Thursday, January 6, 2011

Books About Writing

By Kathie Felix

Most of us have a good number of books on writing in our personal library.

Author Barbra Annino recently sent in a list of the titles that helped her with her own writing. They include:

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden
Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
Murder and Mayhem by D.P. Lyle
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words by Ray White and Duane Lindsay
Baby Names

Barb’s list got me thinking about my own bookshelves. About half of my books on writing were recommended by writers I know, and half were written by writers I admire or find intriguing.

Among the titles recommended to me were a few of those on Barb’s list, as well as:
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Among the impulse purchases in my stash:
Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Sue Grafton
The Practical Writer by Therese Eiben and Mary Gannon
Writers on Writing by the New York Times and John Darnton

My favorite:
On Writing by Stephen King
I was fascinated when I heard that Stephen King had written a book about writing. In my college days, a couple of his early books seemed like the first real “page turners” I’d ever encountered. In my bookstore days, I often checked the fiction aisle just to see how much shelf space was allotted to his work that week. Afterward, I would do a little mental math – multiplying the space by the number of stores in the chain that employed me – and then would think about what that kind of retail real estate might mean. It was a thrill when my sister sent an audio version of On Writing, especially since Mr. K. was reading his own book aloud. That was a nice touch; it seemed like he was actually in the room (or the car) providing advice.

Tell us: What books on writing have helped you the most? And how have they been helpful?

Barbra Annino is the author of Opal Fire, a Stacy Justice gemstone mystery. A Chicago native, she freelances for a variety of publications, writing about health, food and travel.

Kathie Felix is the managing editor of the SinC blog.


Sandra Parshall said...

I like The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. It goes beyond the basics to show writers how to inject more emotion and tension into every page, every scene of a novel. The concept of "micro tension" is reason enough to read this book.

Steve Liskow said...

I agree on many of the titles already posted, but some others that have helped me include:
Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt; Scene And Structure by Jack Bickham; Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress; Dialogue by Gloria Kempton; and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.

MaryAnn Corrigan said...

Two books not yet mentioned: Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan illustrates how to invest description with emotion and contains mind-expanding exercises. Write Away by Elizabeth George outlines a method for developing robust characters.

Ramona said...

Reading Like A Writer by Francise Prose--includes good discussion of language and theme.

How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat--good overview, from basic questions like "What is a clue?" to addressing the metal-novel idea.

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron--a combo of how-to and workbook. Mine is written in, has Post-Its sticking out and is colorful from parts I highlighted.


My all-time favorite is Lawrence Block's TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT. It's funny but it's also right-on and applies to any genre.

My favorite part of the book is an example he uses about plotting: a bear chases a guy up a tree...

Arlene said...

Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway - this book includes instruction, example passages from contemporary fiction, written exercises, discussion questions and after several chapters, a second set of exercises and questions that cover everything to that point.

Norma Huss said...

I have several of the books mentioned, but the first ones that really got me started were by Robert Newton Peck - Secrets of Successful Fiction, and Fiction is Folks, published in 1980 and 1988. (You knew I was old, right?) More recently, I got Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, a 2006 book. (But my all time-favorite is Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden.)

Marni said...

I like Elizabeth George's WRITE AWAY, too, and John Dufresne's THE TRUTH THAT TELLS A LIE is good for any genre.

Sofia Sandoval said...

Thanks for the great book recommendations.
I have and need to read Bryd By Byrd

Marcia Talley said...

My top three are already listed: King, On Writing; Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones; and Lamott, Bird by Bird. I also recommend to aspiring writers that they read The Career Novelist by Donald Maass.

Anita D. McClellan said...

I love these!

Truitt, Anne Daybook

Atchity, Kenneth John A writer’s time

Sher, Gail One continuous mistake

Hinchman, Hannah A life in hand

Atwood, Margaret Negotiating with the Dead

Provost, Gary Make Your Words Work

Sexton, Adam Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques fromAusten, Hemingway, and Other Greats

Steinbeck, John Working Days [Grapes of Wrath] and Journal of a Novel [East of Eden]

[Woolf, Va's] Writer's Diary (ed by Leonard W.)

Butler, Robert Olen From Where You Dream

Cole, Joni Toxic Feedback

Bayles, David, and Ted Orland Art and Fear

McCormack, Thomas The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist

O'Connor, Flannery Mystery and Manners

Yakim, Moni, Muriel Broadman, and Stella Adler Creating a Character

Weber, Bruce: “Tullio Pinelli, Screenwriter for Fellini, Dies at100,” New York Times, March 11, 2009 [On how writers shape their fantasies into art]

Yagoda, Ben The Sound on the Page

Murdock, Maureen The Heroine's Journey

Field, Joanna A life of one’s own

de Botton, Alain How Proust Can Change Your Life

Field, Syd Screenplay

Fiske, Robert Hartwell and Laura Cherry (Eds) Poem, Revised: 54 Poems, Revisions, Discussions [Growing a first draft into the polished draft]

Metzger, Deena Writing for your life

Meredith Cole said...

For a beginning mystery writer, I always recommend Gillian Roberts' "You Can Write a Mystery." It's short and simple, but incredibly helpful. Also, for screenwriting or novel writing Linda Seger's "Creating Unforgettable Characters."

Rochelle Staab said...

Stephen King's book is classic because it's so entertaining. But the writing book most useful to me is Elizabeth George's Write Away. Her character profile exercises are the most helpful tool I use when I write. Love the book, always go back to it.

Katharine A. Russell said...

My favorite is Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft by Burroway and Stuckey-French. Invaluable. My copy is the seventh edition.