1. Rebel Yellow
    Offline

    Rebel Yellow Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2012
    Messages:
    283
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Quebec

    Which book helped your writing the most?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rebel Yellow, Mar 6, 2012.

    I know there is a plethora of books on the subject, however I was wondering if any of those were helpful for you. I am shopping online but most of the titles have very good reviews and as I don't want to buy every single book that claims to help fiction writers, I thought I would ask the fellow writers on this forum for advice.
     
  2. Rumwriter
    Offline

    Rumwriter Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    20
    "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott
     
  3. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The dictionary.
     
  4. superpsycho
    Offline

    superpsycho Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2012
    Messages:
    638
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    LOL Perfect. Or Thesaurus
     
  5. Jack Rain
    Offline

    Jack Rain New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Depends on what part of your writing you wish to develop the most. I read books on journalistic writing to develop my craft. I figure you either have an imagination/story to tell or not. It's just about how you tell it.
     
  6. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    "My Lost Mexico" by James Michener. He describes how he began the project, how the ideas developed, and then how it all came to an abrupt end. And, of course, how he got it back on track (30 years later).
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The thesaurus has led uncountable would-be writers astray. Too many have taken the thought of synonyms far too literally. Words grouped together in a thesaurus entry can be very different in connotation and semantics. You can easily spot a writer who has tried to digest a thesaurus and has vomited it into his writing. The writing is chock fuil of words that don't QUITE fit.

    As for how-to books on writing, most are best brought to the "throne room." Not for casual reading whilst clearing the colon, but for wiping afterward if the roll is empty.
     
  8. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    One of the best ways to learn to write is to read what has been published, but not read for enjoyment. Study, pay attention and take notes.

    If there are several authors you enjoy reading, go ahead and read the novels, first for enjoyment. Then read, paying attention to things like characterization and dialogue. See how they wove description into the narrative. Watch pacing, foreshadowning, how multiple plotlines intertwine and bring out the best in the story.

    It takes time. Certainly more time than reading a book on writing, which will only give you the basics.

    There just isn't a forumula that works every time, and what advice the how to books contain, may work for one writer and may not work for another. The how to books do have a place and value. They can introduce a writer to POV and dialogue and basic elements and pitfalls to avoid. And they can provide encouragement and some motivation and inspiration.

    Stephen King's, On Writing, for example, didn't really help me much in learning to be a writer, but it gave some information in what to expect while writing and what it takes to have a chance to succeed.
     
  9. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami. :) really, somehow it took my writing to a whole new level and I didn't even like the actual book that much, story-wise.
    If you want how-to-books (which I guess your post was actually about) I'm the expert ;) : Revision and self-editing by James Scott Bell and Techniques of the selling writer by Dwight Swain are probably the two I appreciated the most. there are more, so many more, but you read the same advice pretty much everywhere.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    yet again, i have to ditto all cog had to say... especially about the use and misuse of a thesaurus...

    i don't believe in and have never read or relied on any how-to for writing mediums other than for screenwriting and for writing song lyrics, since those involve format and other considerations beyond just plain writing...

    i've learned to write simply by constant reading of 'reading' books, not how-tos... having been a voracious reader of all i could get my hands on since i first learned to read, i 'absorbed' how to write well by reading the works of the best writers of all time, not just the most popular ones...
     
  11. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    I'm sorry, I do not ditto Cogito's comment about the throne room (although there's often a writing book there, it's still quite whole). I have been much helped by writing books which have given very good advice. Granted, it's usually good to find your style on your own; granted, a writing book may not be helpful; but it will tell you things to avoid, it will advise you on such points as character depth and story narration, it will confirm the ideas you'd already formed about writing so you know you're not all that insane.
     
  12. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    No one book has helped me. In fact, I'd say that books in general have done little to lift my writing. What has helped my writing is actually doing it, observing real people, and getting feedback from knowledgeable real people.
     
  13. Rumwriter
    Offline

    Rumwriter Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    20
    I'm not against writing books. I think they say a lot of the same things people say on here, but a person may get more out of a book than a forum.

    For instance, when I first started writing, I would have all sorts of cluttered round about sentences. Then I read a writing book that said "Cut out the clutter". That's great advice that I instantly recognized. I may have gotten it eventually if I'd just read a lot, but it pointed it out to me right there and then. Similarly, eliminating things like adverbs when possible, and using stronger verbs instead is great. And another showed me how you can control the tone and pacing of a sentence/paragraph just by rewording it or adding different punctuation.

