Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Infinitytruth, May 9, 2011.
looking for a book to improve my writing.
On Writing by Stephen King.
I concur! Definitely one of the best books for an aspiring novelist to read.
I haven’t read any how to write books in the larger scale however, 2 great book for prompts, exercises, etc. the 3am epiphany & what would your characters do ?
There is a wealth of information found in the back of most trade-sized paperback general fiction published in the last decade. In interviews with those actually earning a living writing, many of the myths passed around the amateur writing community are questioned, taken to task and proven short sighted and/or incorrect…..What the pros says contradicts the devotees of Miss Crabapple junior college writing class…but what do they know ?
I like the stephen King book but its not really about the craft, its more about the craft....wait oh...ummm.
Plot & Structure - James Scott Bell
Dialogue - Gloria Kempton
Description and Setting - Ron Rozelle
Creative writing for Dummies - lol
Writing Fiction for Dummies
Writing a Novel and getting it Published for Dummies. - the novel writing part has some good thought provoking exercises.
Scriptwriting for Dummies. That enough Dummies books.
The Fiction Writers Toolkit - Bob Mayer. Awesome book and quite funny.
By Cunning and Craft - Peter Selgin
$30 Writing school 2004. Lol I know it sounds crap but its funny.
Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint - Nancy Kress.
Conflict, Action and Suspence - William Noble
Creative Writers Handbook - Cathy Birch
Fiction Writers Brainstormer - James V Smith Jr.
How to tell and story - Peter Rubie.
Revision and Self Editing - James Scott Bell
Showing and Telling - Laurie Alberts
I cant be bothered to list anymore so these are some of the better ones I have read. They all have their own methods but a lot of it crosses over.
Would also recommend - Writers & Artists Yearbook guide to getting published - Harry Bingham
And - Writers & Artists Yearbook 2011 - AC&Black
^Wow, I applaud you for reading so many good sounding books!
Try Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
Only problem with reading lots of books about writing is you end up not writing, and thats probably the best way to get better. Oh and to read a lot. (Oxymoron?)
Once I had finished reading about writing I had to stop myself from picking them up again so I could actually get down to the business of writing.
To be honest, I would have to say that books doesn't really help you write, it just give you an idea of how you should write. In other words, if you are writing about Fantasy or something, it would probably tell you to read other books or other writings about Fantasy. When you do finally decide to find another book about Fantasy, it will tell you, once again, to find another book about Fantasty. This is almst like a false awaking dream. Most books just give you general advice on character development and other elements, but it doesn't tell me what I should write about.
I disagree. This book is more about the writing process of Stephen King than just the writing process.
I would suggest going to your local library and checking out the section where all the books about writing are. Read them all because there isn't a single way to write.
One book I will say you must read is The Elements of Style. It easily clears up many questions you may have about when to use a comma, how to correctly list a book title, and other questions like that.
The best book about writing that I've read is "the Art of Fiction" by Ayn Rand.
I understand where you are coming from, but I don't believe that you should discount this book. By disagreeing with the fact that, On Writing is a book that a writer could learn from, you are unnecessarily narrowing a writers options on discovery. Despite Ellipse's comment, I still maintain that On Writing by Stephen King is a helpful book to read for any writer. I recommend it to you Infinitytruth.
I do agree with you Ellipse that The Elements of Style is a quintessential book of study for any writer.
Makes you feel like he's been where you are, and all the more worse off. Definitely good for the aspiring Novelist.
Writing Fiction for Dummies is a good book, gives you a thorough tour of everything a book is comprised of. Prose, tenses, plotting techniques. Pretty much everything.
Exactly. Maybe have a book or two on hand for reference or some useful bits of insight, but by and large reading scores of books on writing isn't going to do you any good.
The best book I've read on how to be a better writer is "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. I highly recommend this book to everyone. I can't give it a proper description, just read it. Seriously.
As to the "On Writing" debate, I found it helpful. The best advice I got out of that book was to use less adverbs.
I haven't finished it completely but I'm finding Make A Scene by Jordan E. Rosenfeld to be very helpful.
Sorry I just had to say it.
Ayn Rand - Yes the book might be insightful and many regard Atlas Shrugged as a masterpiece. However, I cannot stand Ayn Rand. Objectivism is the biggest pile of **** I have ever heard of and I wrote a paper nearly 15k words long saying so when I was in school.
My Teacher was a huge Ayn Rand fan and after that she never did treat me quiet the same.
I read Atlas Shrugged and most of it was Ayn Rand trying to say rich people are good and smart while the poor are stupid morons who don't know what they are talking about.
I mean, the book had some well written and valid arguments. It also had a lot of moments where I was left thinking, 'That doesn't even make sense.'
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."
'Story' by Robert McKee.
I've read the Stephen King one and this beats it hands down.
The fact that it is ostensibly for screenwriting in my mind improves its value, because it calls for economy, in much the same way George Orwell did, in his equally valuable 'Why I write'.
