1. Eli
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    Eli Member

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    Books on Writing.

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Eli, Jan 26, 2009.

    I've been looking for a copy of John Gardeners 'On becoming a Novelist' for some time now. My Theatre Proffessor had a copy which I flicked through once or twice and it seemed interesting, but I can't seem to find a copy in any bookshops, and I don't want to feed the Amazon machine.

    So until I can locate a copy does anyone know of any other books in the same vein? I want something I can dip in and out of when I'm supposed to be working, but nothing too heavy going as I've got a stack of other things I'm desperate to read.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for a how-to book but just something to give me a bit of inspiration and to help whittle down my writers block.
     
  2. Spook
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    Spook Member

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    Stephen King's "On Writing" is a really good book on writing, both for technical stuff and for inspiration. I'm not even a big Stephen King fan, but I really like that book.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but many of te tidbits I've seen from King's book have left me with one reaction" "You gotta be kidding!" Others written as "this is wat you should do" are clearly only one writer's way of doing things, and are far from universal recommendations.

    I would definitely take ANY single writer's advice on how to write, beyond te basics of grammar, usage, and style, with a huge grain of salt.

    I have little respect for King as a writer. Mostly he is a fire hose of words. He has written a few fine novels, but most of his stuff I would classify as horrible rather than horror. Still, I do marvel at the rate he can generate his long winded tomes.
     
  4. Eli
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    Eli Member

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    Oh yes, I do wonder how one man can pour out so much drivel sometimes. Though saying that I do class 'Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption' among my favourite novellas (and it's a cracking film too).
     
  5. Darker Rarechild
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    Darker Rarechild Member

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    I don't think On Writing is spoused to be taken as writing scripture of any kind. I've read it and it was a good read. I don't think I pulled too much away from it in terms of writing tips that I haven't gotten elsewhere, but King is more like that person who believes you can do it and encourages and inspires you to do it.


    As for other books, I just got The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing and is hand down the best book I have ever read on writing thus far. Its exactly what I've really been looking for. For me, the guide on how to work your concept to create a good story and then outline it was helpful, because I've tried every concept for outlining I could think of and I always fail still at writing.


    30 dollar writing school
    by Micheal Dean is a fun book to read. He dabbles in a little bit about everything when it comes to writing and unlike other books, he doesn't promise you that you will make a dime writing. He really kicks you in the nuts metaphorically(but in such a nice way) and brings you down to reality if you ever thought you could get rich quick Writing. He calls his line of books "Text books that down suck" and I have to agree.

    The Screenwriters Bible by David Trottier is another great book. Of course, if you're not into screen writing then this isn't for you, but I still recommend reading it none the less.

    On Writing Horror is a book I bought that has articles from writers of horror on a bunch of different subjects regarding the horror genre. Personally, I don't like the font type or size they chose for the book and I don't think the book is worth 16 bucks, but if you get a chance to skim through it, you might think other wise and want a copy or you might agree with me and not buy it.

    Thats about it. I haven't read very many books on writing because I can write, just outlining and adding more to the course of my story has always been hard for me.

    I do have a note book filled with 11 pages of what I wanted to write as a novel, and in the margins a novelist wrote suggestions to me. If I can find the notebook again, I'll write here what she suggested to me. Mainly that I show more and don't tell. :( lol, but she did like my writing somewhat, so that is a plus.

    If I come across anymore books, I'll post em.
     
  6. Spook
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    Spook Member

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    No need to apologize...

    The OP asked for more of an "inspiration" style guide, than a toolbox. The book I recommended is good for that: It tells a very interesting story of how he started out and what he did to become successful.

    EDIT: I do agree with you about not taking one person's advice as Gospel. Personally, I share his general disdain for adverbs. Other stuff, I don't agree with. Still, I think the book generally has some good advice that one should read and either accept or discard.
     
  7. RadioActive
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    RadioActive New Member

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    Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White has some good tips, and some pretty amusing examples as well.

    But if you're just starting out, On Writing would probably be better. King uses a simpler, more colloquial way of describing the trade than Strunk & White.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would freely recommend Strunk and White. It is a time-honored reference on most writers' bookshelves. Furthermore, it is concise - one word clearly missing from King's lexicon.
     
  9. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    ... furthermore, it is freely available, in its entirety online: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Style
     
  10. greywolf90
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    greywolf90 New Member

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    i read From Where You Dream From by Robert Olen Butler just this week. it was pretty much writting lectures transcribed to book, but his explainations on what seperates writing analytically and writing as art were helpful.
     
