My Writing Teachers

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not a very big fan of craft books.  I have a handful that I pay attention to and rarely buy any that are suggested to me.  Why?  To put it simply, they’re boring.  I don’t want to read about how to write.  I’d rather just do it.  It’s like many things I’ve experienced in life.  I didn’t want to watch someone skydive.  I did it.  I experienced it.  I loved it.  Although, I doubt I’ll be doing it again.  Why chance fate a second time, right?  😉

It amazes me the number of aspiring writers who still ask about the difference between Show vs. Tell and what is it.  Every now and then, someone will bring it up on one of my online writer’s loops and we spend about ten emails of everyone pretty much saying the same thing.  Does the aspiring author get it?  I have no idea.  But if I had a choice, I’d change the whole Show vs. Tell thing to Experience.

I learn best by experience.  Everything I’ve learned about writing, I’ve learned from reading.  Online courses are great if you need the refresher.  However, I find my best refresher comes from reading books I love.  Here’s a short list of authors who’ve taught me some fabulous rules:

1. Nancy Haddock – characterization (her latest release Last Vampire Standing reminded me how important it is.  Get this book!)

2. Kelley Armstrong – amazing world building while keeping it real

3. Laurell K. Hamilton – pacing (note: this is prior to her venture into the 300 pages of sex and 20 pages of plot)

4. Bentley Little – plotting and the simplest things can turn your character’s world into a living hell.

5. John Saul – go for it no matter how strange it might feel

6. JK Rowling – let your imagination soar

7. Erica Orloff – again, characters who leap off the pages and keeping it real.

8. Kiana Alexander – she very new to the biz, but she can write the hell out of a synopsis.  I feel honored that she let me critique hers.  🙂

Now keep in mind that these authors have taught–continue to teach–me more than what I’ve listed here.  However, these are the things that really stand out. 

What about you?  Who were the authors you’ve learned from and what have they taught you?

25 thoughts on “My Writing Teachers

  1. This is so hard to answer, but I find that my favorite authors, like Karin Tabke, have a strong voice and energy. Barbara Samuel, who has a more subtle voice but just as strong, is also a favorite. Writers like these have taught me to let my voice sing out.

    I just read Cynthia Eden’s Immortal Danger last night, and Wow! I love her voice, too. Then there’s pacing and characterizations. I think I learn from every writer I read.

    I have to put my CPs in here. I love Michelle Diener’s voice. She has awesome pacing. Liz Kreger is great at bringing the characters and the setting to life and telling a heartfelt love story. I learn from them all.

    • That’s an awesome list of writers, Edie. The funny thing is that when yo mentioned Karin and Cynthia, I’ve read enough of their stuff to know exactly what you’re talking about. I haven’t tried Barbara Samuel yet, so I need to add a book of hers to my TBR pile. 😉 The same goes for you and crit partners someday, too. Of course, I already have Liz’s books and she’s phenomenal!

  2. Have I told you that you are awesome? Because you are. I’m always looking for stuff like this. I read blog after blog about writing tips from published authors. Everybody has 101 recommendations on what an unpublished writer needs to do in order to lose the “un”. But not many come up with fun learning strategies. And this is fun and so helpful for me.

    You see, English is not my first language. I’ve been writing and speaking English for about a decade, so I’m just discovering great writers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Thanks for taking the time to point them out.

    Now I have some shopping to do!!! For research of course.

    • Awwwwww. You’re making me blush, Magaly. 😀

      You hit the nail on the head. We always get lessons of what to do and what not to do, including the infamous “read, read, read.” Well, I’m fine with the “read, read, read”. It’s the finding the “what” that everyone seems to leave out. Not only that, but being a good writing isn’t about just reading. It’s about doing. Why go through writing exercises that rarely have anything to do with what you’re writing about, when you could be writing what you want to write about?

      Two more writers I highly recommend are Carrie Vaughn for pacing and great dialogue and Sherrilyn Kenyon who’s UN-believeable when it comes to world building.

      • I love Sherrilyn’s DARK-HUNTER SERIES! I won’t tell you how old I was when I read her first book because my mom would probably get arrested. Although on mom’s defense, I was sitting at the very top of a mango tree doing the reading–blushing furiously and absolutely amazed by the story as a whole.

