Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Do You Do, How To?

by Anna Campbell

Are you a how-to book fan?

I have to say I'm addicted to reading writing how-to books. Right now they're on my mind in a big way so I thought I'd shoot the breeze about the self-help section of the bookshop. Hmm, perhaps I'd be on millionaire's row if I could just rephrase that sentence as "I'm addicted to writing reading how-to books." I could definitely write a book about reading! And I'd LOVE the research!

How-tos (henceforth to be referred to as H2s) are on my mind because I've just finished reading a really great one - the new edition of Harlequin Mills and Boon author Kate Walker's classic 12-POINT GUIDE TO WRITING ROMANCE. I'm also about to re-read what is probably my favorite writing H2, Dorothea Brande's BECOMING A WRITER so I can review it for my friends at the Romance Dish (check out the review on the 24th March).

I've read H2s for years - there's always some new insight to gather from another writer's experience and sometimes, as in the case of the three books I'll mention today, it's lightbulb moment after lightbulb moment. By the end, I'm dragging out the sunglasses to cut the glare!

I know we have a lot of writers who visit the lair so I thought I'd share a few thoughts about why Kate's book is such a great resource.

Just lately I've judged a stack of writing contests and I must say there's some impressive talent out there! But there are also a lot of aspiring writers who need help with two of the basic building blocks of a great story, conflict (the obstacle/issue keeping the couple apart for 200 or 400 pages so we've actually got, yanno, a STORY!) and motivation (why do these people behave as they do?). The two chapters of Kate's book on these essential elements are masterly - clear, concise and they emphasize that without adequate conflict and motivation a story has the oomph of a piece of cold spagghetti. No offense to all those lovely, oomph-heavy pieces of cold spagghetti who read the blog!

The last of my three H2s that I'd love to mention is BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE by Anne Lamott. This is a book that vies with Dorothea's as my favorite writing H2. I use its advice all the time - especially the story behind the title. The author's brother had to finish a school project about all the birds in America and he left it until the very last minute and fell into a crippling panic at the thought of getting it done. Anne Lamott's father calmed the boy down and said, "Let's do it bird by bird."

When I'm staring down the barrel of a HUGE project like writing a whole book, I remember that. A book is written bird by bird or rather WORD BY WORD. It's a wonderfully calming mantra and it allows me to pick up the tools of my trade (well, turn on the computer at least!) and write my story without being overwhelmed by the task ahead.

Finally, for the non-writers who like to come to the lair to chase the cabana boys and pluck the rooster (no wonder he keeps flying off to Australia!), here are two H2/self-help books that are full of amazing wisdom.

I haven't read WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES: CONTACTING THE POWER OF THE WILD WOMAN by Clarissa Pinkola Estes for years but it's a book that literally changed my life. I read this towards the end of that awful 18 months about 17 years into my pre-publication career when I'd given up writing because I'd decided selling a book was a childish dream that I should relinquish. As you can imagine, that was not a happy time for little Miss Campbell!

I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up this very thick book - especially as at the time, I really wasn't into self-help books. It might have been a recommendation from a friend. Anyway, this book is about women sticking to their guns and it delivers its message through a series of myths and legends from all over the world. You know what a sucker I am for a fairy tale! By the time I finished it, I was well and truly ready to pick up my six-shooter and have another stab (oops, mixed metaphor there!) at a writing career. I joined Romance Writers of Australia (women who run with the wolves aren't scared of no stinkin' writin' organization, no sirree!) and that set me on the path to eventually seeing my books on the shelves.

So having discovered the wonderful world of self-help books, I began to read widely in the field and stumbled across this next book via James Hillman's pupil Thomas Moore. THE SOUL'S CODE: IN SEARCH OF CHARACTER AND CALLING by James Hillman isn't a religious book although it definitely has a spiritual dimension. What I love about this book is it addresses that sense of vocation as a writer I always felt (and that I denied when I gave up after listening to all the 'sensible' people in the world). This book outlines the acorn theory - we're basically born knowing what we are to become the way an acorn knows to grow into a magnificent tree.

