Need Valentine’s Gifts?

Need gifts? I love gifts – specifically gift shopping. My favorite way to put myself to sleep is to think of different people and shop for them if I have an unlimited budget and limitless ability to acquire stuff. I know, I’m weird. But it calms my spinning brain down to try to figure out HOW I might acquire, say, a genuine piece of Packers stock, let alone freak out the recipient by giving them such a thing. By the time I work out all the budgetary and logistical crazyness, I fall asleep. I am well aware that I am weird.

Anyway, every so often on my other site that is of no interest to anyone unless you really want to read about how I watched vintage 1993 episodes of 90210 at 6:30am this weekend (Donna graduated! My GOD were those people blonde! Not in a stereotypical dumb way but in a blinding-to-look-at way) I often post links to gift ideas, mostly to aid myself when I wonder what to get someone when it’s a gift-giving occasion. But since these gifts are Teh Awesome, I’m going to inflict my Gift Guiding Goodness on y’all, only this time no velvet vulvas with feathers.

I’ve written about Ninth Moon before, back in December, but that was before I got the Full Treatment of actually receiving a package from them. Seriously – even the packaging and protective filler is part of the presentation. Heck, forget your friends, your family, all those people you work with – just order stuff for yourself. Like what?

I’m totally ordering the CD case for writing backups for a friend of mine who rarely remembers to back her ass up.

Check out that timer. I’ve been downloading Dashboard widgets up my yin-yang and not a one works the way I want, but that puppy is bad ass.

And, of course, the B.I.C.H.O.K. charm, which I looooooove. It’s awesome. With a side order of shibby.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the company or work for them. I’m just kissing up shamelessly.

While I’m looking around the store and hiding my wallet from myself (I’m scared to tell you how well that works), I’m checking out all the writing books. And I have to ask – what writing book has worked best for you? If you could give someone a book about writing, or self-motivation to write, is there one that you always refer to that changed the way you look at your craft?

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  1. --E says:

    I’m partial to Lawrence Block’s books Telling Lies for Fun and Profit and Spider, Spin Me a Web. Not every essay is equally great, but most have been great at one stage or another in my development as a writer. Block analyzes craft in a logical, practical manner that works very well for me.

    He also often makes the point that a writer should look at this stuff consciously and logically in order to learn it, but then should shove it to the backbrain and let the subconscious do the writing.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I adore Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, for its living-as-a-writer advice, such as it’s okay to be a jealous bitch when others succeed and you don’t. (I’m paraphrasing here.) She’s honest, funny, and she does crams some good writing lessons in there too.

    Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. That book inspired me and got me writing (and to pay her back I named my first book’s main character after her. I wonder if she knows?)

  3. Oh hell. I don’t know… I have somewhere over the 60 mark… I have Stephen King’s On Writing, Kathryn Falk, Romance for Dummies (no, that’s not hers, but I can’t think of the name and I’m being lazy and not getting up), Noah Lukeman’s First Five Pages. Just a lot of them.

    One thing I have found is there is commonality (how to be professional and not to stalk agents etc.) between them, but you can only use what works for you.

    I’m a pantser and no matter how hard I try to change that, I can’t, yet many praise outlines and syno’s before writing, and blurbing (now don’t that sound just naaaasty?) before… And I can’t.  I’m a point to point writer, not a plot writer, if there is such a critter. If there is, I claim being one!

    Can I suggest just one? No. But I wouldn’t have even picked up those if I didn’t have at least an inkling of what I was going to write to begin with. Genre books, and basic structure (Query, syno and style) books are a good beginning.

    And like was said, your conscious brain learns, your subconscious brain creates, so the biggie: Learn which side does what, because trying to force the conscious brain to do the subconscious’ work will stifle you. Big time…

    Spaminator: Probably33: Hell! I wish!

  4. R. says:

    Off the top of my head:  Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You by Ray Bradbury, and Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula Le Guin—

    There are lots of others, but these two are my faves.

  5. NkB says:

    HOW TO WRITE AND PUBLISH YOUR FIRST NOVEL.  Pretty straight-forward.  Caveat:  I have never published a novel.  But I have attempted to do so unsuccessfully several times.

