Many of us have no choice but to grow our writing skills from How-to-write books. Seminars and college classes are great, but tight schedules and financial budgets too often prevent us from taking that road toward publication. Of course, some detest the idea of learning to write from a how-to book. I heard Nora Roberts say she has never read a how-to book. But the rest of us struggle to develop our skills and thus the how-to book fills that niche.
I read every how-to book I can afford, which looks even remotely interesting. Currently, the book on my nightstand is Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit. From the input I’m getting, it is a classic source for writers and screenwriters, as well.
What I like about the book is it covers areas of writing that many how-to books miss. For example, the Bellamy also known as Mr. Wrong, which occurs in many romance stories (think Bill Pullman in Sleepless in Seattle)
What I dislike about this book is the detail in which the author describes each movie example. Most of the examples he chooses are from popular movies to which most readers will relate, but if you haven’t seen the movie you’ll still understand the plot given Mernit’s details.
According to many reviewers, this book is a condensed version of the class Mernit teaches at UCLA. I like that he explains five ways to give life to you characters and his fundamental chapter topics such as;
The Romantic Comedy Concept
A Brief History of Romantic Comedy
The Art of funny
Deepening Your Craft
Romantic Comedy—Today and Tomorrow
Because the book includes numerous movie examples for every topic Mernit covers, the book is quite lengthy (256 pages). Therefore, I wouldn’t push this off to new writers as the first how-to book for their library. Even so, I think it does have a place on the bookshelf along with the writer’s first must-have books. My choice for those first three books are; Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain.
Has anyone out there read a good how-to-write book, which you could recommend? Outside the Bible, what first book would you recommend for the new writer?