Sunday, July 10, 2011

Advice from Janet and Steve – Books on Writing

In between the fiction books I love to read, I try to squeeze time here and there for a non-fiction book or two. When I’m editing, like I am now, I pull out a few books for tips. Tonight, I grabbed How I Write by Janet Evanovich and On Writing by Stephen King. These are two of my favorite authors, and I love their distinct voices.

Janet first. I flipped to the chapter “Revising and Editing.” She gives a great rewriting checklist that I think is especially helpful. A couple of these items are some that I’m finding I have to revisit in my book: “Is the villain strong enough to give the main characters a true challenge?” “Is it clear what the main characters want and what are their motivations?” “Have you edited out words that have no function?” My villain isn’t nearly as vicious as she could be, I haven’t yet introduced one of the main characters, and I’m hacking through the forest of unnecessary words: really, very, just, that, etc.

Stephen King is also full of fantastic advice I’m taking to heart. One of my favorite pieces of wisdom is the Rewrite Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.  I’m tossing quite a bit from the rough draft, from those unnecessary words to sometimes full pages of things that just don’t work.

I also find myself stumbling a bit on the backstory. This book is a sequel, and I have to bring the reader up to speed on some topics. S.K. says “(a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick with the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest.” I’m doing my best to trim the excess and leave only the info that directly impacts the storyline in this book.

But I am making progress! And I’m pretty pleased with it so far. I started with a printed out copy of the book and a red pen. I’ve made notes and changes for 15 of 24 chapters. It’s clear, though, that when I translate my notes from the written pages to my Word document, I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s a little daunting, but I’m encouraged by how the book is shaping up so far.

I think I have just enough time to edit another chapter before bed, so I will sign off here. Happy writing, ROW80-ers!


  1. Hi! I've read both those and think they're great writers references.

  2. two of my favorite authors :-) can't hurt to learn from the best! Great job this week - sounds like you are on a positive roll :-)

  3. I've read On Writing and loved it. Havn't read How I Write yet. Right now, I'm finishing Larry Brooks' Story Engineering. It's fantastic.

  4. Thanks for stopping by everybody! These are two of my favorite writers too - great storytellers.

    @Sonia I haven't read Story Engineering yet, but I already put it on my TBR list. It's getting amazing reviews!