  6. L.C. McCabe says:

    Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff.

    It is a book for actors to find the hidden nuggets of gold in scripts, but I find it helpful to realize these are the things I need to put in to my manuscript.

    I blogged about my adoration of that book here:

    Whenever I need to remind myself of what constitutes drama, I turn to that book.


  7. Erin says:

    I’ve been attempting to do National Novel Writing Month ( for the past four years, and I’m thrilled to say that this past November I succeeded! Awesome! 50K words of absolute dribble that would interest no one but me.

    In any case, if you’re a first-time novel writer like me who is scared to sit down and just put out >something

    <, I recommend the book

    No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. The point of this book is not to get you to write a Pulitzer prize winning novel in 30 days – the point is just to get the juices flowing (and write 50K words that may or may not be absolute crud). And if you need a character that enjoys quoting entire (and well cited, of course) soliloquys from Hamlet or an incredibly deaf character who requires that everything be repeated to him twice, well, this book is the way to go. Apparently Chris Baty has even spoken to my boss to tell me that a) I can write my novel on the clock, and b) I can totally use the office printer to print out 50 copies of my finished work. Schweet.

    Again – this book is entirely about word count. Be warned. I’ll be checking out some of the classier sources the fine bitchery has posted 🙂

  8. The article “Furor Scribendi” in Octavia Butler’s Blood Child & other stories. 

    OB is my favorite SciFi writer and she was often an instructor at the SciFi writers workshop, Clarion.

  9. NHS says:

    Nothing inspires me more than reading a well written story. ATM it’s Madeline Hunter’s Lessons of Desire. I so want to be able to do that kind of plotting and sexual tension etc etc etc.

    BTW- To get my mind to stop at night I design lavish fantasy bedrooms some even outdoors by a stream with billowing bed curtains but I often fall asleep before the fantasy man can slip under the covers.

  10. Meggrs says:

    Yay, Ninth Moon! Can I also point out, in addition to Sarah’s mention of their lovely packaging and other sweet bits, that they are incredibly nice?

    I ordered several X-Mas gifts from them after Sarah blogged about them here (and *coughmaybe got something for myselfcough*) and in addition to my order, I got a lovely, sincere handwritten note wishing me, among other things, happiness and success in my writing endeavors.

    Very, very cool peeps, and I’ve got them bookmarked for future purchases.

    As for writing books, I’ve read quite a few of the above mentioned, but agree most wholeheartedly with Block’s sentiment that while craft should be studied and absorbed, at some point you have to set it all aside and let it inform your writing, not enforce it. Easier said than done, I know.

  11. rhino writer says:

    Yay, NaNoWriMo!  The Anne Lamott book is great, but I’ve read too many of her nonfiction books and now get queasy when I read her fiction, like I know too much about her process (“Is this the funny thing her kid said when they were in the emergency room that time?”). I vote for Stephen King’s On Writing. He says something like “You have to tell your own story, no matter what other people are going to think about it,” which I love.

    When I really, really can’t sleep, I visualize making jelly rolls. Not that I’ve ever made them in real life. But they’re very soothing, imaginarily speaking.

  12. sadiekate says:

    Delurking to third the rec for “Bird By Bird” by Anne Lamott. My aunt gave it to me ten years ago, and I have gifted dozens of copies in turn. I read my copy so many times, all the pages fell out and I had to get a new one.

  13. Genevieve says:

    I’m more of a film/TV writer so my book is geared towards that – but it could work for novels, too, since it has a lot on story development, etc.

    The book is Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. It’s for people who want and love writing for mainstream audiences, I’ll tell you right out. 

    It walks you through every part of writing a screenplay, but the most emphasis is placed on story development, character development, and structure. Blake sometimes uses cutesy names for things, but they always are accurate.  The titular “Save the Cat!” moment, for example.  He’s also amusingly frank – he doesn’t talk around his dislike of certain films and his opinion of why they failed, for example It’s overall a fun read, and I find it especially helpful when I’m doing the initial brainstorming and solidifying of my ideas. I think this book would be a great read for anyone in the development stage of anything – screen play or short story or novel or TV show.

