December 13th, 2006, 05:12 PM
For the technical side of writing, go out and buy The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. He was an amazing writer and his book is used in universities across the US to teach creative writing.
Originally Posted by grechzoo
For the human side of writing, go out and buy Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Ann Lamott.
If you're only going to get one book, make sure it's Gardner, but Lamott's book is wonderful.
December 14th, 2006, 01:02 PM
I've heard good things about the Bird by Bird book. Ray Bradbury also did a nice guide -- forget what it was called. I don't think it will necessarily be of great help with pacing or structure, but it had some useful stuff in it, even if your writing process is not like Bradbury's.
December 15th, 2006, 09:34 AM
Witch of the Woods
I liked Ursula Le Guin's Steering the Craft, which is a book containing lessons on writing prose and a series of writing exercises that I personally found helpful in figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with my writing. After reading the book I realized I was just plunging ahead with my writing without paying careful enough attention to certain elements like point of view, etc.
I agree that Stephen King's book is inspirational, but it doesn't have a lot of "how to" stuff, although it does have a bit of advice about editing your work, cleaning it up as I remember.
Last edited by Miriamele; December 15th, 2006 at 09:37 AM.
December 15th, 2006, 01:06 PM
I've used all of the books mentioned in this thread, except the Le Guin book, which I will check out, as I like her essay writing.
I've taugh creative writing and am a published fiction writer (short stories and soon, April, 2007, a historical fantasy novel). Most recently, I've come to enjoy what might seem to be an odd choice since it is on screenplay writing, except that it also applies to novel writing: "Story: Substance, structure, style and principles of screenwriting" by the famous/infamous Robert McKee - I took his seminar on screenplay writing and Mr. McKee is quite a character - he is portrayed in the Nicholas Cage film "Adaptation." This book is very good at breaking down and re-assembling the elements of a "story", be that story on the big screen or in a novel.
The other book that I've come to really enjoy as it seems to me to be a summary of most of the books mentioned on this thread and is very well written: "Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life" by the best selling author, Elizabeth George. This book is very inexpensive if you buy it second hand off Amazon or other such online booksellers. But check it out at your local library to see if it suits you.
Along with writing books, writing and reading, it's extremely useful to find a good writers' group to join. Library's usually have postings for such groups. The act of writing is a lonely endeavor, but you need to interact with other writers just like you need to read to write well.
December 16th, 2006, 11:14 AM
The Great Flying Bear
I'm about a third of the way through Sol Stein's book "Stein On Writing" and I have to say that I'm really enjoying it. He's got a lot of really good advice in it so far - much of it feels a lot more concrete than the "show don't tell" cliches in other How To books. It's worth a read in my opinion.
December 18th, 2006, 06:23 AM
Guardian of sffworld
I didn't ever read any books on 'How to'. What I did was read a massive number of works of fiction and, when I wanted to write myself, I recalled what I liked and disliked and why. And I looked at how other authors structured dialogue, action, plot, description, whatever. Then I gave it my own spin.
For me, a 'how to' book is too prescriptive. It cannot deal with what is going on in my head and certainly can't tell me how to get it out and on to paper in the manner I want. The only way to do that is to write and rewrite. Learn and advance. It's a scratched record I know but if you want to write a novel, sit down and write one. Don't read about it. Not for long, anyway.
December 22nd, 2006, 09:43 AM
Ultimately, the best way to figure out pacing is after you're finished writing your rough draft and you're ready to edit.
Something that can help you is to write some short stories using the same background as your main project and then posting them in the Community with a request for critique posted here and getting feedback from others on pacing or anything else you're wondering about.
But pacing is a personal decision that only you can make, not some book or anonymous posters to a writer's forum.
It's sort of like constructive playing and sometimes you can work those short stories into your main project. You'd be surprised how much depth you can create doing that.
December 24th, 2006, 11:32 PM
There's a new book out called Spunk and Bite which is a rebuttal to Strunk and White's parade of rules. It has some great advice on how to achieve stylistic balance for various genres of writing including fiction. I also second the suggestion to read Robert McKee's Story which I consider to be the best book on storytelling. I attended his seminar of the same name earlier this year and I think the man is a living treasure.
I don't know if links are allowed, but a few days ago, I put together a guide entitled The 50 Best Books on Writing which is organized by category. Almost all the books mentioned in previous posts are included.
Personally, I spent many years studying actual writing before looking at books on the subject, so I wouldn't want anyone to think that reading "how to" and inspirational books is the best or only way to improve. Experience and practice are far superior. Lately I've been on a mission to find and read the best books available, so I put the guide up in case it may help others find useful resources.
January 7th, 2007, 11:46 PM
I enthusiastically second Deadmuse's suggestion for "Story," excellent though a bit heavy.
For good ol' nuts and bolts of story and novel structure, I am a huge fan of Jack Bickham. Look for "Writing and Selling your Novel" and "Scene & Structure."
Although it is very formula, check out "The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing" by Evan Marshall. While I don't think it is the best approach, the step-by-step structured approach might help get you off the starting blocks.
January 8th, 2007, 05:23 AM
Great 50 Best list!