1. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Writing guide books that you recommend reading

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Phoenix Hikari, Mar 10, 2013.

    Hi, since many of you read books about 'How to write fiction' and similar stuff, I was wondering if anyone can recommend to me the ones they read and liked or found useful. It is necessary for it to be available in Kindle version in the UK because I can't purchase anything else. I have read a few books but It's fun reading about writing and it's also useful.

    So yeah, any recommendations please? Oh and please don't turn this thread into a 'read other fictions and learn yourself'. If I like reading guide books then I do and no advice against it is allowed. :p
     
  2. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading other fiction is the best way to learn, but there are various good writing guides out there. They should only be a guide with regards to the technical side, though - you need to read elsewhere to discover new styles and develop your own style by writing constantly. They can give sage advice, but they should never be taken as the gospel.

    That said, one I like is Stephen King's On Writing. Plenty of good advice about the language of fiction and how to go about building your own story. I don't agree with all of it, but it's a starting point.
     
  3. Mot
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    Mot Member

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    Stephen King's On Writing was quite good (both as a means to improve your writing and as a story in its own right). I read it when I was 17 and had been writing for a couple of years and I noticed that my writing took quite a noticeable leap of improvement after taking in most of what he said.

    Having said that, most of the things he said in that book can be found in this forum. Things like 'skip the adverbs' and 'keep your writing as simple as possible' are quite common pieces of advice.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like reading the Writer's Digest - Don't know if they have it available over there but they have an online site
    that has some good articles and tips.
     
  5. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    Another vote for King's On Writing. Add to the list Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern, A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher, Writing Horror by HWA authors (good advice in there for non-horror authors too, particularly dialogue), and you should also have a style manual and dictionary handy. I prefer a flip dictionary and The Creative Writer's Style Guide by Writer's Digest.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't worship at the Temple of Stephen King, and I do not recommend On Writing as a guide to writing. I would accept it as an insight into the mind of Stephen King, period.

    In general, I'd avoid writing guides apart from the basic grammar, punctuation, and usage handbooks. They are far too subjective. By the time you are able to distinguish good advice from personal preference and outright crap, you don't need those guides anyway.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The only value I see in King's On Writing is in the autobiographical material. What he says about the art of writing is pretty worthless to me. (I'm not a Stephen King fan, in case you hadn't guessed.)

    The best books on writing I've read are the ones by John Gardner, especially The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. (It's available for the Kindle.) Gardner is not interested in turning you into a publishable hack. He is only interested in helping you write the best damn story you're capable of - he wants you to become an artist with words. I can't sum up Gardner's book with a list of tips. It's deeper than that. It's also very inspirational. I've read it several times, and, more than any other book, it makes me want to pick up my pen and write.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like Self Editing for Fiction Writers. I see it is available on kindle, but I'm not certain about kindle in UK.
     
  9. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    That's kind of rude and insulting. I found it useful when I was starting out, but what do I know, I'm only e-published and worship at the Temple of Stephen King.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Really? There's nothing in Cogito's post that I think is rude or insulting. On Writing is a book of Stephen King's opinions, nothing more. And Stephen King is not God.

    BTW, I don't worship at the temple of Cogito, in case you were wondering. We've had our differences. He came close to banning me from this forum when he was still a moderator. But in this case he's right, and I don't know where you're coming from.
     
  11. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    They do come in e-books you can buy, but personally I like reading Chuck Wendig's blog posts on writing and they're free. They're entertaining, motivational and have a number of good tips. He tells it like it is without sugarcoating, which is what drew me to his blog in the first place.

    (Disclaimer: There's a lot of heavy language so beware if that sort of thing offends you.)
     
  12. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    I strongly recommend Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. It will help you avoid beginner mistakes and will give you a better insight on the writing industry as the author is both a former writer and a literary agent.

    Don't be offended. I like Stephen King too and I enjoyed On Writing, but you can't expect him to be everyone's cup of tea. The book is great for getting inside King's head and knowing him more, but it offers very little for a writer with the desire to improve.
     
  13. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    The idiot's guide to writing a novel.
     
  14. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Highway Code
     
  15. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    I recommend Orson Scott Card's Characters & Viewpoints. I started reading it myself a few weeks ago, and WOW, has my perspective on writing changed. I had tons of characters I loved, but I didn't understand them. I knew what I wanted them to do, but not why they were doing it. I understood that I wanted to write a story, but not what kind of story that was. Its a great book. If you can't find it on kindle, send me a private message. I have the book in PDF format on my computer and I can easily send it to you.

    There are a lot of other good writing books out there. Which ones you want to read depend on what you perceive to be your needs. Are you writing short stories? Novels? Screenplays? I can suggest a few good books for screenplays, I've read a few recently. Are you trying to work on your character development, plot development, the writing process (out lining, drafting, revision, ect)? Figure out what you want to work on, and then find a book based on that.
     
  16. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a strawman. The person you're replying to never
    said that he thought Stephen King is god. This is why
    Cog's comment was fallacious.