    If it has one failing, it’s the latter half of the book, where Snyder goes into a very complex discussion of the typical cork board/note card method of laying out a screen play. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak, and I don’t think so much space in the book should have been devoted to one specific, very complicated, method of writing.  But overall worth the money.

  14. Tamar Bihari says:

    I’ve never actually read my favorite writing book.  Weird, huh?  I took a seminar series on screenplay structure eons ago from John Truby.  His 22 basic plot elements turned the mystery of structure into something coherent and logical without turning it into dry formula.  Highly useful.  And now he has a book, The Anatomy of Story

    I’ve also heard good things about Save the Cat, another screenwriting book.  Studying script form is great; it lays structure bare. 

    They’re both about fiction/screenwriting, though, not nonfiction/fiction writing.  One that works for both is Noah Lukeman’s A Dash of Style,  all about the role of the comma, semicolon, etc. in creative writing.  More interesting than it sounds.  Fascinating, actually.  You’re welcome to borrow it. 🙂

    My favorite book for writers is probably Writing from the Inside Out, by Dennis Palumbo.  He’s a psychologist who specializes in writers and man, he really gets writer psychology.

  15. Manna says:

    Someone sent me You Can Write A Mystery by Gillian Roberts as a gift.  Apart from Stephen King’s On Writing, it’s the only how-to book I’ve ever read.  I found it pretty interesting, and while thers is a lot about what makes a good book in terms of structure, etc, the author is very much focused on helping writers find what writing style works for them rather than pushing the One True Way Of Writing.  F’rex, in the chapter on outlining, she has a lot of quotes from different writers who run the whole spectrum from fanatically detailed pre-planning to no planning at all, explaining how the process works for them.  The whole book is like that, which makes it less about being told how to do things and more about thinking carefully about what you already do and don’t do. 

    Although it is mystery-focused, most of the advice is general enough to apply no matter what genre you’re writing.  There’s a chapter at the end on how to get published, but I skipped that one so I don’t know if it’s anything different to the usual advice.

  16. Wry Hag says:

    Chicago Manual of Style
    Roget’s Thesaurus

    Beyond those, I’ve loved May Sarton’s journals.  Not because she gives composition advice, but because she give extraordinary glimpses into the solitary heart of a writer.

  17. AmandaG says:

    Dare I admit it? I suppose I do. 
    The Complete Idiots Guide to Getting Your Romance Published

    I find it informative and helpful, at least for writing romance novels.

  18. AmandaG says:

    Dammit all, I messed up the italics.

  19. SherriS says:

    Skimming through Jerry Cleaver’s Immediate Fiction works for me every time I’m stuck.

    NaNoWriMo is amazing. The first time I completed 50,000 words I floated on air for three months. Then I started editing. AUGH. But there is nothing like that sense of accomplishment and I recommend it to everyone. If you can do that, you can do anything.

  20. Bailey says:

    Hiding my wallet wouldn’t work very sell since I’ve memorized my Visa card number…

    Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel is like a ra ra cheerleading book for me when I’m frustrated. His grow from where you are theme follows right along with my ‘lead where you stand’ philosophy about life.

    Like NHS, great novels inspire my writing more than anything. I read for pleasure, but also for things I’d love to be able to do that I currently DON’T. Finding new goals for myself gets me going again.

    And to get my brain to turn off at night, I imagine this huge, humming machine. It doesn’t do anything but hum. If I still can’t sleep, there’s a conveyor belt and I can lie on that and move backwards and forwards through the machine until… zzzzz

    Making jelly rolls, I’ll have to try that. Bedroom designing and gift buying would only allow my brain to segway into it’s own things it liked to do while I’m supposed to be going to sleep.

  21. Lori Borrill says:

    Definitely Stephen King “On Writing”.  Also Robert McKee’s “Story”.  To valuable reads to anyone interested in trying their hand at writing novels.

  22. Melissa S says:

    I love to write and really wish I could do it full time one day. I’ve had a couple of good books, but I think one that I’m happiest with is the Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron.

