Books on writing

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steastu
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Wed Mar 12, 2008 4:38 pm Post

Any good books on writing? From Aristotle to S. King, you must have read some, eh? Why and who do you like?

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Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:33 pm Post

Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bonest" and, less specific to writing, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I like them because they treat "The rules" as a fabrication; and very much encourage you to discover what your voice is naturally, rather than trying to "change" you.
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Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:30 am Post

Great, thanks. I think Sam Smiley´s Playwriting is quite helpful - with all kinds of storytelling. And (blush) The Complete Idiot´s Guide to Writing Poetry. It got some exercises that get me going when at a complete halt.

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Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:25 pm Post

The best I've read recently is Jack Hart's A Writer's Coach. It's a mechanics and style book for professional nonfiction writers, not beginners. (Not that there's anything wrong with being a beginner. :)

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Thu Mar 13, 2008 3:56 pm Post

Oh, I forgot - The Sound of One Hand Clapping (a book on writing for performance).
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Mollys Mum
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Thu Mar 13, 2008 9:30 pm Post

I should just list my entire library. I think I own just about every book on writing ever published.

The ones I am finding currently most useful:

Elizabeth George, Write Away
Donald Maas, Writing the Breakout Novel
Robert McKee, Story
Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft
Stephen King, On Writing (I am not a Stephen King fan, but this is one of the best little books on the topic I have ever read)
Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, What If

Specialty books:

Monica Wood, Description
Rebecca McClanahan, Word Painting
Orson Scott Card, Characters and Viewpoint

General Classics:

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Natalie Goldberg, Writing down the Bones (I have gone through three copies of this book; I keep giving it away and having to buy new ones)
Anne Fadiman, At Large and At Small (a delightful collection of an old standy genre that has fallen out of favor, the Familiar Essay)
Scott Russell Sander, Writing from the Center
and my much loved copy of
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

You would think that with all this assistance, I would have a book of my own on the shelves. :roll:

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bobueland
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Thu May 01, 2008 12:26 pm Post

If You Want To Write, Brenda Ueland
Writing down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
If you can talk you can write, Joel Saltzman
Writing without Teachers, Peter Elbow
Word Work, Bruce Holland Rogers
The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking, Dale Carnegie
A Writer's Time, Kenneth Atchity
Writing Fast, Jeff Bollow
Anybody Can Write, Roberta Jean Bryant
Don't be a sissy, don't be a snob. Post a reply to Ueland Bob.

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Sean Coffee
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Thu May 01, 2008 2:58 pm Post

Seconding Stephen King's "On Writing". Not only is his advice imminently practical, it comes from an undeniably authoritative place. Regardless of what you think of his writing (I like a lot of it), the man works harder than you. Period. He spends his days writing, and it shows.

Bonus: The essay at the end dealing with his accident is probably the best writing King has done since the 70s.

Tip: Read "On Writing", then read his son's novel "Heart Shaped Box" (his son goes by Joe Hill). It's a great study of King's advice put to use. Obviously, the guy's taken his father's thoughts to heart -- and, in this light, a work that seems like a son aping his father's style becomes more an extension of a school of thought.

William Saffire (NY Times language columnist and former Nixon speechwriter -- don't hold it against him) compiled a book called "Great Advice For Writers" which I love dearly. It's simply a catalogue of quotes from published writers, organized by category. A great and funny read, and real insight into the idea that all writers follow a set of rules -- and all sets of rules are different.

Seconding also Brenda Ueland's "If You Want To Write" -- less for the advice therein, and more for the goofy charm of the writer.

Screenwriters: Put down Blake Snyder's "Save The Cat" and pick up David Mamet's "On Directing" -- which, in my mind, has a lot more to do with writing than directing. He makes you want to write, and further, he makes you want to cross stuff out.

Edit: I posted this list, and my copy of Strunk & White's "Elements Of Style" leaped off my desk and smacked me in the face for forgetting to include it. I wish people would let go of the idea that this is somehow an American English grammar text, and appreciate it for a very witty little book on writing clear and simple sentences.

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bobueland
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Thu May 01, 2008 3:29 pm Post

Sean Coffee wrote:William Saffire a book called "Great Advice For Writers"


You probably mean "Good Advice" by William Saffire
Don't be a sissy, don't be a snob. Post a reply to Ueland Bob.

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Thu May 01, 2008 4:54 pm Post

Agree with Sean and Mollys Mum about King.

I would add four others (which I also mentioned in another thread):

- Story by Robert McKee (please don't groan :? )
- How Novels Work by John Mullan
- Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
- Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (can you tell what I use Scrivener for? :) )

Of these, I think Swain's is the most useful.

In the other thread I said that IME these are all you need. I said this partly because there's a huge amount of rubbish peddled as guidance on how to write, and it's easy for the unaware to lighten their bank balances and weigh down their shelves with it. (And partly because of course, if you want to write, the best way to learn is not to read books on writing, but to inform yourself of examples of great writing on the page and on the screen.)

But at a pinch, I'd add two others: Strunk and White (as you say, Sean, not just for Americans), and, for UK writers, From Pitch to Publication, by the former London agent Carole Blake.

Thanks for the Bollow suggestion, Bob. One of my first mentors had "Write Faster" prominently displayed in 40 point above his, my and others' desks. But I'm always in the market for advice on how to speed up further. :)
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Thu May 01, 2008 5:59 pm Post

E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel.

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Sean Coffee
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Thu May 01, 2008 6:25 pm Post

bobueland wrote:
Sean Coffee wrote:William Saffire a book called "Great Advice For Writers"


You probably mean "Good Advice" by William Saffire


Actually, I mean Good Advice On Writing: Writers Past And Present On Writing Well. (A Portland link! Because this is Scrivener after all.) Safire's "Good Advice" is a different book.

The book above is out of print, but widely available.

@Hugh: Every time I think about McKee's "Story", I think about "Adaptation" -- which is probably a curse and a blessing for the author.

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Thu May 01, 2008 8:05 pm Post

Sean: he says he gave his blessing to the casting of Brian Cox (whose impersonation I think was flawless, right down to the plastic cup).
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Thu May 01, 2008 8:48 pm Post

I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned William Zinsser's "On Writing Well." An excellent guide for improving one's writing.

Steve

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Thu May 01, 2008 9:04 pm Post

Ahab wrote:E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel.


At one stage in my life, on numerous days in summer, I could look out of the window of the place where I was then living, and see the great man sitting on a bench in the sun. Needless to say, being young and stupid, I didn't make much of it (though I did wish him "Good morning" a few times).
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'