        Thanks again for the recommendations. I’m seriously going shopping this weekend. My dad came to visit last weekend and spoiled me with a B&N gift card, so I’m going all out 😀

        • You lucky stiff. He’s sweetening you up for Father’s Day, you know. 😆

          Sherrilyn Kenyon was my first paranormal romance I had ever read. I’ve been on that road ever since. The only thing now is I need to catch up with the series. I’m not that far behind, but it’s to the point where it’s beginning to haunt me.

  3. Honestly, there are so many good writers out there that it really shows you how stiff the competition is. I read a variety of books and genres…and in every one of them I learn something new. I’m totally serious!

    I’m currently reading Lynn Kurland’s latest book, although I’m not a huge historical fan, her stories totally suck you in. I really enjoy the light-heartedness, snappy dialogue, and plenty of sexy h/h material! It’s a great escape for a little while…

    I couldn’t write a list of all the authors I’ve read and enjoyed, it would go on forever! As far as craft books, I never follow them. I’ll do a lot of skimming but I’m so stubborn that I’ll write the way I want to write without falling apart trying to figure out what is the ‘proper’ way to write the story. Since it is ‘my’ story, I’ll be doing the telling the way I believe it should 🙂

    • When I first started writing, like the first couple years, I would read a chapter of a writing book at Borders and then write. It sorta made horrid fiction with a variety of voices in one story, LOL, (what can you do?) but I learned a lot. Nowadays, I get bored.

      Anne Rice is one, for the way she can instantly pull you in and immerse you in her world. Then there’s Stephen King, who can draw a vivid character nearly completely fleshed out in a single sentence. That’s just amazing. I’m not into horror too much, but I read his first chapters all the time. (Rose Madder rocked, though.) Agree with Erica and JK Rowling. Rowling also taught me that a writer needs to be continually delighted with her world, because when the delight fades, it’s obvious. (But there was still so much amazing left that it didn’t really matter, LOL.) She’s taught me about plotting. Janet Evanovich has taught me how powerful what you DON’T write can be. Charlaine Harris on being real, too. Gosh, I love books!

      • 😆 Spy, that’s why I stopped paying attention to craft books. I have earlier works where I followed the rules but it made for horrible storytelling.

        Very true about Anne Rice and Stephen King. The way he draws his characters was the thing that had gotten me hooked on his writing. I always wanted to know more.

        Rowling also taught me that a writer needs to be continually delighted with her world, because when the delight fades, it’s obvious.

        So true! There are writers who’ll talk about how to keep a series fresh, but by the time they come to the end of their speech, I’ve phased out a third of the way through. That doesn’t say much for their ideas of how to keep a series fresh. I like the way Rowling did it. She expanded on everything from the first book to the last and indroduced new ideas and new characters to play with. The woman is a genius. And my girl Charlaine just simply rocks. It doesn’t surprise me that she nabbed the #1 spot on the NYT. 🙂

    • Very true, Jax. I had a hard time coming up with my list and I know for a fact that I’ve left some authors off. Stephen King and poet Langston Hughes being two.

      Funny you should mention historical romance. I’m not a fan either, but when I had picked up a Sabrina Jeffries book, it became clear why she’s a NYT Bestseller. Her story is engaging and so are her characters. She makes it easy to slip into her world.

      Since it is ‘my’ story, I’ll be doing the telling the way I believe it should

      Amen, sister! 😀 That’s my reason for keeping the craft books at a distance.

  4. Well, you know what I think about “How to” books. If a person doesn’t already have the desire to honor their creative muse, no “how to write” book will help. A person just has to do it, period.

    Plus, read.

    And not just one genre, and not all the sub-genres of one genre. That doesn’t make you look “well read.” Be a broad reader. Lit Fic, non-fic, and all the genres (except the onee that are just not your cup of tea). So many writers read the beaten path or the genre they write, thus the rut they’re in. Some won’t read first person, others stay away from narratives. Is it that scary?

    Why not read without being such snobs, people? It’s like saying you hate caviar, yet have never tried it. An acquired taste? Yes. Get my point? Try something new.

