View Full Version : Good books on writing

02-27-2005, 04:12 AM
So what are your favorite books on the craft and business of writing? I've read Bird By Bird, now I'm reading On Writing by Stephen King (and I like it a bunch).

Any other books I should read?


02-27-2005, 04:16 AM
I have to second On Writing. Also, there was a book I borrowed from a library about two years ago, about writing fillers and anecdotes, and it was terrific. Wish I could remember the title or author. I don't belong to that library anymore, nor go there.

02-27-2005, 04:23 AM
I was about to write:

Those that can, do.
Those that can't, teach.
Stephen King has a book that teaches writing? Blows my theory out of the water! I can't wait to read his teachings.

02-27-2005, 04:33 AM
At the risk of coming across as a total suck-up, Glatzer's "Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer" and Khallar's "Knock Their Socks Off" are great how-tos for newbies. Once I'm rich and much-published, I'll comment on their effectiveness for more seasoned writers.

My other favorites are Zinsser's classic "On Writing Well," Wood's "How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query and Cover Letters" (you'd think it's just another query book, but it's not), Newcombs' "How to Sell and Resell Your Writing" (many tricks in there that work), Rabiner's "Thinking Like Your Editor," and there's two more I cherish but my friend STILL has them and I'm too braindead from 5 hours in the library to even find them on Amazon.

I'll report back after I get a beer and some sleep!

02-27-2005, 04:42 AM

[BROADCASTER VOICE ON] And if you act now, you get a free Editors' Cheat Sheet with the purchase of Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer. See www.jennaglatzer.com for details. [/BROADCASTER VOICE OFF.]

If you're interested in writing for businesses, Peter Bowerman's The Well-Fed Writer is a great primer.

02-27-2005, 05:21 AM
Some of the smartest things I've ever read about writing are in this thread Learn Writing with Uncle Jim (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6710) by James D. Macdonald, who both writes and teaches :P

There's a reduced version here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7987), of just Macdonald's and other pertinent posts, thoughtfully collated by MacAllister.

While Macdonald is writing principally about writing fiction, the thread is well worth following for people who do any kind of persuasive writing as well.

02-27-2005, 05:42 AM

Yeah, Stephen King's book is really good. It's a memoir, so you get some biographical information on how he came to writing and the role writing has played in his life, as well as great nuggets of insight generously placed throughout.

02-28-2005, 12:18 AM
In addition to Stephen King's On Writing, I'd recommend Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein.

02-28-2005, 12:48 AM
If you're interested in writing for businesses, Peter Bowerman's The Well-Fed Writer is a great primer.

I don't have this book but I have The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman which I think is pretty good. Making Money Freelance Writing by the editors of Writer's Digest I think is also good. And the Manual for Writers & Editors from the editors of Merriam-Websters Colligate Dictionary has some good info on technique and so on.

Lisa Y
02-28-2005, 04:19 AM
I got a lot out of "Writing Fiction" by Barnaby Conrad and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference. I read it when I thought my first (and as yet only) novel was written. In it, I found lots on writing dialog, showing and not telling, the limited use of adverbs, etc. It was an excellent resource with many examples.

Susan Gable
02-28-2005, 05:05 AM
I have 2 favorites for craft that I always recommend to newer writers. (I keep them nearby for myself all the time, too.)

The first is GMC:Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. This one gives a great, easy-to-follow overview of how to set up conflict in your book, make sure your characters have both internal and external goals and motivations. To me it helps you to really give your story a strong structure. (This is more for genre fiction than literary fiction.) You can find this book at www.gryphonbooksforwriters.com (http://www.gryphonbooksforwriters.com)

The other is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. This book is a MUST HAVE, IMHO. Talk about all your craft basics in one, easy-to-understand book. (LOL - anyone notice I like easy-to-understand books on craft? <G>) POV, Show vs. Tell, dialogue, etc. You can find this one at all on-line bookstores and in a lot of brick and mortor ones, too.

I liked Bird by Bird. Another really interesting book, not really craft related, but more writer related, is Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo. The cover says: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within. And it helps. I saw Mr. Palumbo at a writer's conference, and he happened to be saying just what I needed to hear at the time. (I love it when that happens!) He's a writer (worked in tv for a while - wrote for Welcome Back, Kotter among other things. If you don't know Welcome Back, Kotter - Shut UP, young 'un. <G>) and a practicing pyschotherepist who works with writers and other creative people. (He says we're not crazier than the rest of the public, just in case you wanted to know. <G>)

Also a new book I just read and need to reread is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. That one says: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. (Hmmm...can anyone guess what I've been struggling with lately?)

