Last week I attended the one day Cape Fear Crime Festival in NC and one of the speakers was Chris Roerden, a contract editor now, with something like 44 years in the business, who's written the non-fiction and winner of the Agatha Christie for Best non-fiction book, DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY, and the follow-up, DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION.

Chris is a delightful speaker and I bought a copy of DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION (but haven't started it yet).

So, buying it I was wondering: what is your favorite How-To Write book?

Let us know,

David DeLee

A Cold Wind - a Grace deHaviland novella

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Effectiveness for these types of books depends on which marker the writer is at along the 'path.' A newbie, besides reading the genre, might get more out of William Noble's "Shut Up!" He Explained. (dialogue) Steal this Plot, and another I think is called Make That Scene. These are nuts and bolts texts. Noble is (was?) a professor at Middlebury. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Dan King (there was a co-author I can't recall, sorry) is helpful and really good as a quick reference book. Style by Joseph Williams too. ... Genre-wise? How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Emerson is good, and Hallie Ephron's book I second. Mr. Block had another book, Spider, Spider, Spin Me A Web, (I think, it might have been Tale) taken from his WD columns back in the day.

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

For plotting I really love Carolyn Wheat's How to Write Killer Fiction. For editing/revising, I love Chris Roerdon's Don't Murder Your Mystery. Both terrific books, but probably best suited to intermediate-advanced writers who've already written 2-3 novels.

I have Carolyn Wheat's HOW TO WRITER KILLER FICTION. It's great. It was her analysis of Robert Crais' novel HOSTAGE that turned me on to his books.

David DeLee

A Cold Wind - a Grace deHaviland novella

Interesting!  I think maybe that did it for me, too. I really like his books, have read most of them. Funny thing, tho, I met him at a conference in New Orleans, and he said he hated the movie they made of the book. But I'm sure it made him big bucks, which allowed him to write without being under the gun, so to speak. :)

Definitely, definitely Sol Stein!

Then Donald Maass - Writing the Breakout Novel (and the Workbook that goes with it)

Also Loren Estleman's Writing the Popular Novel (though don't believe what he says about British English in the last chapter ... I got into a bit of an email spat with him about it when I tried to suggest he was wrong ... :-(  )

Irving Wallace also wrote a cracking little book called, I think, The Writing of One Novel, which was very precise and detailed.

Wht did he say about British English?

I wish I could remember ... it wasn't about British English in general, it was a series of tips about what words not to use, if you're American writing as British, because they mean something different in British English. Or, the other way round, that there are words that we use to say things that Americans wouldn't use. Unfortunately I'm away from my books at the moment (in a different country) so I can't look it up!

It was something like a word we Brits are supposed to use to mean 'winking' at someone ... but it was a word that was extremely old in its use and I'm not sure it meant wink anyway! No-one in the UK would have used it. Damn, wish I could remember but it's over 5 years since I read it. Anyone out there got a copy and can look it up ... ?

:)  Not to worry.  Another Brit writing an American police procedural (why?), used the word "Paracetamol" in his novel. That threw me. "Aspirin" would have worked in both countries, but in this case it should have been "Tylenol."  Otherwise, I think British settings should keep their British terms.  Most of us who read British books are familiar with them.


I thought you meant style or language in general.


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