Posts Tagged ‘ books for writers ’

Three New Books That Will Make You A Better Writer

Write from your heart, and you just might change the world. That’s what happened when Harriet Beacher Stowe published the courageous and controversial Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Recommended by the NYT Book Review, David S. Reynolds tells you how it all happened in Mightier Than the Sword.

Ultimately, we write to communicate, and I don’t know a better communication method than Joe Weston’s Respectful Confrontation. In his book, Mastering Respectful Confrontation, Weston reveals the key to strengthening yourself and your relationships. Get that right, and you will write well too.

Literacy advocate Pam Allyn offers guidance and inspiration to parents in Your Child’s Writing Life, How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age. And although I work primarily with adults, I am looking forward to the writing prompts and principles this book promises. We can all use a little childlike learning.

Don’t miss my other two summer reading lists, Three New Books That Will Broaden Your Reading Horizons and Three New Books That Will Turn You On To Other Books. Subscribe to my blog now to make sure you never miss a post again.

And if you get inspired to do a little writing yourself this summer, drop me a line. I’ll make room on my coaching schedule for you.


Three New Books That Will Turn You On To Other Books

Perhaps you loved the film Precious, but did you read the book? This summer, bestselling author Sapphire releases the story of her beloved character’s son, The Kid. Why not read them both?

The generous and lit–savvy Minal Hajratwala recommended Malinda Lo‘s fantasy fiction, Huntress, to me, and now that I’ve discovered it, I can’t wait to read its previously published sequel, Ash. From the website: “Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.” Sounds exciting, right?


Okay, it’s not a book. But the lovely and talented M.J. Hahn has podcast-produced his second young adult horror-fantasy novel, The Isis Heart, a grim tale of love, friendship, and immortal beauty. With the final episode freshly posted, you can listen to all 13 episodes at whatever pace you like. Then go back and listen to the first novel, Yuki O’Malley and The Bellefaire.

Subscribe to my blog to catch the next list: Three New Books That Will Make You A Better Writer. And don’t miss last week’s list, Three New Books That Will Broaden Your Reading Horizons.

And if you get inspired to do a little writing yourself this summer, drop me a line. I’ll make room on my coaching schedule for you.

Three New Books That Will Broaden Your Reading Horizons

I sometimes get stuck in a reading rut, drawn to the books that fit into the neat categories I’ve identified as “my tastes.” Don’t you? This summer, I want to read a long-overdue collection of writing in a genre I don’t know much about. Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Michael Hames García and Ernesto Javier Martínez ought to do the trick.

If you’d like to broaden your summer reading by stealing a little something off The Sexy Grammarian‘s shelf, try Big Sex Little Death, my sex and writing hero’s memoir. As Dan Savage puts it, “Susie Bright‘s real life is just as compelling–more compelling–than her sex life. And that’s saying something.”

And how about a lyrical, post-apocalyptic novel recommended by Lambda Literary? Tenea D. Johnson‘s Smoketown intrigued me from its very first line: “Anna Armour had had her fair share of failed resurrections.”

Subscribe to my blog to catch next week’s lists: Three New Books That Will Turn You On To Other Books  & Three New Books That Will Make You A Better Writer.

And if you get inspired to do a little writing yourself this summer, drop me a line. I’ll make room on my coaching schedule for you.

How To Write Dialogue, the wisdom of Mike Sirota

I always attend the La Jolla Writers Conference with my dad, and he encouraged me sit in on Mike Sirota‘s dialogue-writing workshop for good reason. Sirota offers a wealth of information on the subject. Here are the highlights:

Read Writing Dialogue, by Tom Chiarella.

Dialogue is one of the places where you lose the reader. Usually, after the opening hook, it’s the next big “risk point.” And what should dialogue do?

  • reveal character
  • reveal plot
  • lend emotion
  • lend background and local color

Dialogue shows rather than tells. “Except when it tells,” says Mike with a smirk. And then he goes on to offer some balance percentages. How much of your story should be dialogue versus narrative? Mike suggests 60% narrative and 40% dialogue. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men offers a classic exmaple of this rule broken in a novel because it is about 80% dialogue. “But it was originally a play,” Mike points out.

Mike packs his workshop with useful dialogue writing tips. Here are a few:

  • Become an eavesdropper. Study how people really talk by paying attention to overheard conversation.
  • Leave out the $20 words. Nobody uses them.
  • Don’t worry about grammar and not-words, such as goin’ or gonna. Write the way you hear the speech.
  • When your character has an accent or dialect difference, don’t try to translate everything he says with phonetic spelling. Instead, choose key words to communicate the sound of the accent. Your reader will get it and fill in the rest.

Mike also discussed how to use dialogue tags, such as he said and she said:

  • Use dialogue tags sparingly.
  • If you’ve created unique characters with unique voices, you will need fewer clarification tags.
  • Switch up placement of tags. “Oh no,” he said. He said, “Oh no!” “Oh,” he said. “No!”
  • Many authors and fiction experts insist that the only proper dialogue tag verb is said, but that doesn’t have to be a hard-and-fast rule. If someone really is replying, use he replied.
  • But adverbs in your dialogue tags are DEATH! Avoid stuff like he said longingly.
  • With no indicator tag, a reader can follow only 3-4 lines of dialogue before she gets lost.
  • Use tags as necessary: Is it obvious who’s speaking? Is it something only she would say? Does it only make sense if he says it?
  • Use narrative to replace dialogue tags. An action by a character adjacent to a quotation indicates that the same character who took action spoke the next line. For example: “Get over here!” Kristy wiggled a finger at him.

Mike also warns against two types of bad dialogue:

Irrellevent Dialogue: stuff nobody would say under the circumstances

Contrived Dialogue: a character tells you a story you need for the narrative to work