I’m often asked what books, courses, etc. I recommend for writers. I can only speak to the ones that have helped me, so I’ll list here what training I’ve found helpful. A few notes:
- Being an English major in college helps because you learn how to analyze story meaning and structure, but is not necessary.
- You do not need an MFA to be a writer. (But if you want one, by all means, get one!)
I consider lifelong learning a kind of do-it-yourself MFA.
There are a million books out there that purport to tell you how to be a successful self publisher. Don’t fall for ones promising you’ll make millions off the bat. These are the ones I would advise anyone thinking of self publishing to read.
- Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing by Helen Sedwick (Author is a lawyer from CA who also writers. She walks you through setting up your imprint and a host of other possible legal issues. Don’t self-publish without it.)
- Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran (all of it is useful)
- Business for Authors by Joanna Penn
- How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
- SMART Social Media for Authors by Chris Syme
(I will be adding to this list over the next several months as I finish the resources I have.)
Books on the craft of writing are always a touchy subject with writers. Some that others adore, I detest and vice versa. My recommendations:
- Anything written by Michael Hauge, Larry Brooks or Christopher Vogel (including their lectures)
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris
- Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
We all need resources as we write. Some of my favorites:
- The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
- The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
I’m a huge fan of Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy. If you miss a class, you can order the lecture packets, which is what I’ve done for most of these. These are classes I’ve taken:
- Diving Deep into Deep Point of View
- Digging Deep into the EDITS System (highly recommended for a unique perspective on editing)
- Advanced Deep Editing: A Master Course
- Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues
- Empowering Characters’ Emotions
- Deep POV (taught by Rhay Christou)
Also, RWA offers great courses (not just on romance) through Romance University as well as the local chapters. Offerings are always changing, but ones I’ve enjoyed include:
- Inside the Male Mind
- Writing Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw
- Let’s Keep It Short: Writing Stories and Novellas
- Romance Writing 1o1
The Great Courses
These are lectures you can view/listen to at home. The Great Courses are available on just about every subject under the sun and are very comprehensive, much like taking a university course.
They can be a significant financial investment (hint: wait until they are on sale and sign up for their mailing list to get coupons), but they are taught by experts and you can choose your format (audio or video download, CD, DVD). You also have the option of purchasing a book, which is what I did so didn’t have to take as many notes. Ones I’ve enjoyed:
- Building Great Sentences
- Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques
- The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
- Daily Life in the Ancient World
- The Story of Medieval England
Whatever your genre, join your national association and any local chapters. Join local/state/regional writing groups. Attend local writing seminars and conferences. You can learn something anywhere. And if you’re brave enough, present what you know. It’s great experience.
Many groups offer opportunities for writers. So far, I’ve only done one, so it’s the only one I can speak to. I was fortunate to be selected as one of six writers to attend a week-long Master Class at Hedgebrook with #1 NYT bestselling author Deborah Harkness. I learned more in a week than I could have in a two-year program. They offer new classes several times a year, so you’re sure to find something to suit you.
If you have the opportunity, apply for a writer’s residency. If you’re a woman, I recommend Hedgebrook. While I haven’t done a residency there yet, I did attend a Master Class there. They take care of you and let you focus on your writing. What a treat!