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Friday, July 13, 2012




A number of people I chat with often express that they’d like to write a book, but don’t feel they own the toolkit or have the talent. No one was born with a pen clutched in a tiny hand already knowing how to write. Anyone can learn how to write both fiction or nonfiction, though fiction is more fun.

I wasn’t educated as a writer, but when I wanted to learn how to write, I went back to school for a couple of courses at my local community college. Were they all I needed? Not by a long shot. That was in 1996, but I continue to take seminars and attend workshops, as well as read, read, read.

So what books are helpful in learning the craft? There are many, but here’s a few I found helpful. The Weekend Novelist (Robert Ray) is a good plotting manual, as is The Writer’s Journey (Chris Vogler).

I’m fond of meticulously crafted writing, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne and King) is essential for attaining that goal.

Looking for inspiration? I read other writers’ autobiographies. On Writing by Stephen King is an autobiography masquerading as a craft book. So is Starting From Scratch by Rita Mae Brown.

Among other subgenres, I write historicals. I love to leaf through books about clothing throughout history and own Costume 1066-1990s by John Peacock—isn’t that a perfect name for the author of a costuming book? The History of Underclothes (Cunnington) which includes everything beneath outerwear—shirts included—is indispensable. English Through the Ages (Brohaugh) lists just about every word in the language along with the date it was first used in writing—usage in conversation generally precedes that by a couple decades. This book, or something like it, is essential for avoiding anachronisms, which will throw the reader out of the story.

Here’s another couple of more references I keep close to hand: The Chicago Manual of Style and Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld.

In the main, though, the internet has made owning references less important. Yes, if I have a book with the info I might reach up to grab it, but most often, I’ll just click a few keys and get the answer online.

It’s important to remember that the writer’s journey is a very long one. Unless you decide to stop writing because your Muse has gone AWOL (mine is partying somewhere in Argentina, I believe) you will never stop learning and growing.

Happy writing!

About the Author:
Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written over fifteen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica. She’s a freelance editor who’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Ai Press, Liquid Silver Books and Etopia Press. She also takes on private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and reached the top ten on a bestseller list.

A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for many months. Right now, she's working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.

Her blog is at Find her reading picks @ReadThis4fun on Twitter, and befriend her on Facebook ( Her sites are at and

Here’s some info on her latest book, Temptation in Tartan:

She had to marry a monster…

Rumors had followed the chieftains of Clan Kilborn for centuries. Said to be descended from the Viking Berserkers, they were ferocious in battle, known for tearing off the heads of their enemies and drinking their blood.

But English noblewoman Lydia Swann Williston would marry Kieran, Laird Kilborn, to bring peace to the Kilborn lands after the horror of Culloden and the brutal pacification. A widow, she also brought needed wealth to Clan Kilborn. For her part, eighteen-year-old Lydia wanted children. With her husband killed at Culloden, she would make a new life in the Highlands.

The old chieftain of Clan Kilborn also died in battle, and she hoped that the new young Laird would lack his ancestors' ferocity.

She was wrong.

Published by Ellora’s Cave in June 2012, Temptation in Tartan reached #1 on the All Romance Ebooks bestseller list for historical (other) romance and spent a full week in the top five. Its sequel, Desire in Tartan, is in process.

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