I'm Simon Haynes, programmer and author. Welcome to my website.

I'm a frequent Twitter user, and I have a Facebook author page. Feel free to drop by and say hello.

I'm lucky enough to have been published in five countries (soon to be six), and you'll find my work on all the major book-selling sites.



Recommended books on writing
(Not the article you wanted? Check the index for more)


Over the years I've spent a lot of money on 'how-to-write' books, and I could chart my progression through writerly waters with the titles on my shelf. Included are books on the basics such as plot, character and scenes, works on novel planning and construction, others on self-editing and finally several titles on getting published and negotiating contracts.

Of course, I didn't buy all these books at the same time. There's no point reading a book on contract negotiation before you've submitted your work to a publisher, and there's no point studying the finer points of query letters until you've actually written something. The list is organised from start to finish, so that a new writer would be advised to pick up the books at the top of the list and progress down the list as required.

In my opinion the books shown are the best in each category. (And if you're the author or publisher of a how-to book, I'm happy to read it. If I think it's better than the one I've listed I'll switch my recommendation to your title.) I won't add books I haven't read for myself, and I won't add any titles which I don't think are worth the time or money.

Before you begin to write...
On Writing - Stephen King
The first half is autobiographical, and I'm willing to bet you'll never see Stephen King in the same light after reading it. Many people view rich, successful authors as some kind of pampered royalty, but this book shows just how much hard work it takes to get to the very top.

The second half is stunning, but in a different way. Preconceptions about writing are nailed to the wall and shot full of holes, and you come away with a realistic grounding in the writing game. Scented writing paper and lavender coloured ink are nowhere to be seen.
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit - Lawrence Block
Billed as a manual for fiction writers, this book is a collection of Lawrence's columns from Writer's Digest and it covers all aspects of the writing game in numerous bite-sized chapters. Funny and incisive, you'll get a lot out of it.
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing - Evan Marshall
This book helps you plan a novel as if you were building a house or landscaping a garden. It's strictly by the numbers, recommending the number of characters for the planned word length, the number of scenes each should appear in, where your major plot surprises should be and so on. For a beginner planning to write a novel it's a great guide to structure. For more experienced writers it's a useful check list - for example, are your secondary characters taking over the lead character's book?
Plot & Structure - James Scott Bell
An excellent title if you want to know the tricks and techniques needed to grab hold of a reader and not let them go until the final pages of your novel. It's all here, from plotting techniques to structuring your scenes for maximum impact. Highly recommended.
Eats Shoots & Leaves - Lynne Truss
A book on punctuation which reads more like a Bill Bryson title. Funny and clever, this one should be in every writer's arsenal.
 
Elements of Fiction Writing series
Each of these books cover a different aspect of writing.
There are more in the series, these are the ones I've read.
Description - Monica Wood
Review to come
Characters and Viewpoint - Orson Scott Card
Review to come
Plot - Ansen Dibell
Review to come
 
Editing your work
The first five pages - Noah Lukeman
The title is just a selling trick, but the good news is that this book is worth it anyway. The idea behind the title is that a reader will judge you on the first five pages, so they'd better be good. After telling you how to begin, it goes on to explain how to edit your entire manuscript. A good book, this.
Getting the words right - Theodore A. Rees Cheney
I'm ambivalent about this one - I know it was useful, but my copy isn't covered in notes and scribble, which means I was either preserving it for posterity or it failed to strike me with continual bolts of comprehension. Damning it with faint praise perhaps, but I believe you need more than one editing book so that you're not wedded to one author's set of ideas.
Self editing for fiction writers - Renni Browne & Dave King
Another book I've completely vandalised. I bought this title when I was planning to self-publish my novels, and it proved to be very useful. Covers dialogue beats, description, over-description of mundane actions and so on. Nice chapter on sophisticated techniques which will help you polish your writing. I recommend reading this book through twice with pen and notepad in hand before turning back to your manuscript for another edit.
 
Submitting and selling your work
From Pitch to Publication - Carole Blake
Blake is a British literary agent, and if she's half as good at representing books as she is at writing them her clients are lucky indeed. Sections cover the life of a book from market research before a words is written to publicity and royalty statements. At almost 400 pages this is the biggest book on my list, and I've read it through three or four times.
Your Novel Proposal - Blythe Camenson & Marshall I. Cook
Similar to the Blake book, but this one begins with finding an agent and ends with a two page summary on contracts, so the subtitle of 'creation to contract' is a little misleading. Basically, the book tells you how to write summaries and cover letters, with examples.
Contracts and agents
Kirsch's Guide to the Book Contract - Jonathan Kirsch
An advanced title which shows you a sample contract, then breaks it down and explains every little piece. Mine's now annotated from one end to the other, with folded corners and pen scribble highlighting the bits I consider most important.
How To Be Your Own Literary Agent - Richard Curtis
The author is an experienced agent sharing his knowledge with a gentle humour. Ok, sometimes not so gentle. I read the book cover to cover in one sitting, skimming only the sections on collaborative writing and book packagers, and not only did I learn a lot I also laughed out loud at several observations.
The book includes a sample publishing contract and several author-friendly clauses which can be substituted for the more usual publisher-friendly versions. Highly recommended if you're at this stage of the game.