Writing Books Part 4

Here is my fourth installment on the writing books I have read. As I’ve warned you before... if the book is so hideous I want to sue to get my money back, I will not list it here. I don’t want to give the perpetrator any publicity at all. If your favorite book isn’t listed, I might not have read it yet. Go to my contact page and leave me a suggestion if you know of a good book.

This installment is on
Books on the Craft of Writing. NaNoWriMo is over. Boohoo! After allowing the dough to rest, we must punch it down and make a book out of it. It might be worth reading some of these titles before attacking the behemoth written in November. Reward yourself. Read a book by one of your favorite authors and then one or two of these craft book and study how your favorite author reels you in. See how you can add more of that in your own work. GOOD LUCK!

Books on the Craft of Writing

Hallie Burnett

  • On Writing the Short Story (1983) Editor of Story for 30 years. Not so much a book on craft but rather on what writers say about the craft and includes six short stories as examples. More like literary criticism with a historical bent.

Lawrence Block

  • Telling Lies For Fun and Profit (1981) A collection of his articles and essays set up coherently to provide great practical advice on mechanics.
  • Spider, Spin me a Web: A handbook for fiction writers (1988) Follow-up book to Telling Lies and also a collection of essays on mechanics. Worth picking up if you liked Telling Lies.

Julia Cameron

  • The Right to Write (1998) Set up as a series of essays with exercises. A classic that everyone who wants to write should read and work the exercises for inspiration and practice.

Les Edgerton

  • Hooked (2007) This book deals with how to hook a reader in the first couple of paragraphs to the end of the first chapter. Very good with lots of great examples. However, the irony of 236 pages telling you what to do in your first three... is not lost on me. This is a nice book to hold but it really could have been cut. It is worth buying for new writers looking to break in but don’t worry if you skim chapters six through ten before reading more carefully on truly great intro lines in chapter 11.

Damon Knight

  • Creating Short Fiction (1985) Great tables and problem solving techniques. Nitty gritty stuff along with some editing and writer’s life advice. Pretty standard stuff but still a good read. Irreverent attitude. A classic. Was a founder of Clarion Workshop at Michigan State and a big name in SF so has a good pedigree. The book is still in print.

Nancy Kress

  • Beginnings, Middle and Ends (1993) I wrote copious notes from this book. This is one of the best practical books on writing fiction I have read. Identifies known issues and provides practical solutions for new to experienced writers. Has exercises but I went straight to my own work and went from there.

Elizabeth Lyon

  • A Writer’s Guide to Fiction (2004) This is a primer on story structure, vocabulary on writing etc. If you slept through high school English, this might be useful. Good list of books to help solve problems. Not too useful for me personally. Further along the curve than this.

Bob Mayer

  • The Novel Writer’s Toolkit (2003) A former green beret who attacks writing like an enemy position. Great practical advice with examples. Goes through the entire process from writing, to editing to publishing. Good advice on marketing yourself as well. (I actually know this guy and he is Mr. Organized so if this is a skill you lack, read this book.)

Bill O’Hanlon

  • Write is a Verb (2007) Very practical and targeted for non-fiction including how to write a proposal. Quotes many of the books already on this list. Includes help on identifying tricks to help you to write. Comes with a DVD, which has handouts and some lectures from his public speaking.

Kelly L. Stone

  • Time to Write (2008) Some what derivative but a good one to start with if you haven’t read a lot in the genre of writing books. Very practical, has mnemonics and a summary of how to develop a writing action plan, and a good worksheet on how to identify resistance and sub in an action-oriented replacement thought.