    No one on this thread has even remotely suggested that
    King is some kind of deity.
     
  17. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'm always confused when I read people suggesting Stephen King's book (I've even done it myself - for some reason) because, let's be honest here, in it he doesn't really say a lot that's even very interesting. Most of his 'tips' are really obvious things you probably would have worked out given enough time. His advice on redrafting is also amusing terrible, he basically admits that he doesn't know how to redraft.

    The only books that are really worth getting are those exploratory guides to poetry and scriptwriting. With prose, especally prose-fiction, I can only repeat what Dante said, read a lot of fiction. Get yourself down to your nearest Waterstones, or whatever the equivalent is for you, and buy a lot of very good material.
     
  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, the guy I was replying to did say that he worshiped at the temple of Stephen King. Sure, he was being facetious, but so was I a little. But I'm not a King fan, and for some reason I can't figure out, he seems to be regarded by many on this forum as a very high authority on writing. Whenever anyone asks about how-to-write books around here, King's On Writing is always the first one mentioned. When I, or anyone else, questions this, the answer is always something like "He gives great advice. For example, you should eliminate adverbs." That's the first tip anyone seems to mention from King: eliminate adverbs. I think he also said something like "Your second draft should be your first draft minus ten percent."

    Can anyone remember anything else he said in that book that might be useful? Like Lemex, I think King's advice on redrafting is practically useless, and my stories are really only built in the second drafts.
     
  19. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    I find it difficult to understand how one book on writing can be so well known and well regarded. Especially if that is the sort of advice it gives. Since every person is different and approaches writing in a different way, it would be foolish to take advice from a single author. Anyone who is serious about learning how to write better should read at least two different authors opinions on any one subject.

    I am trying to work my way through a dozen or so books on how to write. Each of them teaches me something new, and so far, each of them has contradicted at least one part of a previous book. And that is fine with me. There is a reason writing is considered an art - there are no hard and fast answers, no single proscribed method to producing a masterpiece.
     
  20. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Minstrel, he was clearly being ironic.

    But let's not argue over such a trifling matter.
    I haven't read the book in question, so can't comment.
    All I know is that the positive comments about it have been quite
    mild - hardly an orgy of Stephen King praise.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find _On Writing_ to be enjoyable and chatty and a good look inside Stephen King's mind. I think that it's good for morale and confidence building and it gives you some details of how one very successful writer sees writing. He's also a very successful writer who specifically does _not_ believe that he's a genius, and that viewpoint is interesting too - so many writers seem to think that their writing world will, or should, end if they're merely pretty good, rather than genius level.

    But it's not a writing course. It's biography, philosophy, pet peeves, and an entertaining read. I don't pick it up to answer, "This part of this piece isn't working; what can I try?" I pick it up when my mindset is more "I'm not enjoying my writing. Sometimes _On Writing_ helps with that, so let's try it."
     
  22. Caramello Koala
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    Caramello Koala Member

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    'On Writing' has some good advice in there. It seems a lot of the flak it receives are either from people who haven't read it, people who don't think much of the author, or people who already know most of his 'tips' and therefore dismiss them as unimportant. Just because you have crystallised certain information in your own brain does not make it redundant to the rest of the population. The only Stephen King book I have read is 'On Writing' so I have no bias towards his ability as an author, but I found a lot of inspiration within its pages. His advice on cutting adverbs, while obvious, is so critical in my opinion, also his insistence on using minimal dialogue attribution (he said, she said, instead of he said cheerfully, she said sadly etc) is important. His advice that it the most important thing for a reader is to read as much as possible is also true, as it is only through reading others who have mastered the craft that we are able to hone it ourself. He also has a strict writing schedule - 2000 words a day without exception - that is both inspiring and important to anyone wanting to get 'serious' about making a living as a writer. His advice on writing short stories and being able to master that form before branching off into the novel is also sound advice. I think the most inspiring passage in his book was the chapter where he recounts the phone call he received from his publisher telling him his first book was accepted, how it transformed his and his wife's life truly gave me the buzz needed to write more. It's no 'tome' sure, but it is honest, and for that I rate it higher than most practical 'how to' books.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I didn't find Orson Card's books on writing all that helpful. They sort of stated the obvious. I haven't read King's.

    I would recommend "Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence" by Lisa Cron.

    "Spunk and Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style", by Arthur Plotnik had some useful advice for people like me that needed to learn more descriptive techniques.
     
  24. EmmaWrite
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    EmmaWrite Member

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    Advice to Writers, edited by Jon Winokur. It has a bunch of quotes and tips from famous writers.
     
  25. ketamineman
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    ketamineman Member

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    I am reading Plot & Structure by james scott bell

    lots of it is just blah or whatever and there is some good stuff. i think the best thing about it is that it gives me a lot of ideas for the books/short stories i am writing.

    the idiots guide to writing a novel or whatever is just really pretty terrible.

    Also, reading The Writing and revision stylebook by heyworth/liberman. it is really good for pointing out how amateurish some of my sentences are. i actually enjoy reading this book. then i think that is very dorky of me. oh well.
     

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