  11. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yup. I discovered that right after I 'lost' my hard copy and bought a new one. Then I found my old one... now I can keep one in the car too! :p
     
  12. JMoore1982
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    JMoore1982 New Member

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    Currently I am reading By Cunning & Craft by Peter Selgin. I haven't dug into it too deeply yet, but it's been insightful so far. You can read a sample of the first chapter via Amazon.com. I have skimmed around a few later chapters where he writes about getting published and he presents realistic advice on it. It's inspired me by being very down to earth.

    On Writing was and is helpful to me, I keep it in my desk (along with Elements of Style, the phonebook, and a few other books) for whenever I get frustrated with writing. I read a couple pages and I get inspired to charge ahead with my writing.
     
  13. Rio Moss
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    Just reread Write Away by Elizabeth George. Interesting bits, it also makes me want to read some of her books, but I guess that's one of the points.
     
  14. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I read King's 'On Writing' around the time I got the germ of the idea for my novel. There was some good advice in there, however, one piece of advice he gave set me back so far that I almost abandoned my book. King advised against writing an outline or plotting your book. His advice was, don't plot, don't outline, just sit down and write. He even gave some sort of analogy about, a story is there, like the bones of a buried mastodon, and plotting is like using dynomite when you need a to use a pick axe, a small shovel and a brush. The more I think about his analogy, the more I have no idea what he was talking about.

    For myself, I needed to outline and plot my book before I began. When I finally did so, after reading the next book that I will recommend (and after wasting my time writing about 100 pages of unplanned garbage following King's advice) it helped me tremendously. When I tried to take King's advice, I found myself creating weak characters in a story that went nowhere.

    I finally got on the right track with my book after reading "How to Write a Damn Good Mystery" by James Frey, who wrote a series of "How to Write a Damn Good..." books. This book was full of wonderful advice for a step-by-step process, from plotting to polishing.

    Another book I read that I found engaging and extremely valuable was "The Writer’s Coach" by Jack Hart. Highly recommended, this book contains wonderful advice, is captivating and, at times, humorous. (There was a section with a list of "bad analogies" that had me rolling in laughter. I think my favorite "bad analogy" was: "The stone skipped across the water exactly like a bowling ball wouldn't.") But I think my writing benefited greatly from the advice I read therein.

    "The Writer's Coach" contains some of the same advice Strunk's contains (I read Strunk's back in high school) but I personally find "The Writer's Coach" more readable as it has an entertaining/engaging quality that actually makes it fun to learn better writing.

    Best wishes,
    Charlie
     
  15. Bernard Williams
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    Bernard Williams Member

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    -Writing Down the Bones
    -Room to Write
    -The Writers block

    These are the only writing self help books I own (that I can find) They are all easy access, although I like Room to Write above the other two.
     
  16. Tempest
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    Tempest New Member

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    Personally, I think this is good advice. What King meant was that writing is a process of uncovering something one piece at a time. Like digging up the remains of an ancient fossil - you can probably guess what it might be, but you won't know what it is until you've unearthed the entire thing, which is a slow, sometimes laborious, process.

    From personal experience, and I know a lot of writers share this belief too, the fun part of writing comes from slowly uncovering a new piece of information that adds to or furthers the story. Creating an outline on paper destorys the fun because you know what is going to happen next. I do however, like to have some plan in my head about what the story is going to be, but because it's not down on paper, it feels like the story can take new directions or paths that actually make it better than what I foresaw.
    Perhaps it's a romantic notion, but I find this process generally works best for me.

    However, I know every writer has a different process of what works best for them. I believe that once you've found a process that works well for you, stick with it. Other writers might be able to give you small hints and tips that may perhaps evolve the way you write, but in the end each writer is different and I believe that working to whatever spec works best for them is the best path to take.


    As for writing books I've found helpful:

    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was a very inspirational read for me. It doesn't deal with the technique of writing so much as explaining that a writer needs pure dedication to their work, and that writing is a discipline that needs some sort of regular routine.

    Crossroads: Creative Writing Exercises in Four Genres by Diane Thiel is one of the few prescribed text books at university that I've found very helpful. The standard techniques of writing are all detailed, but it is the writing exercises and the short stories and poetry included to give examples of the various techniques that made this a worthwhile read.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I wasn't crazy about Elements of Style....I mean I can see how it would've been useful pre-1980s, but I haven't read a writer who conforms wholly to that book's advice in any contemporary fiction I've read. I mean if you lack technical writing skills its as good a reference as any, but as a guide to writing contemporary fiction, it's more than a little outdated.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know what "contemporary fiction: you are referring to. Every piece of fiction I have purchased recently does follow the excellent advice in The Elements of Style. A good writer will know when to bend or break a guideline or rule, but in the whole, the best writers do follow the recomendations of Strunk and White. Te editors if that reference do periodically review and update the guide to make sure it remains relevant.
     
