JesterOfHearts's picture
JesterOfHearts from Texas is reading Under the Dome - Stephen King October 30, 2011 - 2:19pm

A similar thread may already exist, but I didn't see one, so here goes:

What books on the art of writing can you recommend?  Fiction, non-fiction, genre, anything and everything related to writing that you found insightful.

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George October 30, 2011 - 2:34pm

I would recommend Sol Stein's "On Writing." He has been one of the great editors on the planet and his understanding of all aspects of writing are superb. He is also not a schlock artist who will promise that he will tell you the secrets nobody else will tell you. Among other for whom he was chief editor were:Jacque Barzun, James Baldwin, WH Auden, Budd Schulberg, F Lee Bailey, Lionel Trilling and David Frost and one of my faves, Jack Higgins.

I had the rare privilege of co-teaching a writing course with Sol for several years and I can't begin to tell you what I learned from him. At 85, he is still going strong.

I do not have to shill for him. This book has been a best seller for years.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 30, 2011 - 2:45pm

Robert Mckee's Story, for constructing plot structure. There are a lot of screenwriting books about it, but it doesn't seem to ever get covered in books about writing prose fiction (although you can use books on screenwriting to learn about plot structure, they are a bit annoying if you're not interested in screenwriting). Also Christopher Vogler's The Writer' Journey is also good (although padded) and also specific to screenwriting. It concerns the Hero's Journey plot structure.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 30, 2011 - 2:52pm

As the thread title implies, everyone should have already read Stephen King's On Writing. My personal favorite writing book is Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. Also the 3 AM Epiphany is full of some really useful (and some not so) exercises, either way they get you thinking more theoretically about how to stretch various writing techniques.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 30, 2011 - 3:05pm

I was in a class taught by the author of The 3 A.M. Epiphany. It was the summer before last at Naropa's Summer Writing Program (I was an MFA student there and was required to attend two sessions of the summer program to earn my degree). The class was once a week for four weeks.

JesterOfHearts's picture
JesterOfHearts from Texas is reading Under the Dome - Stephen King October 30, 2011 - 3:01pm

Awesome guys!  Thanks for all the recommendations.  I've been interested in buying more books on writing, but you can only trust Amazon reviews so much, so it's good to see what other writers recommend.

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. October 30, 2011 - 4:07pm

This thread has reminded me of a couple books I want to pick up. Been meaning to get the King one and the Bradbury one for a while, have heard those are useful. Now I can add Story by McKee to the list as well.

 

iBronco's picture
iBronco from New Jersey is reading White Noise October 30, 2011 - 6:53pm

Yeah, Stephen King's "On Writing" Is very, very good. Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" is a good go to as well. 

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George October 31, 2011 - 7:06am

All this talk about books on writing reminds me: I really should go back to read the books more often. You can't be reminded too often about the way you need to think to deal with all the issues surrounding writing.

My copy of Strunk and White is always on my desk. Whenever I have a question about sentence construction, I go right to it. However, I still think of a gerund as a fuzzy little critter that eats peanuts and loves to have its belly scratched.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. October 31, 2011 - 12:47pm

The essays on Litreactor are probably the most useful writing instructions I've found.  Like most writers, I've read a ton of how to write books, but Chuck's and Craig's essays have taught me the most by putting the usual instruction into terms that made sense to me and became easy to incorporate into my writing.

Stephen King's On Writing is the print book I would reccomend the most.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 31, 2011 - 12:53pm

I guess I should pay the 9 bucks so I can read the essays for a month (even though I'm not interested in participating in workshopping).

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. October 31, 2011 - 1:34pm

When I first read the essays, I kept a notebook next to the computer and copied down every piece of writing advice.  That way, I had a cheat sheet for later when I edited.  It was a HUGE help - and it filled up many pages.  

Later, I took those notes and rewrote them in a word document, sometimes using the terms that I understood more easily (for example - I don't call them "thought verbs", I call them "ego verbs").  I would reread that document before each rewrite I did of a story.  

Point is: Take notes while you read the essays.  Then take those notes and make them your own.  

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind October 31, 2011 - 1:32pm

I read books on the craft of writing as often as I read my fiction, and I've come across some great ones and some real duds. I'm a big fan of James Scott Bell, though! While some of his books feel the same in the beginning, his approach and his notes are easy to comprehend and he doesn't talk down to his audience like some, nor does he waste pages upon pages trying to sell us his process. (We bought that damn book already, you can stop pitching it to us! That's how some of these books are, even those rated 5 stars. Annoying! ) Bell has a great sense of what we need to know and he wastes no time getting to the point of each section. 

I hope this next suggestion doesn't ruin my credibility, but The Writer's Guide to Harry Potter had some great advice. The book drove me a little crazy because the writer uses smilies throughout her work, which I found both unnecessary and irritating, but some of the techniques explained between each emoticon have really stuck with me.

I read writing blogs, too. I follow TheLitCoach on Twitter, and she posts up relevant articles that are worth reading. 

While not really a book on writing, I'd suggest listening to the Writing Excuses podcasts. They're funny, they're short, and sometimes they're super helpful. (Other times, they're just fun to listen to.) Additionally, Dan Wells--one of the podcasters--has a youtube series on story structure. (just youtube Dan Wells on Story Structure, and it's one of the first hits.) There is some godawful music at the start and end of each segment, but the meat in the middle is pretty handy.

And boy, when I get myself a badass membership here, I'm hopping onto those delicious essays. The descriptions alone promise a fantastic experience!

iBronco's picture
iBronco from New Jersey is reading White Noise November 6, 2011 - 9:23am

@bryanhowie

You are absolutley correct. These essays on here are a tremendous resource for writers. Chuck's insight is magnificent, and one of the most valuable reads on the craft. I can't wait for Craig's coming essays. Sucks I can't attend the workshop ($$), going to be a great class.