving a supportive and funny pep talk. And I know a lot of people like On Writing by Stephen King, and while I wasn’t particularly sold, it has many fans.

On this post I’m going to list a few books that may not be as well known, but are certainly worth looking at no matter what type of fiction you’re working on.

The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch – I use this book in my Writing Novels About Women’s Lives class for Stanford’s Online Writer’s Studio. It’s good for both beginning fiction writers and those who are more advanced. It takes you through finding your story, shaping it, and revision as well as really nice advice on finding and inventing your own style. And I especially like it because the author comes off as both knowledgeable and supportive.

Hooked: Writing Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One and never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton – The title says it all. Many writers have problems with where to start their novel and this book covers everything about avoiding weak openings. It’s practical and informative. You might want to skip some of the examples, but there’s a lot in here that is quite helpful.

The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing – by Alice LaPlante – This is an ambitious and thorough book written by a well known writer and writing teacher. It takes on both fiction and creative non-fiction and important issues such as reading as a writer, why “show don’t tell” is such common advice (and why it’s not quite accurate), point of view, crafting effective dialogue, etc., etc. And it covers both short and long forms of fiction and non-fiction. There are many great exercises and excellent writing samples from esteemed writers that really prove their points. Well worth the high price tag.

Writers Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction – Edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez – The Squaw Valley Writers Conference is well known and one well worth applying to (I attended twice!). This book has essays by writers such as Michael Chabon, Janet Fitch, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott and Diane Johnson, and covers a wide variety of topics from sense of place, historical fiction and how to make critique workshops work for you.

Lastly, I always recommend this book: The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors by Catherine Wald – These road-to-publication interviews with authors including M.J. Rose, Arthur Golden, Bret Easton Ellis, Amy Tan and Elinor Lipman, are inspirational and illuminating.

What books have helped you with your writing? Leave a comment and let us know!