Thursday, June 4, 2009

Books On Writing

Lin started out this week with the question, "What are the best books you've read on writing?"

I only recently started looking for craft books.  And I've only read two so I guess those are the two I'll be talking about.

1) Stein On Writing by Sol Stein.  It divides between fiction and non-fiction writing (concentration on the former).  It goes over everything from outlining to beginnings to characterization to plot.  If you want something that gives a nice overview, this is the book for you. And it offers plenty of examples.  The only thing I'd say I didn't like was Mr. Stein's advice is largely aimed at literary writers.  He also seems to take a somewhat--disdainful?--view of genre writing. At one point he suggests genre writers don't care as much about writing well, only about being commercially successful.  I don't think that's true.  I would like to write well, because writing well is at least vaguely related to being successful, but eh.  Minor gripe.  

2) Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.  I love this book.  It's a part of the "Write Great Fiction" series, and when I come into more money, I might buy the rest (Dialogue, Characterization, etc.). As it is, they're about $16 at Borders, and I can't afford the whole series.  This book is entertaining, informative, and unlike Mr. Stein's, mostly for genre writers.  I also like how it is straightforward, doesn't try to get all theoretical on you.  I need immediate solutions; I don't need an existential dissertation on how books are pulled out of the magical cloud of literary fairies.  It also has these great exercises at the end of each chapter that really work in jumpstarting your creativity.  I think this book is a must-have.  I bought it because people specifically recommended it, and the book didn't let me down.

I've also heard Stephen King's On Writing is excellent, so that might be my next target when I get a Borders' gift card.

The next two books are not about the craft of writing, but I use them extensively for my own reference.

1) Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli.  I pull this out when write at the library, and it sits next to my laptop.  When I get into a lull, I read it.  I've read it far too many times to count, and I consider it literary fiction, but this is one of my all time favorite books.  I read it to study sentence structure and the impact of language in a scene.  There is great merit in rereading something you love over and over to dissect how the author uses words effectively.  I recommend this.  Sol Stein recommends this.  Go find your favorite book, and just reread it again and again.  Not for the story, but how the story unfolds.  It can almost be better than a reference book.  This is studying craft in action, and you can't get much better help than that.

2) Tales From the House of the Moon by Resmiranda.  This is an Inuyasha fanfiction novel, but I am dead serious when I say it's one of the best pieces of writing I've read.  I stalk the author's livejournal.  She's the one in my list who has the title "Where does evil start?"  When I write, I alternate between writing a few paragraphs and reading her novel.  I'm actually rereading the whole thing slowly.  It's over 300,000 words, so it will last me awhile.  I study it for how the author uses character thoughts and how she evokes emotions.  She is the single best emotion-evoker I've ever read.  It's a real shame this thing can't be published.  Mostly, her novel keeps me motivated because I want to keep reading, so I have to write in order to read it.  That's my rule. Call me crazy.  It works.

That's my spiel.  See what the others have to say:

Monday: Lin Wang - Teen Writer (Happy birthday to her, by the way)
Thursday: Me


  1. I read half of Stephen King's On Writing. I didn't get to the writing part because I ran out of time and had to return it to the school library because it was overdue. T^T The first half was his bio and it was pretty darn funny, especially the part about the poison ivy. You should read it. I'm probably going to borrow it again and finish the second half. Haha.