Hmm, not feeling much like a magnificent tree this morning. Perhaps more like an overgrown shrub!

So over to you. Do you like H2s or self-help books? If you do, do you have any favorites you'd like to share? If you're a writer, did you get any invaluable insights or advice from an H2? Let's let it all hang out! Groovy, man!


Slush said...


Slush said...

Holy Smokes. I got the chook. Back to the US he goes.

Anna great post and I am definitely gonna look at that WOMEN WHO RUN WITH WOLVES book. Sounds like something right up my alley.

As far as H2 books, I haven't really dived into them. Mainly because when I have I don't get very far. I can't find one that will hold my interest. So I am going to take your recommendations and give them a shot.

P.S. Thanks for the mantra.

Anna Campbell said...

And hola right back atcha, Slush, from el roosterio!

Slush, she has a very individual style so it took me a little while to really get into it but by the time I finished it, I thought it was an amazingly profound book. And as I said to you, it really helped galvanize me to get off my bum and take my future in my hands in a big way.

Hey, try any of these three and see how you go. Sometimes I find they dwell too much on the minutiae of technicalities rather than the bigger picture. And definitely check out the Dorothea Brande review on the 24th. It's ALL big picture.

Cool you like the mantra. Seriously, it's helped me a LOT!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Congrats on the GR, Slush! I hope you have some plans for him as he is definitely in need of some self-improvement.

Fo, I LURVE Bird by Bird! It is one of my favorite writing books, right along side Stephen King's On Writing, and Nathalie Goldberg's The Wild Mind.


Anonymous said...

Hi Anna!

I just finished reading "The Forest in the Trees" written by Betsy Lerner, a writer and former editor who now works as an agent.

I enjoyed it. Stephen King's book, On Writing is very good too.

Congrats on the GR, Slush!


Anna Campbell said...

I haven't read Nathalie Goldberg's The Wild Mind - I've read her Writing the Bones (think that's what it's called - it's great!). I must check out TWM. Actually, I know I'm alone on this, but I wasn't crazy about SK's book. I loved the memoir bit about how he became a writer but the advice just didn't hit any nerves for me. And if anyone else ever says to me "The adverb is not your friend" (a quote from this book) and interprets it as a writer can't use ANY adverbs at all, I shall stick an adverb where the sun don't shine sunnily, hotly, sweetly, stickily, blazingingly, blindingly or brightly.

Anna Campbell said...

See, Jen, I AM alone in not loving the SK book!!! I don't know the Lerner book - I'll have to check it out. Seriously, I love reading how-tos. Another book I haven't read for ages but remember as very good is HOW TO WRITE A DAMNED GOOD NOVEL by James Frey (not the one who lied in his memoirs).

Paula Roe said...

Okay, Anna you asked for it! I'm totally hooked on H2s but the last few years since being published I've gotten rid of ones that've become redundant, like a bunch of beginner 'how to write a romance's. My all-time faves would have to be Vanessa Grant's Writing Romance and Debra Dixon's GMC. There's dozens on my TBR pile too, from The Artful Edit (Susan Bell), The Fire in Fiction (Donald Maass), The Sociopath Next Door and What Would Your Character Do? (Maisel). At the mo I'm on a bit f a buying frenzy, and am currently reading Pen on Fire (for busy mums who write by DeMarco-Barrett) the fabulously presented Book In A Month (Schmidt), The Courage to Write (Ralph Keyes)... gosh, I could go on and on! And let's not even mention the hundreds of gorgeous historical non-fic about clothes, food, castles, kings and queens, knights, mistresses and rakes, archeology...

