Thursday, June 9, 2016

My favorite books on writing by Amie Denman

While organizing my writing office, I ran across lovely rejections from Harlequin editors from way back in 2005. No matter how bad my manuscripts were (and they were bad), the editors were very kind and constructive in their notes. I'm happy to say I've gotten four Harlequin contracts in the past few years, and it's entirely because I have listened, studied, improved, gotten help, and never given up.

I once heard Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock speak at a writing conference, and they said they had approached writing novels as if it were a college course and they were studying it. That was great advice, and I am currently a student of the genre, devouring books on the craft of writing and trying to get better every day. I owe it to my readers! It's also fabulous homework to read several romance novels a week as "research." Best homework ever.

If you are an aspiring writer or just happen to love analyzing what makes a book great, here are some books on writing I highly recommend:


Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

This book is amazing and I keep re-reading it. It reminds us why human beings crave stories, and suggests ways to keep your reader so engaged she can't put down the book. My favorite chapter (and the one I need to listen to most) is "What can go wrong, must go wrong--and then some." Lisa Cron understands brain science and what makes a great story. She has helped me immensely!



Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan


I reach for it constantly. I adore the sections such as "50 Romance Plots" and "25 ways to show a character is a jerk." She gives so many concrete ideas I can actually use! Especially helpful are the lists of character names like "200 Names for contemporary heroines" and "100 Very common last names in the U.S. today." Helps me every time I get stuck!






Got High Concept by Lori Wilde

My editor (whom I love) is always telling me to "raise the stakes" and "deepen the conflict." I'm thankful that talented writers like Lori Wilde are willing to share their advice! This is a must-read. It made me think harder about how to cause problems for my characters and reward them in the end. Great advice on creating high stakes plots with lists of ideas and tropes.




Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes

I saw this one recommended by a romance writer friend on Facebook. I just got it in the mail today and have already read the entire thing. It's fun to read, but also very informative. Hayes includes a "Beat Sheet" where she gives a point by point outline for category or novella romance. I'm going to use it in all my future writing, beginning TONIGHT with the manuscript I'm struggling to get off the ground. Now I know why. Thanks, Gwen!





Writing the Great American Romance by Catherine Lanigan

Written with Catherine's heart, warmth, and wit, this guide to writing a story readers won't forget is just wonderful. I've read it twice and highly recommend it. Great discussion of the sub-genres of romance, and intuitive information about the audience for romance novels.

P.S. Catherine is also a Heartwarming author and has an impressive backlist and career! In addition to her personal success, she is gracious and kind to everyone--especially newcomers like me who still have a lot to learn!


I know there are many more wonderful books out there on the craft of writing fiction. I would love to hear your recommendations! The thing I love most about being in the community of romance writers is the willingness of authors to share their knowledge and experience. No one is climbing over other authors on her way to the top. The respect for the genre and for each other is truly Heartwarming.

26 comments:

  1. Very nice post, Amie, and good book recommendations!

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  2. I'm so glad you mentioned Catherine's book. I learn from her almost every time I interact with her! :-D

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  3. Amie! I am blushing and near tears here. Frankly, I was shocked to see my book in your list and read your lovely and kind words. It is my honor and privilege to be of any aid at all to new authors. You know how much I adore your writing, Amie. I feel like I just won about the best award possible. ANYTIME, I can be of any help to anyone aspiring to write and be published, I'm here. I'm all over the social media, so just contact me. My Heartwarming sisters are just that. Sisters of my heart and some of you are sisters of my soul. Our editors are the some of the most brilliant and talented people I've met in my 37 years in publishing. (Gees, that IS a long time.) They challenge us, keep us on track and raise the bar to keep Heartwarming a cut above. Excellence is always the goal and I am proud and blessed to be a Heartwarming author.

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  4. Amie, what I can't believe with all of the "help" books I've bought, read and passed on, that I've missed the ones you've named here. I must look for them ASAP. I'll offer another I keep at hand: The Emotion Thesaurus by Angel Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. Thanks for such a great blog. Story writing is always changing and it's essential to find new ways to tell a story.

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    1. I have The Emotion Thesaurus on the shelf on my desk--I should have included that one in my post!

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  5. Thanks for your list. I recently got an Amazon Fire and have begun adding books. Presently I’m reading GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict) by Debra Dixon (for the umpteenth time) and I’d enjoy placing more helpful books on the Kindle. I’ll check out your list on Amazon.

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    1. I'm ordering that one today! Thanks!

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  6. Good Morning, Amie! Thanks for all the good titles. Like Roz, I'm surprised by how many books I hadn't heard of. I didn't even know Catherine had a book about writing. Will have to investigate that. One of my favorites is by Stephen King - "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft." He talks a lot about himself, and that's just fascinating, but also about his process and how it all works for him.

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    1. I listened to that one in the car a few years ago, but I think I should try it in print this time. Great idea.

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  7. I have Master Lists and love it. And I just hopped over to Amazon and bought Catherine's book. I also have Angel Ackerman & Becca Puglisi's books. And James Scott Bell has a great one--Super Structure, among others. Great post!

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  8. Nice post! I'm big on craft books and have a list of many I've used on my blog, but you've listed a few I haven't tried and need to check out! I definitely have Catherine's and have to agree with the above remarks that she's always so supportive, wise and encouraging!! And that's not to take away from all the other remarkable HW authors here who are also wonderful and supportive :). We're lucky to be a part of such an incredible group of writers!!

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    1. Thanks, Rula. I feel the same way about HW and its authors.

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  9. Amie, thanks for this list. I don't ever want to stop learning the craft. One I've found especially helpful is Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

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    1. Hi Linda,
      I have that one way up on my bookshelf--I should get it down and read it again. Thanks for the reminder! Every year, I ask for craft books for birthday gifts, and Amazon makes this very easy via their "wish list." My husband always knows just what to get for me.
      Amie

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  10. Thanks for all of the great suggestions, Amie. I've had Wired for Story on my Amazon wish list for a while now. After reading this, I might have to head on over to purchase.
    I'm with Linda, Donald Maass' workbook is terrific!

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    1. Thanks, Jill. I'm getting it down from the top shelf right now!

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  11. OOooooh, new writing books! Aside from Catherine's, I didn't know about the others! Thank you so much for sharing. Especially that list one! I definitely need to know how to show a character is a jerk . Great post!

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  12. Thanks for the recommendations. I recently read Romancing the Beat, and found it immensely helpful. I didn't know Catherine had written a craft book. I'll be running over to look right away.

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  13. How did I miss that Catherine had written a craft book! Ack. Yeah, I have an excuse to go shop Amazon.

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  14. What an amazing list! Running (virtually) to Amazon now! Love, love, love! Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Very nice and informative post on the craft of writing. I saved all of your selections just in case I decide to write that novel some day. ( :

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  16. I think I need all of these! Thanks for sharing :)

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  17. And here I thought I had read every writing self-help book on the market, but I've never heard of these. On my way to look for them now! Thanks a bunch for sharing, Amie!

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  18. I was really inspired by Lisa Cron's work too, Amie. She spoke to one of my RWA chapters a couple of years ago and I took pages and pages of great notes...so interesting. Very fun to see the shout-out from my workshop with Cathy Mann, too! Thank you for the mention and cheers to you for leapfrogging past those early R's to all your new successes. I have a few of my old R's tucked away in a file too. I like keeping them (some! Not all ) to remind me of how far I've come on this journey. Sometimes we're so focused on moving forward we forget to look back and celebrate all we've already done. I think a couple of rejections are a great reminder of a huge mountain already climbed.

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