Don't forget - today's the last day to get your 100-word writing contest entry turned in!
I've been asked a multiple times about recommendations for books about the craft of writing. I'm not sure I've ever made a list of the ones I keep on my shelf, the ones I continue to find valuable. Major oversight on my part! Here is a picture of the writing books on my shelf:
Pictured left to right: Deep and Wide by Susan May Warren, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel, The Career Novelist, and The Fire in Fiction all by Donald Maass, On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, and The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, The Story Template by Amy Deardon, and Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
That's obviously way too many to talk about in one post, so today I'll just cover four of them:
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is the first writing book I ever owned. It was required reading in my AP English class, and even though I was the only one in the class longing to be a novelist, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Probably because it's funny.
I reread portions of this book every year, and even now as I'm glancing over the chapters list (False starts, The Moral Point of View, Index Cards, Finding Your Voice) I'm itching to pause blogging and read Bird by Bird instead.
Now ... there's some language. Quite a bit, really. Even still, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
On Writing by Stephen King is the second writing book I acquired. My parents gave it to me for Christmas my senior year of high school. The first part of it is Stephen King's journey to publication, which is fascinating. The second part is advice on writing well. On the editing process, description, language, grammar, everything. And it's all in that wonderfully funny voice of his.
Again, there's a decent amount of language in this book. Again, I can't recommend it highly enough. This is another one that I come back to time and time again.
Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass were the first two writing books I bought for myself. They have remained some of my favorites. Donald Maass is a legendary literary agent, and after 20ish years of watching the publishing industry, he studied "breakout" novels. Those novels that for no apparent reason took off in the market. He says in the introduction that committing to writing a breakout novel is to "say 'no' to merely being good enough to be published."
And the workbook is the advice given in Writing the Breakout Novel but applied to your novel. It's full of hands-on exercises to enrich your story. It gives you space inside the book to write your answers, but I always do the writing on a separate sheet of paper. I will, however, make notes beside the exercises, like which manuscript I used them on.
I think both the regular book and the workbook have tremendous value. I remember sitting on my porch in Florida (where I had a lovely view of our apartment complex parking lot) and highlighting the heck out of Writing the Breakout Novel feeling like maybe, someday, I really could do this.