Paula Roe said...

oh, forgot to mention three more absolute musts - Story by Robert McKee, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and The Writer's Journey by Chris Vogler. Plus a quick glance at my shelves (see, you've created a monster!) reveals: Organizing For Your Brain Type, The Procrastinator's Guide to Success, Get Organized! The Procrastinator's Handbook... hmmm I see a theme here! :-D

Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha, Paula, I actually KNEW you were a how-to maniac. We must have talked about it at a conference somewhere. Thanks for the new list - I've made notes and I'll be tripping over to the Book Depository VERY soon with my shopping list. Actually another one I really like is Donald Maass's WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. And I love THE HERO'S JOURNEY. Chris Vogler came to the NZ Romance Conference last year - would have loved to have heard him speak. Hope he comes to Australia soon. I haven't read the McKee. I must check it out. Are you going to the workshops he's running in Sydney?

Paula Roe said...

I went to his three-day workshop in 09 and totally loved it! (have the notes up on my blog if you want to check it out). And yes, I'm sure we've had a convo about how-tos :-) I've also got another recommended one on my TBR I should really read: Lights, Camera, Fiction! (A movie lover's guide to writing a novel by Alfie Thompson).

Anna Campbell said...

You're very bad for my Visa card, Miss Roe! ;-)

Kim in Hawaii said...

Aloha, Anna! I'm glad you didn't give up after 17 years! I have a copy of Kathryn Falk's "How to Write A Romance for the New Markets", published in 1999. It includes chapters from over 50 of romance's stars, including:

- mixing romance and science fiction
- writing fantasy romance
- multicultural market
- inspirational romances
- alternative realities

Perhaps I should use this as a guide to write my own book, "How to overcome your fear of flying by chanting Anna Campbell" (see yesterday's post from Jeanne Adams about flying necessities).

Tawny said...

I adore H2 and self help books. I am always reading one or the other!! My current and go to fave for writing is The War of Art, although I do pull Story off the shelf regularly, as well as Bickham's books. I've read SK's books and while it's okay, it's not on my fave OMG list :-( Sorry.

For self help, I'm a devotee of Wayne Dyer. I've read all his works and love his message. The Souls Code sounds fascinating, I'll have to add it to my reading list. Right now I'm going back and forth between Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (thanks to Jeanne) and Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind by Joe Dispenza.

OMG I could go on and on with lists of faves in this topic. Because I tend to stay away from romance while writing one to avoid subconscious influences, but am a voracious reader, I go through H2 and self help books by the shelf-ful.

Helen said...

Slush well done have fun with him


Very good post but self help books are something I don't normally read maybe I should LOL but I have so many fantastic romance books on the TBR pile I would feel guilty reading them LOL

Have Fun

Dianna Love said...

Nice get on the chook, Slush.

Anna -

I don't know a writer who doesn't have a wall of those books and would never give them up. A couple that have come out in recent years are by Kelly L. Stone, but the most recent one THINKING WRITE is really fascinating. It comes with a cd and teaches you how to tap conscious, preconscious and subconscious information. It's great for anyone who is creative, but she focused on writers with this. I think it's a wonderful tool especially for seat-of-the-pants writers.

Anna Sugden said...

Great post, Anna. I have a stack of those H2 books on my shelves - some I love, some I don't *g*.

I'm a big fan of Kate Walker's book - awesome! Also Debra Dixon's GMC.

I have Bird by Bird to read - once I finish the current revisions. I also have a couple of books by Lawrence Block on fiction writing that others have recommended, and Save the Cat!

I, like you, enjoyed the memoir part of SK's book, but not the rest. Unlike you, I could never get to grips with Chris Vogler.

Nor Dwight Swain.

The god, for me, is Michael Hague - I listen to his workshops regularly and have his DVD (I know, not a book).

I also found the Donald Maas Workbook helpful.

Of course, I love our own Dianna Love's book with Mary Buckham - Break Into Fiction.

Anna Sugden said...

Dianna! How spooky! *g*

Dianna Love said...

ah, thanks, Anna S. :)

Pam said...