    I definitely think you can get more from reading literature and writing on your own than you can from picking up a writing book, but especially when it comes to creating nice flowing sentences, writing books are good for vocalizing what we may not realize on our own.
     
  14. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I've read several how-to and taken bits and pieces - unfortunately, every how-to author has their own method and they don't work for everyone (which is probably the biggest lesson I learned from them). I think what's helped me the most is being well-read (having had a voracious appetite for books since childhood). Reading a wide variety of books helped me not only learn the skills of writing, but the craft of story-telling, and allowed my imagination to grow in leaps and bounds.
     
  15. Gonissa
    Offline

    Gonissa Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2012
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Ghost Tower
    I've found that reading late 1800s/early 1900s early literature has really developed the way I write narrative. Narrative is probably harder than dialogue, because dialogue is directly related to the personalities of those speaking. You have to develop your own personality for descriptive writing.

    Oh, and ShadowWalker is so right about books not being right for everyone. Fiction books themselves are usually better than self-help writing books. Except when it comes to publishing. The book, "Thanks, But This Isn't For Us", by Jessica Page Morrell is a great way to give you a realistic view of how publishing works. And it's entertaining.
     
  16. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The biggest problem with how-to writing books is that if you know enough to evaluate whether the advice is worthwhile or utter crap, you don't need the book.
     
  17. MVP
    Offline

    MVP Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    6
    I read a buncha books on writing, I had to learn about the process somewhere, I don't have a degree in English or Journalism, so I taught myself. You can read other people's stories until your eyes bleed, but at some point, you have to understand the tools of creating a story. I recommend three kinds of books, it will be up to you to decide on an author.

    A good grammar text, like the Harbrace College Handbook.
    A book that explains the parts of a story.
    A book that explains principles of composing. - I used a discarded text from a high school English class.
    Another book I liked was King's On Writing. This book isn't for everyone, but I got a lot out of it. You will find just as many people criticizing it as you will promoting it.
     
  18. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    By far the best I've ever read about writing is the collections of Paris Review interviews with writers. There's a ton of information in there about how actual, celebrated writers write, and the diversity of approaches is amazing. The Paris Review has interviewed everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King, from Joyce Carol Oates to Vladimir Nabokov, from Rebecca West to Hunter S. Thompson. A lot of these interviews are available at the Paris Review's website. I used to have eight volumes of these collected interviews, but I lost them when I moved to California. I now have re-bought four collections and it doesn't seem like the others are in print. But, as I say, many of the interviews are available online. They're not exactly how-to books, but damn, are they inspiring and encouraging.

    Of the actual how-to books available, I recommend John Gardner's books: The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist. They're not very nuts-and-bolts, but they steer you in the right direction and also inspire.

    And, as I mentioned elsewhere, John Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel. Not a how-to book, but a personal journal of how a Nobel Prize-winning writer wrote one of his greatest novels, East of Eden.
     
    1 person likes this.
  19. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    The reason I recommend Michener's book is that it is NOT a how-to book. It's a description of one writer's experience and how he overcame the near-abandonment of a project.
     
  20. AlexSivier
    Offline

    AlexSivier New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Kyoto, Japan
    Here are two must-reads for anyone writing fiction:
    The hero with a thousand faces by Joseph Campbell
    Writing to sell by Scott Meredith
     
  21. NeedMoreRage
    Offline

    NeedMoreRage Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2012
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    1
    Atlas Shrugged: it got me to pick up writing again.

    I've never read a book on how to write, aside from some small things about proper grammar and punctuation. I believe that using books about how to think, plan, organize, and write removes the benefits you get from learning how to do those things yourself. You aren't assembling something, you are creating something entirely from scratch. You need to learn the mechanics of how to write in your language, but that is it. Unless you are looking to publish, then reading a few guides and books about getting published is also strongly recommended.
     
  22. kingzilla
    Offline

    kingzilla Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Canada
    I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians at school and that got me the idea for the novel I am writing, so that is a close first. The first has to go to the series A Song of Ice And Fire because that gave the inspiration to want to write and gave me the idea of my first novel (which I put on pause for now due to the part I have written sucks).
     
  23. Pchew
    Offline

    Pchew Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2012
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    1
    "Gone" by Michael Grant and "The Maze Runner" books really inspire me :)
     
  24. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    It's not a book - Dolly Parton songs, they inspired me and studying them helped me handle flash fiction, and her characterisation taught me a lot. I now use her methods, but also recognise watching her is better as I am writing a novel so it is not intended to be performed and I need to fill in a description of my characters 'performance'
     
  25. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    One might say the same thing about a writing forum.
     

Share This Page