  19. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Every writer is different, but for myself, I have to disagree, and I'm sure there are a lot of writers who could not work that way.

    Reading an outline of a book you're reading would destroy the fun because you know what's going to happen next. But when you're writing, you need to know what's going to happen next. It's what you're laying the foundation for.

    To me, it's like trying to build a finished house with no plan or blueprints and without having any idea where the windows and doors are going to be, just grabbing a bunch of lumber and starting to nail it together, and other writers (and other writing books I've read) agree.

    I can't imagine that Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci Code (spoiler warning, if you haven't read it) without knowing from page 1 that Robert Langdon would be suspected of murder, that the Holy Grail is Mary Magdaline, the Leigh Teabanks will appear to be amiable but really be the bad guy, where the clues were going to lead him, etc. I highly doubt he created the whole story on the fly, coming up with bit about the Last Supper painting at the moment he got to that page, coming up with the character of Silas at the spur of the moment in the middle of writing. I highly doubt that, at the moment Langdon drove up to Teabanks gate, Dan Brown did not know that Teabanks was a villain, although the reader wouldn't know until near the end of the story. It was critical for Dan Brown to know that, so he could lay all the clues properly, and mask them well enough, so that the reader could go, "Oh, wow!" later in the book.

    When I tried King's method, I wrote 100 pages of complete junk. I had no idea where my characters were going or what they were doing. I was lost. I tried the method of outlining and developing my characters and their relationships before starting, and it worked much better for me. I felt I knew exactly who everyone was, even as though they were old friends of mine, and I was familiar with the events, even before I started, so I didn't have to get stumped on every page, and then make up something, and then throw it out, over and over again.


    Charlie
     
  20. Napoleon
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    Napoleon New Member

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    I've been reading quite a few writing books recently too, so here's a list of the ones I enjoyed the most.

    The Art of Dramatic Writing - Lajos Egri
    Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters - Michael Tierno
    Hero with a Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell
    The Moral Premise - Stan Williams
    The Writer Journey - Christopher Vogler (based on the Hero with a Thousand Faces)
    Story - Robert Mckee
    On Writing - Stephen King
    Talk to the Hand - Lynne Truss
    Elements of Style - William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
     
  21. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I did read King's On Writing a long time ago. I recall that I found it useful, but these days I don't remember any of his advice except "use active verbs instead of passive ones" (which I thought was an awesome idea) and "never use adverbs" (which I tend to ignore whenever I find an adverb I like.)

    While they're not books, the DVD's of the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies had Audio Commentaries with the writers. Put together, that's almost five hours of them just talking about writing. I found it to be a treasure trove (no pun intended) of handy writing tips.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Before you take King's advice to heart, look at some of his writing. Yes, he is a fasmous and prolific author, but not everyone would agree that his writing approach is worth emulating. His stories tend to wander aimlessly for long stretches, taking far too long to get to anything resembling THE POINT, and it all tends to look the same after a while.

    Love him or hate him, just keep in mind that his book does not teach you how you should write. It only describes how he writes. And there are many, many different approaches taken by other very successful writers.
     
  23. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    You have to admit, though; being famous and prolific does give him a fair deal of authority on the matter. He obviously did something right.

    But it's not like they are any different. No author can tell any other how he or she should write; all they can do is explain how they did it, and all we can do is listen to what they have to say and figure out where to go from there on our own.
     
  24. Nathan Edwards
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    What Cogito said.

    In fact, I find that a lot of the how-to books that established writers put out really don't do me a whole lot of good. Right from the get-go, it's a collection of biases - what worked for him or her. And what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for somebody else (at least I hope it doesn't). Things like one's own style, one's own voice, is something that you can only hone after you've gotten enough words down on paper. Better one just learn a few tricks of the trade so as to keep one's interest in the craft from waning.

    The book I found best for this is 'So You Want To Write A Novel' by Lou Willett Stanek. Relatively small book, easy to get through, and outlines some things to keep in mind when it comes to getting through that first work of fiction. Things like the importance of keeping a portable, five-subject notebook on your person at all times, how to set up a regular writing schedule and keeping to it, questions to ask your character about themselves so as to make them leap off the page, stuff like that.

    But again, different things work for different writers.
     
  25. busy91
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    busy91 New Member

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    I have to agree on this, the inspiration he gives in this book is amazing, and you learn alot about the life of a writer. I am currently reading another Stephen King writing book: Secret Windows: Essays and fiction on the Craft of Writing. The essays are really helpful, the fiction short stories are just entertaining. However, this book can't be found everywhere, you have to buy it from a seller on Amazon. But I thought it was worth the effort.
     

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