    It’s basically filled with different exercises that help you come up with characters and plot without making long list of likes and dislikes (which is something I HATE doing).

    He also covers issues like first person vs third person (and what the hell is second person?!) Basically he makes you think about the different angles you need to look at to write a story before actually doing so.

    I’ve also done NANOWRIMO! Its excellent, but I’ve never been a success I blame the month of November since its my busiest month for classes and getting stuff done…but I’ll make it one day!


  23. Jenna says:

    I still love the first book on writing I ever got: Starting From Scratch by Rita Mae Brown. (It was a gift from my father when I was a teenager. Nothing ever said “I believe in you” so much as that.)

    I also love “The Unstrung Harp” by Edward Gorey. It’s not a writing manual but it’s about a what a novelist goes through while writing, and there are many pages when I just nod and think, “Oh, yeah, that’s happened to me.” The commiseration helps a lot.

    Second/third/fourth/whatever On Writing, Bird by Bird, Story and No Plot? No Problem!

    I also rely on Dare To Write a Great Novel (the author’s name eludes me and I’m not home to check my shelf), First Paragraphs by Donald Newlove, and Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress.

    later11—I might be back later with at least 11 more :).

  24. belkol says:

    The CD case is cool, but it won’t work unless you BACK UP YOUR FILES!!

  25. darchole says:

    This is directed more at the gift part of the post.

    I really don’t like Valetine’s Day (I’m about the furthest thing away from a romantic as you can get, which actually drives DH nuts sometimes). For those of you who think that Valentine’s Day should be stricken from the calendar here’s something for you:
    Despair Inc.‘s Bittersweets

    I do read books then end up in the romance section. But they’re the non-conformist type book that you can’t just put in one category.

  26. L Violet says:

    I didn’t know anyone else had ever heard of _Dare to Be a Great Writer_!  It’s by Leonard Bishop, and I agree, it is very good—short, meaningful, helpful, and encouraging paragraphs or essays.

    I was awed by McKee’s _Story_. I love analysis, seeing the inner workings of things. Fiction appears amorphous and mysterious, but McKee explicates it, like chemistry or physics.

    _The Writer’s Journey_ by Christopher Vogler is very good, too, in almost an opposite way from _Story_. It applies Joseph Cambell’s…theory?…vision?…of The Hero’s Journey to story construction. It’s deep and universal, not as to the mechanics of story, but its folk soul, its mythical constitution.

    Like LaMott’s books about writing; not so much her fiction. Ditto Stephen King. Have wondered if that means I should disregard their counsel about writing.  …  Naah.

    NaNoWriMo: I “won” (i.e., finished) one year. It’s great for getting started. If you have lots of time and don’t care if you spend a month of your life churning out junk, and if you can live on full-caffeine-content coffee for 30 days, and if you don’t have to do anything for Thanksgiving, NaNo’s a fun springboard.

    Actually, if you spent October outlining and December (and January, and February, and March…) revising, you could probably get something out of NaNo besides scrap paper. naNo has a humongous discussion site, in case you aren’t getting enough keyboard hours in.

  27. L Violet says:

    Campbell, not Cambell.

  28. Gail Dayton says:

    I think because I hate revision so much, two of my “favorite” writing books are on revision: SELF-EDITING FOR THE FICTION WRITER by Browne and King, and GETTING THE WORDS RIGHT by Theodore Cheney.

    I’m totally looking for that AUDITION book, tho…

    Has anyone mentioned Dwight Swain’s TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER? Or SCENE AND SEQUEL by whatever that other guy’s name is? He takes Swain’s ideas and makes them a bit more digestible.

    OOhhh, and there’s one that’s more inspirational type: WORD WORK—don’t remember the author at the moment, and since I moved house two days ago, it’s still packed up in some box or other, so I can’t go look—but the author is a writer with ADD. I love his ways of coping with his Disorder… It’s good stuff.

    I read Stephen King’s book, but I kind of got the “he’s looking down his nose at people who don’t just fly into the mist like he does” feeling from it, so wasn’t THAT impressed, since I’m neither one thing nor the other when it comes to process. Also a sneering at romance feeling…


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