Thursday, 21 January 2010

7 Great Books for Writers

I've got over 400 books on various aspects of writing, and have probably read over 100 more. These are my favourite 7...

Stephen King - On Writing.
Interesting both for the autobiographical section and the practical section, even if you're not a fan of his genre.

Anne Lamott - Bird By Bird.
Thoughts on writing. She's more self effacing/less New Age-y than either Julia Cameron or Natalie Goldberg, and therefore appeals to me far more.

Robert McKee - Story.
Yes, he's a bit pompous and arrogant, yes, Story is often over complicated given he's basically writing about 3 Act Structure. But it's still essential reading in my opinion, especially good on sub-text.

William Strunk & EB White - The Elements of Style.
Succinct, precise, clear, short. The best £5 you'll spend, miles better than Eats Shoots and Leaves.

Renni Browne and Dave King - Self Editing for Fiction Writers.
Excellent book that does what it says on the cover. Good, clear examples.

Robert J Ray -The Weekend Novelist. NB First Edition Only.
This was the first creative writing book I bought, and it was an invaluable companion when I was writing my first novel. My copy is falling to pieces so I bought the second edition and - oh dear - he'd gone all academic and showing off his knowledge. I'm fairly experienced now as a creative writing book reader (let alone teacher and novelist), and I found it confusing and overcomplicated. Buy the first edition second hand if you have to.

Dibell, Scott Card and Turco - How to Write a Million.
Ignore the embarrassing title, this is actually three books in one, and two of the books - on Plot and on Character & Viewpoint - are excellent for craft techniques.


Blossom said...

I think Bird by Bird is brilliant. A writer friend recommended it to me but when she described it, I though, uh-uh, sounds far too New Agey. However, I was hooked from the first page and it gave me the confidence t continue my wip. I loved the wool gathering, crap first draft and broccoli thoughts and waiting for the child in the basement to pass up an idea.

I found my copy last night – it had fallen down between desk and radiator and as I've decided to try and rewrite the first few chapters of wip I shall reread bits of Bird by Bird.

Hope you enjoyed Paris.

Anonymous said...

Can I put in a vote for David Lodge's 'The Art of Fiction'?

[Though one reviewer on Amazon hated it, saying he/she wasn't interested in what made 'Jane Astin' an excellent writer as she wrote in 'ancient English'... So it's not a book for everyone I guess.]

Sarah Duncan said...

Glad to hear you like Bird by Bird. And Paris was fab, thanks.

I must have another look at David Lodge's book, have only skim read it before - I haven't bought a copy because I've found his fiction v hit and miss, esp the more recent novels, and he always seems a bit up himself when interviewed, which isn't endearing.

Amazon reviews are great, you can get a real feel for if the reviewer is on your wavelength or not. (Thereby proving that your 'voice' is there, even if you can't see it.) Jane Astin, indeed.