I had a sudden short-lived interest in reading books about writing itself.
Here is what I found to be useful and interesting (or not).
Bickham is polar opposite from Stephen King's "just start writing and see where
it goes" approach. He has forms to fill out for each character, specific rules
about the structure of novels, scenes, and sequels (the bits that link scenes).
- Scene and Structure
- Writing Novels that Sell
Renni Browne and Dave King
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
These two editors share the techniques they use to edit fiction. They stress
conciseness and clarity. I thought they had a number of very good points on
beats, dialog, and various other things.
Orson Scott Card
- How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
Card is very active in supporting new fiction and sci-fi talent. I read his
general advice on sci-fi novels. He talks about creating worlds, languages,
systems of magic, etc. And he has an instructive chapter on how to go about
publishing your first works.
- The Writing Life
This is typically abstract, aspiring almost to poetry. It is largely a
collection of random observations and stories of her own writing career. I
think it would be mostly useful as inspiration to perseverance and hard work.
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel
This is in two volumes, parts 1 and 2. He covers most of the basics pretty
concisely and with a subtle humor. It is probably one of the best to read
- On Writing
The first half is essentially an autobiography; the second is a collection of
observations and opinionated discourses on several aspects of technique. There
is an interesting exercize where he presents a situation and asks you to write
several pages, letting the story grow on its own, then asks you to email him
the result of your effort. King's style is essentially to wait until a neat
story pops into his head, apparently mostly pre-formed, then he starts writing.
If he likes the result, then he'll keep it. If there's fancy metaphors,
themes, or symbolism in it, why all the better: he'll work to bring those out
even more in the second (and usually final) draft.
Strunk and White
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- The Elements of Style
I think everyone will agree this is required reading by anyone who writes
anything -- fiction, non-fiction, essays, text books, journalism, etc. I'd
read bits and pieces in high school, but was surprised to find on reading it
all the way through that it was stuffed full of invaluable information cover to
cover: everything from the difference between "which" and "that", and comma
splice, to proper mechanics of dialog, and general advice on writing. Strunk
is arguably the polar extreme of brevity, a virtual nazi on some esoteric