by DiAnn Mills
This blog is not about your favorite treat, although a bowl of M&Ms does seem to make the creativity flow at rocket speed. I want to talk about the kind of candy that sweetens our writing, the books that take our craft to the next level.
I have personal favorites, and these are the ones I want to share with you.
1. When I’m stuck on creating a character with unique goals:
The Art of Character by David Corbett springboards me to discover character insight and motivation. My goal is to create the unforgettable character, and his wisdom helps me to write the memorable.
Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass recharges me. This book pumps my inspiration with clear guidelines and examples. Digest these statements: “To infuse a novel with a significance that speaks to many requires, paradoxically, that you ignore what the public wants and focus instead on what matters to you. High-impact fiction is highly personal . . . Reaching millions requires reaching into yourself. It means finding your own truth.” Wow, when I read Maass, my mind whirls into action, inspiring me to look beyond what I’d considered for my character.
In addition to character traits, the above references assist me in writing a credible setting, one that is antagonistic.
2. When I’m stuck on plot:
This struggle in the writing process takes me down different paths. Since I write romantic suspense, my plot problems are often solved when I read best sellers in the same genre. The creativity moves me to brainstorm what-ifs in the context of my own characters and story.
Online articles from newspapers to law enforcement often report how a crime or event unfolded and ended.
TV shows and movies are a valuable source of tight writing where every moment (word) must have an impact on the story.
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell is a standby to review and appreciate when I need a refresher.
3. When I’m stuck on dialogue:
My favorite resource for composing dialogue is Dialogue by Gloria Kempton. The sections are short with applicable exercises to practice the concept. When I want my dialogue to be filled with suspense and tension, this how-to sharpens my awareness of the power of the spoken word.
4. When I’m stuck on showing:
I have four resourses that I use constantly. All help me visualize a character with distinct physical and internal actions and reactions to my story’s happenings.
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi rests on my desk. I can’t say enough about this reference. The book blends various emotions with body language and internal reactions. Whether my character is experiencing an emotion or reading a possible emotion from another character, this book helps explore the creative process.
The Power of Body Language by Tonya Reiman is exactly what it states. Correctly interrupting body language is an art, and most of us aren’t experts in that area. But our characters may need to read other people, and in the process, the writer learns too.
I Know What You Are Thinking by Dr. Lillian Glass was recommended to me years ago by a Secret Service agent. I immediately purchased it. If a Secret Service agent valued the information, I would too.
The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. Emotions in conflict keep the reader turning pages. This book shows not only how to accomplish that “fire” but with specific examples.
5. When my confidence fails:
I reach for my Bible. My career is my calling, and when I’m down the best way to get back up is a reminder of how much God loves me. Ephesians 4 and prayer are my dark-day prescriptions.
Another confidence boost is Writing for the Soul by Jerry Jenkins. His words of wisdom encourage and inspire me to try just a little harder.
Two solid books help me during the revision stage. One is Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, and the second is The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke. A first draft is never the finished project, and these resources draw my attention to every aspect of the story.
If you’re looking for one more resource book, I’ve written The Dance of Character and Plot, a step-by-step guide to writing a novel. It contains writer exercises and book recommendations for challenging areas.
No matter what your favorite writing books, the key is to use them, selecting those passages that speak to you and your book.
DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.
DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, Faith, Hope & Love, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.