1. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England

    Essential Reading!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cmcpress, Oct 26, 2010.

    I'm currently working through "the 7 Basic plots" by Christopher Brooker and i think it's an ace read - with plenty of examples from Classic literature. It's an enjoyable read for a textbook too.

    I've also ordered "the elements of style".....

    What other books do you think are a "must read" for aspiring, or even established writers to improve their craft?
     
  2. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    I'd recommending reading fiction. A lot of fiction. Of the genre you are intending to write, and other genres.

    Really, seeing examples of how other writers do it in practice will be a lot more useful than any textbook.
     
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner. Great book for writers who are serious about creating literature.

    "The Elements of Style" is overrated. It's a nice short book that will help newbies avoid embarrassing themselves, but it won't do much more than that. Gardner's book will help an already-decent writer become an artist.
     
  4. Lavarian
    Offline

    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Messages:
    4,562
    Likes Received:
    93
    Check out The Truth About Fiction by Steven Schoen.
     
  5. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    LuleƄ, Sweden
    "On reading" by Stephen King is one of the best book on discovery writing and the simple craftsman truth about writing. And one best read when you just gotten a bit into the craft.
     
  6. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    I'd add a caveat that any book on writing that you read is only going to be the way that works for that particular writer. For example, "On Writing" is a very interesting book, and has a lot of useful ideas, but I wouldn't agree with everything King says in it, despite how successful he's been.
     
  7. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I agree 100%. I like "On Writing" for its autobiographical content more than its advice on writing. King really downplays revision, for instance. That may be why he's so prolific, and why so much of his work doesn't have much depth.
     
  8. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    LuleƄ, Sweden
    Yea. And King takes a narrow minded approach, like many books on how to do anything does and don't not recognize other methods or approaches. But it is one of the few good books focusing on discovery writing.
     
  9. sereda008
    Offline

    sereda008 Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2010
    Messages:
    131
    Likes Received:
    1
    There are no 'Must read to become a writer' books out there. Read what is closest to your topic and maybe something that is not just to expand your experience.
    As for inspiration... No book can inspire me, as well as no movie. I get all my inspiration from music as many words are not understandable and the imagination wonders how to fill in the blanks in such a way that would provide great interest.
    It may be only me, but I am certain that some other writers would find great inspiration from rock songs.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i have to agree wholeheartedly with all banzai had to say!... he's hit the nails square on their heads and driven them home...
     
  11. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    "On Being a Writer" is an intersting compilation of short essays compiled and edited by Bill Strickland. Included in it are Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, James Michener, James Dickey, Jean Auel and others. Interesting tidbits and insights, but not a "how to".
     
  12. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    If we're talking books about writing that aren't "how-tos", then I'd recommend any and all available volumes of the Paris Review interviews. Since the Paris Review started in the 1950s, they've interviewed tons of the most important writers, from Ernest Hemingway to Isak Dinesen to David Mitchell to Maya Angelou. And the interviews are long and deep and fascinating.
     
  13. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England

    I'm interested in books that teach the mechanics of writing not how to be inspired. In the same way that you couldn't design and build a new engine without knowing first how an engine works.

    Similarly whilst it is possible to play an instrument without knowing musical theory, the best musicians are well versed in scales, arpeggios, harmony, counterpoint etc.
     
  14. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
     
  15. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    The point about reading as much as you possibly can isn't about inspiration, it's about craft. The musician knows all those scales and arpeggios, true, but he also knows how to use those tools to achieve different effects. Think about handling the death of a sympathetic character. Dickens would be maudlin and sentimental. Terry Pratchett would be semi-comic. Piers Paul Reed would be detached and clinical. A pulp horror writer would be detailed and gory. You can learn all you like about pronouns and adjectives, about point of view, about concrete and abstract nouns, about free writing and editing and so on, but you'll only be able to actually use those things well if you've read a lot of varied works.
     
  16. cmcpress
    Offline

    cmcpress Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2010
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    London, England


    Absolutely but the point is to find information that helps you to think critically about writing and to be able to apply that critical faculty to your own.

    For example it's all well and good knowing that writer X writes beautifully. It's another kettle of fish to be able to deconstruct why you find beauty in writing - to be able to say:

    Writer X writes well because he uses simile to express internal emotions, or because the flow of his dialogue is convincing and natural or because he manages to change the pace of the narrative between scenes of action or rest through quick, sparsely punctuated sentences.

    Writing with awareness and control.

    That doesn't mean you relegate every piece of writing to a technical exercise - it's like a master musician who instinctively draws on the years of training to be able to create sublime performances.
     
  17. TobiasJames
    Offline

    TobiasJames Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    England
    Beginnings, Middles and Ends, by Nancy Kress - the best "how to" book I've ever come across. Gives a brief overview of everything, but focuses specifically on plot development. A high recommendation from me.
     

Share This Page