Best Books on Writing - The new classics
Great books on writing
Did you know Aristotle wrote one of the first books on writing? His book Poetics discusses the necessary ingredients for a good tragedy. Even then plot and character were in play. Over the last two decades how-to-write books, workshops, conferences, organizations, and even MFA programs have grown at an accelerated rate. In the old days writers studied the work of other writers and it was in that conversation with the text that they gained their insights and instruction. Not so today.
I swear, there's a how-to-write stand on every corner. Niche magazines such as The Writer and Writer's Digest land in mailboxes across the country. Conferences and writer's retreats are pretty much available every month here in the United States and in most parts of the world. The sheer number of how-to books published is staggering. I confess I don't have an exact figure but from the look of my sagging eighteen bookshelves it's pretty high. But over time there have been a few books that have risen to the top. These books are often cited by authors for their value, their instruction, their inspiration. They have proven their worth time and time again. Here are several that immediately come to mind for a variety of reasons.
Writing the Breakout Novel
The book is a detailed analysis of what it takes to create a bestseller. How many writers talk about the value of reading published works to see what others have done? How many have actually done it? Of those, how many have spent the time to dissect 100 novels? Donald Maass has and his book is the result of that reading.
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
Stein On Writing:
A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
Sometimes it's best to just let the author explain their work: As Sol Stein says, "This is a not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions; how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place."
Bird by Bird:
Some Instructions on Writing and Life
"All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts."
Check out this latest book from bestselling agent Donald Maass. As with all writing books by Maass, this one is crammed with insight and exercises to help you take your writing to the next level and be relevant to today.
Writing Down the Bones:
Freeing the Writer Within
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit:
A Manual for Fiction Writers
This edition of Telling Lies for Fun & Profit" has an introduction by Sue Grafton and is a collection of the columns he wrote way back when. Block has such an easy, casual style. You just know he's talking directly to you. And when it comes to his subject, there's not much about writing that he doesn't address. He's been a popular, bestselling writer for decades and his books on the craft of writing have been worn thin from use by many now-famous writers. In fact, bestselling writer Harlan Coben has been known to cite Lawrence Block as one of his major inspirations and Sue Grafton says that "Telling Lies for Fun & Profit should be a permanent part of every writer's library."
10th Anniversary Edition:
A Memoir of the Craft
What's it like to be Stephen King? If you want to get into his heart and mind, then this memoir is for you. Stephen King lets you peer into the workings of his mind as he discusses his writing life, his craft, and his books. Where does he get his ideas? Read his book to find out.
Be a first-rate version of yourself, and not a second-rate version of another writer.
The Successful Novelist
The Successful Novelist is the new edition of his previously published and highly popular book on writing, Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at his Craft. This volume has an additional chapter on marketing but otherwise is the same book.
Morrell doesn't pull any punches and he's quite at home talking about all the various genres. Still not sure who Morrell is? Think Rambo. Morrell talks from deep personal experience with the craft of writing. He's definitely mastered the butt-in-chair method and offers solid advice and insights into writing good fiction that draws a wide audience.
Zen in the Art of Writing:
Essays on Creativity
"Great writers are children of the gods," writes Bradbury in his famous essay. "Think of Shakespeare and Melville and you think of thunder, lightning, wind." These writers lived their work, they had fun, knew joy. "When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like lightning bolt?" he yells. "This afternoon burn down the house. Tomorrow pour cold critical water upon the simmering coals. But today - explode - fly apart - disintegrate!"
Bradbury demands writers to write with passion. Easy enough for him, his loves are visible. They saturate his being and illuminate his soul. He doesn't tap into his passions - they explode from within and scatter across the page. He loves life. His ardor knows no bounds. Writing about his passions is second nature; he cannot help but do so. His exuberance for life and his unexcused love for writing is a siren's song. "Find your twins," he urges, no matter where in life they reside. Where do your passions intersect? That's the point where the spark will fire and illuminate your soul.
