November, as some of you surely know, is National Novel Writing Month! Although I am not participating this year, I have done so in the past, and I know how hard it’s getting right about now. The clock shows it’s well past halftime, and maybe you’re a little (or a lot) behind on your writing goals. Maybe you started late and you’re trying to make up ground. Maybe you’re still on track but worried that you might not be able to keep up the momentum. Well, in any of those cases, don’t lose hope! To help you along, I’ve come up with these titles to skim through if you need some ideas or inspiration – just don’t use too much writing time!
Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure, by Jesse Lee Kercheval
Focusing mainly on the bone structure of a story, this book might just help you if you’re feeling like your plot is mired down or missing something fundamental.
Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict, by Cheryl St. John
On the other side of the coin, this title glosses over all that hooey about plot and explains the importance of knock-your-socks-off dramatic storytelling.
Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue, by Gloria Kempton
Available through WCCLS as an e-book, take this one on the bus with you and learn how make your characters sound real. A hint: real-life dialogue doesn’t sound quite normal in fiction! Learning what to cut makes a massive difference.
Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction, by Jessica Page Morrell
Are your villains just not seeming, well, villainous enough? This book will help in a big way. It’ll teach you how to turn your flat, uninspiring megalomaniac into a complex, deeply flawed character who compels meaningful change in your protagonist. And, since the simple equation for plot is “character change / time”, this ought to be something you want!
Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (multiple authors)
Writing a genre piece for your NaNoWriMo? Interested in genre writing in general? There are some easy pits to fall into when writing genre fiction, and this book helps you to develop compelling content while avoiding the most harmful overused tropes and groaners.
Even if you aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo this year, these titles may just help you get past that wall you’re running into with your story. Remember that there are many other resources in Portland as well – as one of the most literary cities in the nation, you’ll find an abundance of book groups and writing groups, as well as writing centers as colleges across the state who would be delighted to help you move things along. Get writing!