My absolute favorite go-to writing book is "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass. It covers lots of different aspects of writing, and gives great advice from a novelist/editor-agent in the publishing field.
I don't believe that it said that at all.
I've seen "Story" by Robert McKee mentioned. I don't like that book - it's too strict when it comes to structure. It's about screenwriting, and novel writing is far more free and inclusive than that. McKee would have us all writing three-act structure, which is very limiting, especially if you are writing a story with more than elementary complexity. Shakespeare wrote in five acts, usually. Why does McKee want to limit writers to three?
Stephen King's "On Writing" is good mostly for the autobiographical info. It really doesn't help much, IMO, in the actual writing. He tells you about the life of a writer, and that's good, but his advice (cut down on adverbs and so on) is pretty weak, and we've seen it all before.
Strunk and White is a great book for people who do not want to be writers. It's for people in other fields who find that they have to write sometimes - historians, journalists, memoirists, and so on who are trying to avoid embarrassing themselves in prose. It is not for people who want to be artists of prose. If everyone followed its advice to the letter, we would have no Shakespeare, no Nabokov, no Joyce, no Melville, no Burgess, no Pynchon, no Woolf, etc. etc. etc. If you want to be a real writer, read Strunk and White and then forget it.
My favorite book on writing is "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner. It's a book for artists. It's for those who have read and digested Strunk and White and are now ready to actually learn the art of writing. It's demanding, curmudgeonly, and finally inspiring. I've read it many times and it makes me want to pick up my pen every time.
I think you might be taking 'Story' too literally in terms of the advice. With all these books some advice will resonate more than other advice.
For me the notion that things build to a climax, that the protagonist has multiple 'points of no return' that increase in terms of the effort required to attempt to restore equilibrium is a useful 'slide rule' to pass over your work and see if there are any bits that seem flabby.
Again, it doesn't mean a consistent chapter by chapter rollercoaster getting wilder to a crazy end, but it does mean that if you're worried about a saggy middle, McKee's giving a way of looking at it to help you to analyse your structure and see if any alternative gives it more interest.
I also wouldn't take the 'Three Act' thing literally either. McKee is saying that if things start well and just go wrong, it's not as interesting as if things start well, go wrong, but are made well again.
You can spread that over however many acts you like. In King Lear the King has a single straight descent into madness, but the universe, which starts well, loses its order and is threatened with something very bad happening, but in the end resolves well, even for the King himself, though it's not the outcome he'd have chosen at the start.
Most of these sorts of books are more about them teaching you how to market and sell books, than to teach you how to write quality fiction. Ah, but they're not marketing books, so how are they teaching a writer how to target a demographic and exploit it for book sales? Well, you excitedly bought the book, didn't you?
The best of these books aren't so much instruction manuals, as provide a lot of exercises and prompts to get you writing. My favorite is The Scene Book and people I know liked The Lie That Tells a Truth, and I enjoyed that it starts out with you putting down the book to write, lol, but the actual instruction is pretty much basic fare (imo, at least).
The problem I've noticed, having observed hundreds of writing students of various level, is that by the time someone is seriously considering becoming a fiction writer, they're usually either more advanced than most of these books, or could be if they weren't worried about trying to find a book to feed them rules and answers. Most people I've observed that end up writing decent quality fiction didn't need these books because they'd already learned most of the lessons by simply reading, observing and figuring it out on their own.
The question then becomes, who are these books going to help? I don't honestly know, and I don't want to be condescending, but I believe there's a reason I've never personally seen a single creative writing professor of fiction use such books. What happens is you spend half your time explaining all the exceptions the students find to the 'rules' put forth in the books, and the other half of the time with relevant lessons that are simply redundant, and could be had that much easier by discussing/studying actual fiction, so you end up reading the how-to book, and then redundantly studying the same thing in a fiction story, when you could have just used the story and not then also had to deal with explaining all the discrepancies and exceptions most of these books present.
The books, to me, from the perspective of teaching fiction, only seem to teach the people who don't want to actually read and study fiction, but instead seem to think they can read a manual and then know how to write good fiction. It doesn't work like that, I don't believe, so there's a good reason that the most helpful of these sorts of books aren't the ones that are at all prescriptive, telling a writer rules and how to write, but instead descriptive, showing a writer the building blocks of scenes, for instance, and then making the writer actually write to learn what works and doesn't on their own.
Few of these books do that, though, as they ask the writer to basically put down the quick-fix book and keep writing and studying fiction, which isn't the answer many aspiring writers want to hear. So, instead, you get a flashy title that makes you think a book will teach you how to write well, when in reality all it's giving you is a lesson in marketing and targeting a demographic. Lesson 1: find someone who has big dreams, and hopes it's as easy as buying a how-to book.
Edit: wanted to add that On Writing was terrible in regards to teaching fiction, but great when it came to an inside look at the industry and a writers process, and really good as an entertaining memoir (by far the best part, and if King wrote that well all the time he'd like be famous an stuff).
Ahahaha you made me remember His Famous Words:
"F**K THE PLOT!"
Separate names with a comma.