1. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Books on Writing or Just Writing Books

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pheonix, Oct 1, 2012.

    I see a lot of people referencing various books about writing and resources like them. I've haven't read a book about writing since my English Comp class, and that was mostly grammar. I think that type of book is amazing, but what about books about actual creative writing? It seems to me like if the book is good, it can really help a person, but if the writer of the book doesn't know what they're talking about, it could be more detrimental that beneficial. And even if the book is well done, wouldn't it bias the readers style somewhat?

    Basically, what do you all think about books about writing over following your intuition and reading a lot of whatever it is that you've chosen to write?
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    "On Fiction" by Stephen King is one. If you're into sci fi and fantasy then Orson Scott Card's got one on world building, etc etc.

    Those are the two that come to mind for me.
     
  3. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    You didn't really read my post did you... lol
     
  4. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    There are always many differing opinions on the same matter. On this forum, and in the books about writing too. If you keep that in mind and don't take the book as a sacred text to be followed without questions, if you read it as suggestions and not rules, then I don't think there's any harm. Even then you can choose to disagree with it and write whatever feels good to you.
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I've read books on writing by authors, it's more or less confirming my own thoughts on writing (oh hey, s/he thinks the same thing so I'm not out in left field after all) or showing me another method to try (if it interests me at all). But writing has always been intuitive for me - which is why I bow out of discussions of third person omniscient or prepositions and infinitives, and all the other 'scholarly' mish-mash. I just write.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think you can learn from reading a lot, I'm not a fan of narrowing your reading - say you want to write horror
    so you read Brian Keene , Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Anne Rice etc. That's all fine and dandy as
    if shows how others write horror, but how can you bring anything new to it if you're only reading what others
    have done? I like to mix up my reading. I'm not saying that if you write horror you shouldn't read horror
    authors, a writer would be crazy to attempt writing a horror novel without having some knowledge
    of the genre - but the trouble with resting too much on only reading horror is that you start to
    think in terms of cliches. What worked for them will work for me.

    How to write books can be great but I agree, they can also help to produce cliched thinking. A lot of
    them dish out formulas, character work sheets, three act plots. For me this type of how-to-write
    book can warp a writers style to conform to trends and doesn't allow the newbie a long of growing room
    to develope his own style. But not all of them can be written off.

    I read two brilliant ones lately - How not to write a Novel & 179 ways to save a Novel. Most tips
    are showing the writer where they've missed it.

    And the trouble with most newbie writers is they don't know where they're missing it. I recently
    opened an old project I did ten years ago - it doesn't have an ending and it's over 300,000 words. What
    was I thinking? Obviously that every minute detail was brillant! At this point my intuition sucked!
    Intuition only works when a person can set their ego aside.


    I think if you're going to read to improve your writing - especially a newbie, you have to read not
    just to be entertained but to learn. Take notes. Also I'm big on these - read literary studies. Love
    'em! They pull apart a book and show you the layers going on. You can't write and force metaphors
    and symbols into your story but it helps to show a writer that picking out a setting or an object
    carries more weight than simple decoration and can help tie a theme together.

    I'm for just writing. But find tips where you can.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think there are certain aspects of writing that lend themselves to advice/instruction, particularly if one wants to be published. I would refer to these things as the "how" of writing - methods of exposition, SPaG, use of dialogue, structure of plots and subplots. While there is room in these things for individual interpretation, there are lots of areas in which one had best adhere to "best practices" (and in the case of SPaG, absolute rules).

    But there are certain other aspects that really are wholly within the realm of the individual writer, that really can't be taught. I would refer to these as the "what" of writing - the stories themselves. You can see how someone else created Hamlet, or Scrooge, or Jo March, or Cecilia Valdes, or Anna Karenina, or Prince Myshkin, or Don Quixote, or Henry Higgins, or Nellie Forbush, or Elizabeth Bennett, or any other other memorable, likeable, despicable character, but you must create someone who is none of those, and that you can only do on your own.

    In short, you can (and should) learn the craft of writing from others. But you can only learn how to write by doing it.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm working through some of these books. I find that reading the books is moderately interesting. But writing short pieces in response to the exercises is what I find most informative. Reading directions is one thing, actually playing around with the advice - much more valuable.

    Another book has just arrived through the post. (Opens it). It's "Writing Dialogue" by Tom Chiarella.
     
  10. The Crazy Kakoos
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    The Crazy Kakoos Member

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    Books on writing are fine in my opinion. There's always something you can learn from someone else in regards to everything. Writing, is one of those things, I believe, that have to be tailored to the individual. It's like martial arts in that you can learn all sorts of interesting techniques but when it comes to utilizing them, you have to use what works best for you in your situation.
     
  11. Oz!
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    Oz! New Member

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    Books about writing will tell you about how others go through the process of getting words onto the page.... but as no two writers go about this the same way the question of how much use they are is subjective.
    Or you can take a finished book and figure out how the writer did it for yourself. Hunter S Thompson famously typed the Great Gatsby to "get a feel for writing a great novel" and his work is still in print.
    I read these "how to" books as i acquire them, if nothing else you know they are going to be well written (tips a hat to Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing).
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, a book about writing is valuable if it provides inspiration and motivation to reach beyond my existing abilities, even beyond my existing vision. A book about writing that introduces me to great works of literature I hadn't been aware of, and explains what makes them great and how the authors created them, is very valuable. I like those books - the ones that make me reach for the stars.

    A book that just teaches SPaG, or three-act structure, or how to build formulaic characters, or is little more than a collection of "tips" and "rules" (Don't use adverbs! Don't use passive voice! Hook the reader in the first line! Write only simple sentences because your readers probably can't read above a fifth-grade level! Etc.) is worse than useless. Slavish adherence to the advice of books like that will only result in the production of more semi-literate sludge (the world is too full of that already) and will ultimately ruin any talent or vision the readers of those books may have to offer.
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    In addition to what has already been mentioned, I would suggest reading the diaries/journals of famous writers. I'm currently reading Kafka's Diaries and find it incredibly interesting and informative. Included are early drafts, story ideas, and just random stuff he thought interesting enough to write down.
     
  14. Maxitoutwriter
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    Maxitoutwriter Member

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    Anything could be useful in influencing/developing your style and thinking process. Writing books are okay, but they are not the best method. Why not study history? That's where there is A LOT of creativity. Anything where you are learning helps to expand your perspective and make you a better writer.

    Studying anything can help you to develop excellent ideas and that is something that should be regarded with the highest respect. When it comes to developing writing skills you should just write, and go over it again and again; refining your art. Books can give you useful ideas, but there is NO book that can give you the skill to write.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as a mentor of aspiring writers, my general advice is to eschew reading books on how to write, in favor of constantly reading the best-written examples of the writer's art from homer on, with an emphasis on the medium and genre the mentee wants to excel in..

    the only exceptions for me are for aspiring screenwriters and lyricists, due to the need for learning structure and format...
     

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