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My friend xjenavivex has a review of Stephen King's On Writing  over at Good Reads.  It got me thinking about some of the great writing books that are out there.

Most recently I've read Les Edgerton's Hooked  and Noah Lukeman's  The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.   I got a lot out of both, though if I had to choose, I'd recommend The First Five Pages, because (as the title suggests) it focuses on that all-important start to your novel.

Over the last three years I've read dozens of writing books.  Some proved more helpful than others, though I suspect much of that has been due to where I was as a writer, rather than any failure on the book's part.  They all contain useful information, often not discovered on the first read (I think re-reading books on writing is a must).   Some I come back to time and again, like the excellent Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass,  and Blythe Camenson & Marshall J. Cook's Give 'Em What They Want, (which has the best instructions and step-by-step guide to producing a synopsis I've found to date).

At the last GSHW meeting, Elizabeth Bear (matociquala) recommended Techniques of the Selling Writer ,  by Dwight V. Swain, and Story,   by Robert McKee. I haven't got around to reading them yet, but they're next on my non-fiction list.

I'm sure there are some other great books out there.  What was the last one you read?  Which ones have you found most helpful, and why?

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
bondo_ba
Apr. 29th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
I've heard good things about the King book, but... I've never actually read one of these myself. When I first started out, I did read quite a bit of advice on the net, but never a complete writing book.

I suppose it's something I should do, but I end up feeling like it's time I could be using for writing.
jongibbs
Apr. 29th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
From the number of acceptances you get, I'd say you're doing the fine without them :)

It took me two years to realise I could make my journey less stressful by reading up on the subject. I think most of these books are aimed at novelists, which makes them invaluable to idiots like me who don't know the first thing about writing, but want to start.

bondo_ba
Apr. 29th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
Heh. You're absolutely right about the stress factor. I learned about agents and such the hard way, trawling through a million web sites when I could have gotten everything from one centralized source!
jongibbs
May. 1st, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
That's why I love blog sites like The Blood-Red Pencil (see sidebar for link). A bunch of editors and writers got together to answer all manner of questions about writing. Everything from 'when to use italics' to whether or not to put your age in a query letter.
mylefteye
Apr. 29th, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC)
I loved 'On Writing', as much for it's autobiographical content as any advice it contains. The only other writing advice book I've read is Lynne Truss's guide to punctuation, 'Eats Shoots and leaves'. I did try 'Elements of Style' but found it pretty hard going and even disagreeable in places.
jongibbs
Apr. 30th, 2009 11:12 am (UTC)
Ooh, I forgot "Eats, Shoots and Leaves', one of the most entertaining grammar books out there. I still chuckle when I think of her 'lapsing into a comma' joke :)

I don't know about you, but I think of (and use) 'Elements of Style' more as a reference book.

Like Gustavo, your impressive publication list shows how little you needed these books. Me, I need all the help I can get.
a_r_williams
May. 1st, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
I don't have the book with me right at the moment, but there is a book that I consider a companion to 'Elements of Style'.

It's called Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik.

Although it may seem like it spoofs Strunk and White, it encourages writers to break the rules. It's the choclate to the "Elements of Style's" vanilla.
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Apr. 30th, 2009 11:52 am (UTC)
Thanks, I'll add them to my list :)

Edited at 2009-04-30 09:46 pm (UTC)
a_r_williams
May. 1st, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Yes,I agree. Damon Knight's book was one of the first writing books I ever purchased. Still have it today, even though it's falling apart at the seems.
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jongibbs
May. 1st, 2009 12:25 pm (UTC)
No need to thank me. There are so many books on writing out there, and though some are better than others, I think they all have something to offer. That said, I also think there's an element of 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear' too. It's amazing how you can read the same book a year later and find some fantastic information that you could swear wasn't in there before.

I like Donald Maass's book best of all, because he explains things in simple terms that even idiots like me can make sense of. He offers a great set of easy-to-understand, easy-to-apply guidelines.

I first read it three years ago. At the time I felt like I was fumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out what to do and where to go to find out how to write novels I could sell, it was like someone handed me a torch, a map, and packed lunch for the journey :)


(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
May. 1st, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Hehe, I know what you mean, but I prefer to think of all those dusty research files as practice for stories I haven't written, yet. I first had the idea for Waking up Jack Thunder back in 2003, but I only started on the outline for it in 2007 :)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











THE MEAGER PUDDLE OF LIMELIGHT AWARDS


Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed

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