    • I hear you, Kath. That’s why I’ve been branching out my reading and why I’m sooooo happy I branched Erica’s way. I can’t imagine the wonderful reads I would’ve been missing had I not read her. Some other favorites of mine that aren’t paranormal are Amy Tan, Louisa May Alcott, and Alice Walker. In fact, those books taught me about what it means to be a strong woman without the need for having special powers to save the day. Next stop, I’m taking my reading to thrillers, preferably without the romance angle. I think I’m pretty versed in that enough. Then again, that’s part of the reason why I read horror. There’s rarely any romance in it and if there is, it’s touched upon so lightly that you hardly recognize it’s there (ie. Bentley Little). 😉

  5. I have to say Karen Marie Moning, in her Fever series, taught me about voice. Although the works are told in first person, all her characters are so rich, distinctive and her heroine’s voice is unforgettable. She also knows how to torture her readers, make them squirm by putting the heroine through amazingly uncomfortable situations…it makes you want to stick around until the last book, just to make sure everything turns out alright for the girl.

    • A-ha! I’ve been meaning to put her on my TBR pile, but every time I go to the bookstore, I draw a blank. I’ve heard absolutely wonderful things about her Fever series, though I haven’t read any of her books. *sniff sniff* I smell a trip to B&N coming on. 😀

  6. Hi, Marcia:

    I came to your website via the ConCarolinas one. I like what you have to say, and I’m looking forward to meeting you at the con. I’ll be one of the gaming guests, but I hope I get time to stop by your table or see you in a panel.


    • Hey Christina! Definitely stop by because I love love love meeting new people. Heck, I’ll have to return the favor in the gaming room, although I’m completely clueless about the whole gaming thing. 😆

      PS. Good luck with your submission too. Fingers crossed that Samhain says yes. I can’t say enough great things about them. 🙂

  7. I’m with you regarding “How To” books. I can’t read ’em. Would probably totally screw me up. I even have a half dozen that I don’t think I’ve ever cracked. 😆 I much prefer learning by what I read.

    I gotta say Keri Arthur for her world building; LKH (as you say) before her porn days; Cynthia Eden for her pacing and world building. Man … there are far too many to mention.

    • Liz, I can’t tell you how many How To books screwed me up when I first started writing. I concentrated too much on the mechanics and not enough on the story. Most of those books are sitting in a pile of dust by now.

      And I agree. There are too many to mention and for different reasons. But one thing comes at no surprise. Most of the authors listed here are either bestsellers or on their way to it. That alone says a lot for how well they’ve mastered their craft. 😉

  8. I actually have been struggling with writing, because somehow I made the decision to go for a style that has sold so far on the Uf scene, but doesn’t identify me. Kind of stupid, but I guess a necessary thing to catch. Truth is that you can never really learn anything, unless you make 1000 mistakes before. Advice on writing doesn’t tell you how, sadly.

    I can say that I enjoy Rachel Vincent’s pacing and Chris Howard’s amazing mixture of strong prose full of adjectives, metaphors and comparisons without siling into purple waters. Then again I do love Karen Chance’s creativity, when it comes to worldbuilding.

    • Truth is that you can never really learn anything, unless you make 1000 mistakes before.

      This is soooooo true. Sometimes, the best lessons are learned that way. The only thing advice does is help you on the road to making those mistakes bigger, especially if you don’t go with your own gut and have confidence in your writing. Many of us have been there and have flashbacks at times. *raising hand*

      Those are some great authors! I know exactly what you mean by Rachel Vincent’s pacing.

      • I haven’t achieved anything yet in the bigger picture, but I have been on the experience bandwagon for quite some time and it’s been educating so far. What people also should know is that you need to take it easy as well, since this is not the dreaded SATs demon that hinders your path to college. As all creative types everyone is differently paced in their development and trying to do a dash course into growing into what artist you think you will be is the wrong mentality. I can testify to that as well.

    • I’m sorry I missed you too. 😦 I was hanging close by the table a few times, but I spent more time catching up with other folks too. One thing is certain. If you’re going to be there next year, then we’ll get another chance. 🙂

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