Thanks for the reviews. "Bird By Bird" is my go-to book. I also love Stephen King's "On Writing." And of course "Breaking Into Fiction." I have had "Women Who Run with the Wolves" on my shelf forever; I think it's time to read it. I will check out all your other recommendations, too. I am happy to have discovered you Romance Bandits!

MsHellion said...

I'm an addict, my fair Anna.

My favorite writing books are (but not limited to):

The Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines (Tami Cowden)

Story Structure (Victoria Schmidt)

Book in a Month (Victoria Schmidt)

The Writer's Guide to the Hero's Journey (Vogler)

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (Debra Dixon)

And yes, creating BIG conflict and well-expressed motivation. I think as writers we're pressed to start with the action; we tend to be the type who just starts writing without thinking through a particular character--you're finding out how the story turns out with the character--you just don't figure out the motive right off. You assume your character has sufficient motive. And then when you revise--and many people don't revise because the story is already written and what is left to do but check the grammar anyway? Hahahahahaha. Anyway, it's in the REVISION that the real storywriting begins. Where you work on making your conflict bigger, your motivation stronger.

Elizabeth Lyon has some GREAT books. She's so readable and inspirational, much like Lamont's stuff. She has a Writer's Guide to Fiction and also a Manuscript Revision book. You should get them both. Great stuff.

Donald Maass has a freebie book on Writer's Digest--and it's brilliant.

Wendy La Capra said...

I loved The Soul's Code but I had forgotten all about it. It was the first book I ever ordered from the then "new" site Thanks for reminding me!

TerriOsburn said...

I have two of the three craft books you mention, plus several others. But I admit, I've never read one cover to cover. I have read quite a bit of BIRD BY BIRD. That book is a manuel for life!

I should spend more time with these books. I'm sitting on a font of information, as well as inspiration, and not taking full advantage.

This is about to change. Thank you, Anna, for the kick in the pants. I need to look up that wolves one too, though it sounds like I might have lived that already. LOL!

Kate Walker said...

I'm late to the party - blame a 'to do' list that's as long as my arm. Just wanted to say thank you to you Anna for your lovely recommendation of the 12 Point Guide - It's a huge compliment when a fellow author gets so much out of it. And conflict and motivation - oh yes, the questions that come up about those again and again.

When I started out - I was first published in 1984 - there were so few H2 books that I remember the thrill of fnding Mary Wibberley's To Writers With Love and being thrilled to discover that she actually did some of the same things as me.

Now I have a collection of intersting books because I love to read to see how differently ti8ngs can be done.Plus, when teaching, If the way I explain it doesn't work - then maybe Donald Maass or Vanessa Grant or Valerie Parv's approach might do it.

Thanks again Anna


Donna MacMeans said...

Great post - as always- Anna.

I have a several shelves of unread H2 books (grin). I'm still praying for the osmosis method writing, whereby if slip the book under your pillow, you will absorb all the knowledge contained therein. I'm still waiting for this to kick in (grin).

Loved Bird by Bird for the same reason you did. It's such a simple parody, but it's so true. I guess it appealed to me as the son had procrastinated so long to do the report - I can relate to that!!!

One thing I've learned - you can't learn it all from one read of an H2 book. You have to actually do the writing to learn. It all seems so clear when you read about motivation. It's another thing entirely to think it through. Also I can only absorb and process so much information at a time. I find when I reread a H2 book, I often discover new information that I just wasn't savvy enough to recognize the first time through.

catslady said...

Eckert Tolle has a couple of good self help books - The New Earth is one and while reading it, I totally try to change my ways but it's so easy to get back into the same old rut. I think if everyone around me read it too, it would be a lot easier to change.

Janga said...

What a great topic, Anna! Bird by Bird is my #1 craft book. I refer to it frequently because it's my best weapon in my battles with the dreaded Inner Critic. I also like Story by Robert McKee and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. An old favorite that does not target writers of fiction but which I find of great practical use nonetheless is William Zinsser's On Writing well.

Currently I'm working through a terrific book--Kelly L. Stone's Living Write: The Secret to Inviting Your Craft into Your Daily Life, a thoughtful gift from a friend who knows how difficult it is for me to write every day.