Bradbury unabashedly scrolls across the genres from playwright to screenwriter, storyteller to short story writer, essayist to novelist. Writing is his playground. Like a joyful Johnny Appleseed, the age-old Bradbury skips across cultural landscapes planting seeds within the fertile grounds of his essays and shorts stories and moves on. He trusts good fruit will follow. Every day Ray Bradbury pushes me to unabashedly grab my pen or pull the keyboard forward excited, even trembling, ready to create the next story, essay, or novel. I must embrace work that moves and invigorates me.
You Decide. Rate these books
A step-by-step guide to writing and managing the writer's life covers each portion of a written project, addresses such concerns as writer's block and getting published, and offers awareness and survival tips. Reprint. Tour. K. NYT.
With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write.Â Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach (“Writing Is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger,” “Man Eats Car,” “Be an Animal”), will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to.
"I would urge other writers, at whatever point in their careers, to take the time to read this indispensable handbook....Telling Lies for Fun & Profit should be a permanent part of every writer's library."-- From the Introduction by Sue Grafton Characters refusing to talk? Plot plodding along? Where do good ideas come from anyway? In this wonderfully practical volume, two-time Edgar Award-winning novelist Lawrence Block takes an inside look at writing as a craft and as a career.From studying the market, to mastering self-discipline and "creative procrastination," through coping with rejections, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is an invaluable sourcebook of information. It is a must read for anyone serious about writing or understanding how the process works.
"Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Stein on Writing provides immediately useful advice for all writers of fiction and nonfiction, whether they are newcomers or old hands, students or instructors, amateurs or professionals. As the always clear and direct Stein explains here, "This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutionsÃ—how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place." With examples from bestsellers as well as from students' drafts, Stein offers detailed sections on characterization, dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, trimming away flabby wording, the so-called "triage" method of revision, using the techniques of fiction to enliven nonfiction, and more.
"Like listening to a beloved brother. I found the acute observations and his narrative philosophy more valuable for the new writer than the contents of any 100 other texts."-Dean Koontz"The Successful Novelist is the vehicle you want if you plan to drive your way to successful fiction."-Joe R. LansdaleDavid Morrell, bestselling author of First Blood, The Brotherhood of the Rose and The Fifth Profession, distills more than fifty years of writing and publishing experience into this single masterwork of advice and instruction.Morrell covers:
A breakout novel is one that rises out if its category - such as literary fiction, mystery, romance, or thriller - and hits the bestseller charts. Maass explains the elements that all breakout novels share and shows readers how to use these elements to write a novel that has a good chance of succeeding in a crowded marketplace. They'll learn to: - Create a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place - Develop larger-than-life characters - Sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish - Weave sub-plots into the main action - Explore universal themes that will interest a large audience
The third edition of Bradbury's much-loved classic adds three new exuberant essays on the pleasures of writing from one of the most creative, imaginative, and prolific artists of the 20th century--an author who truly enjoys his craft and tells you why and how.
More on writing
- David Morrell: Literary Hi-Flier
Master thriller writer, David Morrell has written over 30 books. FIRST BLOOD was published in 1972.
- David Morrell & Ken Follett Talk About Writing (Writer's Digest)
In an exclusive dual interview, two of the most iconic authors working today share lessons learned over lifetimes devoted to writing-and why they'll never tire of telling stories.
- Stephen King - National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches
Recipient of the National Book Foundation's Medal for DISTINGUISHED CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LETTERS AWARD, 2003
- Keep The Hand Moving
Natalie Goldberg On Zen And The Art Of Writing Practice
- Poetics by Aristotle
"The earliest-surviving work of dramatic theory." (Wikipedia)
- Joy: The Joy of Reading Leads to the Joy of Writing
I love reading — probably even more than writing. First thing each morning I pick up a book, usually on some aspect of writing, and read for about 15 minutes. By doing this at the start of every day when the remaining strands of my subconscious still