Writing Improvement Program

I will admit that I am very out of practice when it comes to writing. Writing used to be a religion for me. I was the kid who carried a special little notebook around for poems, stories, and ideas. I used that notebook more than I used my books for class. And sleep was never necessary if I was in the zone. I could write for hours and hours. Writing fueled me.

Creative writing hasn’t been a consistent part of my life since college, so I know that I am rusty. I have three novels that are in desperate need of refining. They were originally three short stories that I wrote when I was sixteen. I loved the characters so much I couldn’t let them go. Little by little I added chapters until, low and behold, I birthed three full length novels. Whether I publish or not, I love writing and I feel it is important to grow in your craft.

Last week I began searching Writer’s Digest and my local library for books on writing. I made a list of things I knew I needed to work on like writing more vivid descriptions, and gathered books from everything from plot to marketing. I am now slowly working through my list. My library allows me to borrow for 21 days so I am studying in bunches. Each night I work through a few pages of a book, taking notes when necessary.

This month I am reading the following:

blogging for writersBlogging for Writers: How Authors & Writers Build Successful Blogs
Robin Houghton

I finished this book and I recommend it as a good starting point. It had great hints for setting up WordPress blogs and an amazing list of blogs for writers, some of which I’m subscribed to already. The tips about directories and how to use the blog as PR for your writing career if you are, or plan to, publish gave me things to think about for the future.

The Art of War for WritersThe Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises
James Scott Bell

I’m only halfway through the book, but I have already taken more notes than I did in most of my grad school courses. I should probably just buy it. In fact, the “Writing Improvement Program” title came from James, although his program is about studying the best/favorite authors of your desired genre. The best thing about the book is that the chapters aren’t long and verbose like most English textbooks, and the exercises are helpful.

Painless Grammar Fourth EditionPainless Grammar
Rebecca Elliott, PhD

Painless Grammar. Enough said. Everyone needs to brush up on grammar. I haven’t had a grammar class since 2005. The book was actually written for kids. There is at least one other grammar book on my list, but this will give a good, brief brush-up on the basics and there’s an answer key to each set of exercises.

Characters & ViewpointsCharacters & Viewpoints
Orson Scott Card

I have not started this book yet, but I tend to be a character-driven writer and I’m excited to learn more tricks. Also, I think I want to explore writing in point of views other than third person omniscient.

Next month I will read Problogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett as well as Plot & Structure, and Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. What books have helped you improve your writing?