I do try not to overdo craft books however. I find that too much can make me overly self-conscious and have a paralyzing effect on my writing.

jo robertson said...

Cool topic, Anna. I love Annie Lamott's writing.

I'm not much for self-help books, but one of my favorite books on writing (I actually heard it on tape) is Lawrence Block's book on writing.

I'm kind of a bone-head writer, so I have to learn from my mistakes, but I DO HAVE to have instruction books on how to put things together as I have no spatial intelligence and can't figure it out myself.

Anna Campbell said...

Kim, did you see my response to the Anna Campbell mantra? That story always makes me smile! I've got an even earlier Kathryn Falk book - must be late 80s, I think. Big bulky thing that covered a lot of imprints that were completely unfamiliar to my Aussie self at the time. I devoured it!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, how interesting - I'm not alone in not being bowled over by the SK book. I really thought I was! I'm not saying it's terrible - and goodness me, if his advice works for you, take it. He clearly knows what he's talking about. It just didn't work for ME! I've read the War of Art, Tawny, and I must say again, it didn't really ping the heartstrings. I think Dorothea Brande says it all much better (check her out - you'll like her). Loretta Chase recommended the War of Art so clearly you're in good company there. Tawny, I'll check out those other self-help books (I know our Jeanne is a devotee!) you recommend. Honestly I love anything that means I don't put more effort into fighting the demons in my head than into writing the darn book!

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, I had to laugh when I saw your post. Do you know what I thought when I put it up? Helen will be too busy reading romances to read self-help books! I know you so well, my Bandita Buddy! Hey, see you in a couple of weeks. How cool is that?

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Dianna, that's REALLY interesting. I'm definitely a pantser so that sounds right up my alley. That's one of the reasons I love Dorothea Brande - she addresses all that stuff in my subconscious that a lot of the more analytical books just ignore. Thanks for the recommendation!

Beth Andrews said...

I love H2 and self-help books. I just read The War of Art and absolutely loved it. I'm sure I'll be reading it again and again. At the beginning of the year I read the Damn Good Novels (How To Write A Damn Good Novel I and II etc) by James Frey and found them very helpful. Right now Story by Robert McKee is at the top of my TBR pile.

I also love Jack Canfield's The Success Principles and my husband is a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell's work (though I'm not sure if those would be considered self-help/personal growth or not *g*)

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, I heard Kate speak at our local conference a few years ago and a lot of her remarks have stayed with me as golden advice. I loved her book - it's so clear and concise and practical which I think is so important. Now this is heresy - I went to a Michael Hauge workshop a few years ago (cost a fortune) and again, he really didn't resonate with me. Although having said that there's an absolute Michael Hauge moment in Midnight's Wild Passion. You'll know it when you see it. I did it instinctively and then thought, hey, it's a MH moment! A lot of my friends swear by him, though! I think with a lot of this how to stuff it's horses for courses - what will really hit someone else like a hammer on a gong will be meh to someone else. I also think it's where you are in your writing journey. Some of the best advice I ever got was from Robyn Donald who said, "Those who fail are those who give up." When I heard it, it didn't really resonate. Later, just before I was published, it REALLY resonated!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Pam, lovely to see you here! So glad you enjoy all the mayhem! One of the many things I love about this blog is that with so many of us, there's heaps of variety. It's like a blog buffet with NO calories (well, apart from the occasional Tim Tam!). I haven't heard of Breaking into Fiction. I'll have to check it out! Oh, my aching Visa card!

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Helly, thank you so much. I'll definitely check out those books. Isn't it amazing? I've got a house full of these books and there's still so many I haven't heard about. Actually I start to write a bit like you - you know, I'm exploring the story in that first draft and it only really comes to me what it's REALLY about once I've got that story down and I can see its shape. It's the revision where the magic happens, isn't it? Hey, nice to meet another how to addict!

