I am an aspiring writer who feels blocked in terms of writing a novel because I am lacking knowledge of craft.
I have taken two continuing education type writing courses in the past five years: ED2GO's "Write Like A Pro" and University Wisconsin-Madison continuing studies' "How To Write Compelling Fiction". I have also read Larry Brook's "Story Engineering" and "Story Physics". As an aside, this has served to confuse me, because each source divides plot somewhat differently (such as 3 parts, 4 parts, and 5 parts -- and some with sub parts).
I want to develop characters, outline a plot, and write the first chapter of a novel so that I can submit it to a critique group. But in the meantime I have found several books in the Writer's Digest's "Write Great Fiction" series:
(1) "Plot & Structure" by by James Scott Bell shows you how to develop a believable and engaging plot that keeps readers enchanted from beginning to end.
(2) "Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint" by Nancy Kress delivers proven methods for creating characters readers will believe in with scenes that deliver emotional impact.
(3) "Dialogue" by Gloria Kempton offers advice on writing dialogue that sizzles regardless of genre, ways to fix common problems and more.
(4) "Description & Setting" by Ron Rozelle helps you master the important, but often-overlooked subject of your story's setting and how it's described.
(5) Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell gives you tips on how to successfully develop first drafts into a final draft as well as techniques that improve your chance of publication.
Another interesting book, among others, is Laurel Yourke's Take Your Characters To Dinner" about characterization. All of the above books have exercises, and it would be neat to have them critiqued, but I think maybe critique groups are looking more for book chapters.
I am not sure at this point what philosophy to have: try to have perfect knowledge upfront (at the expense of doing exercises as opposed to writing longer pieces), or writing a chapter (even if it is badly written), and submit it to a critique group to learn how to improve that way. If I were to go the craft book route, who would be available to critique the exercises?