Susan G.

02-28-2005, 06:16 AM
At the risk of cuddling up to 'The One Who Runs The Joint' and receiving a thrashing from her husband, I must punt Jenna's book: Make A Real Living As A Freelance Writer. As a book to break into 'the business', you can't go wrong.

The other really inspirational one to release the inner creativity is: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

Thanks for the tip on Stephen King. I had no idea he had written a book about about writing. And anybody who's a friend of Dave Barry is a friend o' mine!

02-28-2005, 11:49 AM
How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey.
I wrote a book, followed the advice, got accepted by an agent, but no publishing deal, bah!

Still, the book was good.

I am currently reading How To Write A Selling A Screenplay by Christopher Keane. His first major screenplay was an adaptation of his own novel that Steve McQueen asked him to write. They worked together on it, I think working with Steve McQueen might have entailed me fainting at regular intervals.
Anyway, it's an informative as well as entertaining book.

02-28-2005, 03:32 PM
Getting the Words Right: How to Rewrite, Edit, and Revise by Theodore A. Rees Cheney.

02-28-2005, 10:05 PM
My two favorites are:
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury: mostly because Bradbury is the reason I wanted to be a writer.

Sometime the Magic Works by Terry Brooks: more of an inspiration than a how-to

02-28-2005, 11:33 PM
I have many of the books mentioned above. I'd like to add Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit to the list. I have it in audio book format and listen to it probably 2 or 3 times a year in the car on the way to and from work. Read by Mr. Block himself, it's a collection of 40 or so of his columns from his stint as a regular contributor to Writer's Digest, organized in a coherent package that takes you through what seems like everything you would ever need to know about writing fiction. I can't recommend it highly enough.

02-28-2005, 11:58 PM
Best writing book I know of: "On Writing Well," William Zinsser-mostly aimed at nonfiction, but applies to any type of writing. This book is great for the suspicious writer, he'll unsuspicion you. If there'll ever be a how-to book that becomes a classic this is the one.

For my own tastes, I also got a lot out of "Zen and the Art of Writing" by Ray Bradbury, and also Stephen King's book. I got the least out of the more spiritual books, Camerron (even did her practices), Goldberg, etc. Maybe it's a gender thing. I prefer my writing spirituality with larger doses of writing practicality. I figure the practicality is a way of better exhibiting my spirituality. I write fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I no longer care about books that suggest how I should feel.

03-05-2005, 06:54 PM
My two favorites are Word Work By Bruce Holland Rogers and Feminine Wiles by Donna Elizabeth Boetig. Learnt a lot from both of them.

(Thanks for the thumbs-up, Rose! :kiss: )

03-06-2005, 03:37 AM
Well, Sophocles' Poetics obviously can't go wrong. Robert McKee's Story is helpful too, although it is mostly aimed at screenwriting.

10-31-2005, 04:04 PM
How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey.
I wrote a book, followed the advice, got accepted by an agent, but no publishing deal, bah!

Still, the book was good.

I got my submission to a contest back the other day. The editor suggested James Frey's books.

Although I didn't come in a winner at the contest, it was worth the submission fee for the editorial comments. They said I write well and have an interesting main character. Frey was mentioned in reference to the "simply ordinary" plot the editor picked up from the first ten pages of my novel. I admit the novel, aside from the prolog, starts out slow - probably too slow for too long.

The good news from the review is that I'm now taking a good look at the first few chapters and deciding how to "set the hook." The other good news was the editor's closing comments, "Let go and have fun with your fiction. Keep writing!" http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/emoteThumbs.gif (smiley added) I did have a lot of fun with some sections of the book. That should tell me something.


10-31-2005, 09:11 PM
On the subject of writing for children, Olga Litowinsky's It's a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802786375) stands apart from the books that claim to be a step-by-step formula for success. She has seen the biz from three sides (author, editor, agent) so she knows of what she writes. It's not a fairy tale and it isn't pretty but the truth rarely is.

(Oh, and be sure to scroll down to my review. :) )

11-02-2005, 12:42 AM
One of my favorites not mentioned yet is The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman. Excellent advice for fiction or nonfiction writers.