Anna Campbell said...

Wendy, I must say my flirtation with self-help books kind of died and hasn't really revived. There were a couple of fabulous ones (the Thomas Moore ones were great too) but a lot of them just didn't go deeply enough for me. How to books, however, have continued to be an obsession. How wonderful you know the Soul's Code - it's a book hardly anyone else seems to have read and I thought it was amazing. And it's also amazing how often I talk to people who started practising their vocation in their childhood without being aware that they were preparing for their life's work.

Anna Campbell said...

Terri, how cool that this post has made you check out all your how-to books. I must say I go through phases where I read a lot and phases where I don't. I think there is that up and down pattern with stuff like this. Just at the moment, I seem to be reading a lot. I'm working on a new story - maybe I'm subconsciously seeking inspiration. I agree with you about Bird by Bird being a manual for life as well as writing. It really is something I say to myself a lot when I start to panic!

Anna Sugden said...

Ahh - Robyn Donald - my first M&B - Bride at Whangatapu *happy sigh*.

You're right, Anna, about horse for courses - MH does it for me, but Vogler doesn't. In the DVD I have which is a joint workshop with the two of them, I have to FF through the Vogler bits! Yet others swear by Vogler.

Anna Campbell said...

Kate, thanks so much for swinging by. As you can probably gather, I LOVED your 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance. It seemed to me to be absolutely perfect for the beginner writer while still having those insights for the more experienced writer. Yay, you! Yeah, motivation and conflict remain bugbears no matter where you are in your writing career, LOL! Actually I only recently read a Valerie Parv one too - Heart and Craft. Very good. I really seem to be in the mood for a how to at the moment!

Anna Campbell said...

Donna, I rather like the osmosis approach. Does it work if I want my pillow to write a book too? I 100% agree with you about getting different things from how tos depending on when you read them. It was so interesting re-reading the Dorothea Brande. When I first read it, what I got out of it was doing something that didn't involve words. This time I got out of it that I should let my subconscious roam as widely as it likes before I try to rein it in.

Anna Campbell said...

Catslady, that's really interesting. I hadn't heard of him before - I'll have to check it out. Actually you're right - sometimes the change becomes almost too much trouble because you somehow have to get the people around you to cooperate too. Mind you, as James Hillman would say if he used cliches, from little acorns great oaks grow!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Anna, what a fantastic post!

As one who has had to listen to my many 'theories' you know that I adore talking about craft and I love How To books, too.

I haven't read Dorothea Brande and the Running with Wolves one is on my bedside table as we speak. I must say that I'm grateful for that book as we might never have had your wonderful historicals if not for your reading it (although I suspect your inner writer was just waiting for a chance to return). Loved Bird by Bird and can recommend a book by Julia Cameron called The Right to Write. I read it before I'd accepted a lot of the strange and wonderful aspects of living a creative life (I'm extremely conservative by nature so this has been a big transformation for me to start buying into all that touchy feely stuff! LOL). I just loved how well JC described what goes on in your head as you write and her description of 'laying track' with the first draft ie getting the story down and not worrying about embellishment until later really helped me. When you begin as a writer, you believe writers turn out perfect books first go and it's very freeing to realize they don't.

Thanks for this post, Anna. I now have a couple of books to add to my H2 list!

Congrats on getting the rooster, Slush!

Anna Campbell said...

Janga, isn't it terrible how much time and energy we spend battling our inner critic and just the carping voices that go on in our head (not our characters!). That's why I love Bird by Bird. If I can write that one more word, then the one more word, it seems to defeat the demons. Hmm, this is starting to sound like a paranormal! Interesting on your comments about too many H2s being paralyzing rather than encouraging. As I said, I definitely go in waves of wanting to read them and then NOT wanting to read them. Suspect that's working on a similar wave to what you're talking about.

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, I agree with Donna that the best learning is done on the job. But sometimes it's nice to have someone else to have a conversation with about this stuff - I actually find that sometimes I get more help by NOT agreeing with someone than by agreeing with them. Somehow that refines my process if it's different to the one that's described in the H2. I'll have to check out the Lawrence Block!

