Gabriel Rumbaut's Blog

Confessions of an Earthbound Misfit

Best Writing Resources

I’ve always wanted to be a published author, and over the years I’ve accumulated a shelf-breaking array of writing books and participated in several online classes.

Through all that, I’ve learned that a good chunk of writing resources out there are ho-hum. Then again, the interesting thing about writing advice is that it’s entirely subjective–what might revolutionize someone’s work might make absolutely no impact on another’s.

Here are a few of the books and classes that have helped me the most. I hope you find them helpful as well:

How to Think Sideways / Holly Lisle (website)Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways online novel-writing course is by far the best writing class available. Before taking this class, writing seemed like something only other people could succeed at. How to Think Sideways showed me that with enough perseverance and dedication, I can make my dream come true.

Rather than breaking down the basics of creative writing like most other courses, How to Think Sideways walks you through Holly’s own process for writing a novel. It’s a fantastic, unique look at how a professional author’s mind works. Over the course’s 20+ lessons, you’ll learn how to overcome the main psychological roadblocks to writing, use “Muse bombs,” plan your story without killing it, write queries, and maintain your story’s gravity.

Holly also has classes on writing series and revising novels. I haven’t participated in either of those yet, but I hear they’re quite good.

Word Painting / Rebecca McClanahan (Nook/Kindle) – One of the biggest struggles I had as a writer was how to engage all the senses in my work. Even now, I often default to describing sight only, and ignore everything else. If you want to lose your readers, focusing on only one sense throughout all of your story will do it.

In Word Painting, Rebecca McClanahan eloquently provides techniques to improve your use of description. She shows the basics of effective description (e.g., using exact names, focusing on activity), ways to engage the senses in memorable ways, and how description can be used to bring characters to life. The book is heavy on examples from literary works, and also has dozens of exercises to help you stretch your thinking and apply the techniques learned.

Though the early chapters of the book are a bit heady, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you struggle with writing effective description like I did, Word Painting will help.

Writing Fiction / Gotham Writers’ Workshop (Nook/Kindle) – For years, Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York has been showing beginners the nuts and bolts of the writing craft. If you have the money, their online classes are well-worth it. (Though I have heard that some classes suffer from poor student participation, which I imagine would be kind of a downer.)

If you can’t afford one of their classes (they’re pricey), Writing Fiction is an excellent substitute. This book was written by Gotham’s instructors, so you’ll benefit from a variety of viewpoints. It covers the basics of creative writing–from plotting to point of view to dialogue. It’s definitely belongs in any beginning writer’s toolbox.

I hope this brief list provides some help. If you have writing resources you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

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7 thoughts on “Best Writing Resources

  1. Great resources, Gabriel! Thank you for the post – I am going to check out the How to Think Sideways course for sure!

  2. Great post but I prefer to comment on your tag line: Because nerdity and fiction make a good mix. So funny and revealing. I love that writers have the poetic license to create words like nerdity. Just wanted to let you know how much I like it.

  3. Thanks for the writing resources. We can always improve our writing.

  4. Cool seeing “Word Painting,” here. It’s one of my favorites and I can’t ever recall seeing it on anyone else’s list before. I’m of the “can’t afford classes” variety of writers, so am always interested in checking out books that are working out for other scribes. Thank’s for sharing yours, Gabriel 😉

  5. Thanks for the recommendations.

  6. I think i wanna try the book word painting. the other courses seem cool, but money is tight. very informative.

  7. Great list Gabriel – I appreciate it being short and well annotated – it’s clear that you are recommending them and not just creating a directory. I’ve been eyeing off How to Think Sideways and I appreciate your comments. The other two are new to me so I will go and have a look.

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