The Business Side of Writing: Honing Your Craft and the Best Books on Writing

I’ll begin by saying that I of course will not present an exhaustive list of the best books on writing. I’m going to list the best books I know of on writing, and would love to have people add onto said list in the comments. One thing about being a writer is that no matter how long you work on your craft, you are always competing against people who are older and have been at it much longer than you have. You can never stop improving if you want to stay in the game, and while there are a lot of ways to hone your craft, reading good books on writing is probably the cheapest way – in terms of money, at least. You still need to put in the time to apply what you learn. So here are the books that I recommend.

Wanderings on Writing by Jane Lindskold


I may be the first person to blog about this one, because it just came out. Some would say there’s no Golden Key, no magic word that you can learn to get yourself a writing career. Lindskold begs to differ. There is a Golden Key, the only catch is, you have to forge it yourself. So, while she can’t present you with a Golden Key, she can tell you how she forged hers. This book is a compilation of essays she’s written over the years on topics ranging from how to write a sympathetic villain to how to keep from driving your family insane as you pursue your dreams. The book is written in accessible, conversational prose. Once you pick it up, you may have trouble putting it down. Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, Early November 2014

Braden Hepner, who teaches at BYU-Idaho, had his debut novel Pale Harvest published by Torrey House Press. The story of a young man “struggling against betrayal to save his farm, his Mormon faith, and the girl he loves” received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. The “Meeting of the Myths” Mormon Lit Blitz finalists were announced. In Provo, plays by Mahonri Stewart, Becky Baker, and a short play festival hit the boards. On the screen, there is a new prodigal son movie aimed at the Christian market, and a stalker/crazy missionary film aimed at the horror/thriller market. There are new YA novels by Orson Scott Card, Ally Condie, and Kimberley Griffiths Little. Avi Steinberg’s The Lost Book of Mormon is a non-Mormon’s travelogue exploring the Mormon scripture. Please send any announcements, news, or corrections to mormonlit AT gmial DOT com. Continue reading

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“The Shining Dream Road Out,” by M. Shayne Bell

Recently, I bought a copy of How We Play the Game in Salt Lake and Other Stories, a collection of short(ish) fiction by M. Shayne Bell. I’ve been reading at it since, and eventually plan to write and post a review (here or somewhere else). As I was reading along, though, I thought I’d something specifically about the collection’s second story, “The Shining Dream Road Out” (previously published in Washed by a Wave of Wind: Science Fiction from the Corridor, an sf&f anthology edited by Shayne and published by Signature Books) — because I think it makes an interesting case study for some of the issues we’ve talked about from time to time, both here and at other sites such as A Motley Vision, about related to Mormon fiction and various ways of being Mormon.

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Get ready for the 2014 AML Awards

The Association for Mormon Letters has been honoring excellence in the arts annually since 1977, making it the oldest Mormon arts awards in existence. You can see the full list of past winners here. The awards are announced each year in the following spring. Too often they have gone by without enough attention. This year I have been asked to head the awards board, and I hope that through more openness about the process and better communication we can help make the public better aware of the best of the Mormon literary world.

The categories differ each year. This year, we intend to give awards in the following categories: Continue reading

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A Conference Matching Game

Another General Conference has ended and I’m in the mode of poring over the paper copy of addresses. I’m reading the inspiring messages and oohing and ahhing over the photo shots. It’s been a long time since my mother made batches of “Million Dollar Fudge” to bribe me to watch as much of conference as I could sit still for. Now I find it ends too soon. I laughed when I read my nephew’s Facebook status right after conference was adjourned: “No!!! I say we make a sustaining vote to not end conference!!”

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In Tents #46 He is Risen and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do Part VII

The 32nd chapter of Alma has an intriguing story where Alma is preaching on the hill Onidah and a group of poor people comes up behind him and asks where they can go to worship, since they aren’t permitted in the synagogues. Alma turns around and starts teaching them. The story is one of my favorite examples of someone acting out a figure of speech: Alma turns his back on his uninterested listeners and starts teaching the ones who want to listen. (Alma 32:6-7)

Alma teaches the poor people that they can exercise faith anywhere, even if they don’t have a building to meet in and quotes Zenos to that effect, a moving discourse meant to comfort outcasts. So why does he scold them immediately after quoting Zenos? “Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures?” (Alma 33:14). Granted, it’s a mild scolding, but why scold at all? Shouldn’t he be encouraging them to read the words of Zenos rather than scolding them for not reading their scriptures at all? The subtle rhetorical shift in the passage puzzled me for a long time.

At my last big-0 birthday I was working my way through Deseret Book’s 1980 facsimile of the First Edition, and Statebird Book was offering Royal Skousen’s typographical facsimile of The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and parts 1 & 2 of his Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon for half price, or about $80 for all three. With some birthday money I bought them. So, when I got to the bottom of page 317, lines 42-43 in my first edition facsimile I checked it against the original manuscript–yes, extant for this passage–and it reads “these scriptures.” So Alma is not scolding them, he’s asking them if they are aware of the scriptures that can comfort them.

So what happened? Well, here’s 317:42,

Now, behold, my brethren, I would ask, if ye have read the

The end of the line happened, Continue reading

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