Anna Campbell said...

Beth, interesting you're another War of Art fan. As I said, it has a great pedigree in terms of people who love it. Maybe I should read it again - could just have been me at the time and it not working then. Might work now. I agree with you about the Damn Good Novels double, especially the first one which really spoke to me. Probably because I was in a fairly literary environment at the time where my taste for genre fiction was considered beneath my dignity. He's so fresh and practical and happy to call a spade a spade, isn't he?

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, I don't really like how the Vogler has become SUCH a blueprint for stories. I swear when I'm watching movies, I can tick off the stages. You know, the invitation to adventure, the first challenge, the return with the elixir, etc. Definitely removes me from the story rather than involves me, whereas I think people who use that hero's journey structure instinctively use it MUCH more naturally and without the jarring signposts on the way. I really have an affinity with Jungian psychology and a lot of Joseph Campbell/Vogler is based on Jung's ideas. I really think a lot of whether a H2 appeals to you is to do with temperament.

Anna Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Campbell said...

Christine, I love your theories - and they're often so subtle and profound, I think about them for a long time after our conversations. Seriously! Not just buttering you up, Bandita. I think you have a really sharp and perceptive eye for writing and for what's happening in the genre.

Aren't you lovely about Women Who Run with the Wolves being such a boon to humanity, LOL! Actually we've spoken a couple of times in the comments about the right book at the right time. I think WWRWTW (lots of Ws in that acronym!) hit me at exactly the right time. A year earlier, I would have thought it was a complete waste of space. A year later, I mightn't have needed it quite so badly.

I've got one of the Julia Camerons (and a very similar one by Twyla Tharp) - just saw it, the Artist's Way. I know people who adore JC! Maybe I should try her again. Strangely, I'm fairly at home with the touchy feely stuff.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Slush! Great job on nabbing the bird. How's he been for you today?

I love self help books, and how to's and exploring the psyche. :>

My favs, which I think someone else mentioned, are the Artist Way books by Julia Cameron. Of course, for personal development, you can't beat my friend Tony Robbins. I've done his Mastery University. Loved it! Walked on fire, jumped off a 30' telephone pole. Big fun. Oh, and I really like Jack Canfield too.

Just read one called Attracting Perfect Customers. Really excellent.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Anna S said: I have to FF through the Vogler bits! Yet others swear by Vogler.

Me too, Anna. There's something about his manner too, that's offputting to me. But, as you said, a lot of folks love him and feel that way about Hauge. Grins.

Hauge did a workshop at Moonlight and Magnolias last fall and he's coming to DC this fall (2011) and I'm going. I swear, every time I hear him speak I learn something new.

Anna Campbell said...

Jeanne, one day when I visit, you'll have to take me through your self-help library. I know, I know, we never have enough time to do everything we want to when we get together, but I'd love to see some of your faves in situ.

Jeanne, Hauge is doing a weekend of workshops for RWOz this month in Sydney. Again, it's expensive, but people have been lining up to go. Not sure I'd pay all that money to hear him again - I think he's just not my cup of tea, perhaps he works better for planners! Mind you, this particular talk I went to was geared very much to film scripts and there are essential differences, among them 100 pages of script versus 400 pages of novel! He's concentrating on romance and romantic comedy on the workshops he's doing in Sydney this year. I look forward to hearing what people think of it.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Anna!

I might have to check out these books, but I'm not much of a self help or how to person when it comes to reading.

Having said that I do have one book that I thought was excellent. Bickman's Scene and Structure. Had little and major epiphenies while reading it the first time. And I re-read it periodically to refresh my brain!

Anna Campbell said...

Suzanne, I've heard about Scene and Structure. I know people who swear by it. It's always sounded a bit daunting to me. I write very much out of my solar plexus and some of those very analytical ways of putting a story together tend to make the voices in my head shut up and sulk. I wonder if that's one of the reasons that I didn't find the Michael Hauge sessions particularly full of lightbulbs. He has a very analytical way of approaching the work too. Mind you, analysis could be a GOOD thing ;-)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Anna C said: Jeanne, one day when I visit, you'll have to take me through your self-help library. I know, I know, we never have enough time to do everything we want to when we get together, but I'd love to see some of your faves in situ.

With pleasure, Ms. Campbell! Grins. I've read some I don't like, but still got osmething out of them, and some that I really like and got a lot out of. :> For those who don't know what they want to be when they grow up, The Passion Test is a good one. (For me, it just told me what I already knew. Grins.)

Christine Wells said...

Oh, what a lovely thing to say, Anna! Thank you. And I do think it's a boon to humanity. Just imagine if you hadn't started writing again, we would never have met! Now THAT is a scary thought:)

Anna Campbell said...

Jeanne, the Passion Test sounds like it's a bit like the Soul's Code. I'll have to check it out. I agree with you - I never read a how to writing book and get NOTHING out of it. Even if it's as much as saying, "Well, I wouldn't do it that way. I'd do it this way," which is a result in itself.

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, that IS a scary thought!!!! I was thinking today what a wonderful friend you are and how much I value our friendship!

Christine Wells said...

Getting choked up here:) You're a pretty darn fabulous friend yourself.

Now, can I have a kidney back?


Anna Campbell said...

Thinks really hard for about 30 seconds...

NAH!!! ;-)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

She's bound and determined to keep those kidney's Christine. She's a tough one that way. Grins.

I think I've read Soul's Code, and if I'm remembering it correctly it's much like the Passion Test.

Another good one is The Alladin Factor - it's about belief in yourself. Pretty cool.

I'm going to look for the book Dianna Love mentioned. That sounds cool.

Slush said...

Jeanne, the chook has been a little nice. He's beggin' me to send him back to Aussie land. I told him patience is a virtue and he wrecked my living room.

Odd though, I sense a pattern. Everytime Anna gets him, I seem to get him the next day...spooky.

Anna Campbell said...

Jeanne, actually this has been a really fun day and I've got a whole LIST of books I'm going to get. Including USES FOR CHRISTINE'S KIDNEYS: A PRIMER! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Slush, you're RIGHT!!!! Does that mean if I never get him again, your living room is safe? ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, guys, thanks for a fun day in the lair. Although my Visa card is groaning and asking for a holiday! And a SLUSH FUND (sorry, Slush, had to be said!). Have a great weekend, everybody!

Maree Anderson said...

Ooh ooh! I was lucky enough at my first ever overseas conference to win a copy of Valerie Parv’s Heart & Craft – that was when I met y’all a couple of years back, BTW. What I love about this book is that there’s no “right” way or “wrong” way. There’s just heaps of insights and sharing secrets and “here’s what worked for me!” It was such a relief to realize that however I write is “okay”. It may not be how others do it, but it’s my process, and it’s still a work in process.

Other ones I love are:
How I Write by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof
On Writing by Stephen King
Passionate Ink; a guide to writing erotic romance by Angela Knight
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

And does Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester count as a craft book??

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Maree, lovely to see you here! Great list of recommendations. I'm definitely getting Angela's book - love scenes are such a pivotal part of any romance and they're something I really work on with every book. Some how-to insights will be very welcome!

Actually I agree with you - one of the good things about how-tos is that I discover that there are a million ways to write a book and none is more right than another. When I was starting out, I was convinced I did it the wrong way but trying the right way (generally plotting) just didn't work for me.

And definitely Jennifer K's book counts!

Cheryl Wright said...

Anna, great post. I just went to Book Depository and ordered Kate Walker's 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance on the strength of your post.

Thanks so much for taking the time.

Cheryl Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Campbell said...

Hey, thanks, Cheryl! I really liked Kate's book - it covered a lot of very complex stuff with great clarity, I thought!