Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Favorite Books on the Writing Craft

My favorite books on writing?  That's a tough one.  Over the years, I've read many books on the craft and artistry of writing.  Part of my opinion of the book will depend on what stage in writing I was.  So, a book I might have dismissed when I first started writing, might be perfect for me now.  Or a book I thought was great when I knew very little might not seem very pertinent today.

But, I promised to give it a try.  Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir is a great read.  Part memoir and part advice for the writer, is reads as smoothly as you would expect a book from King to read.  The memoir is captivating and you can see from his early years where some of his books came from.
But his comments on writing are as to the point and lean as his writing is. He addresses plot, character and dialog.  And I found it very helpful when he pointed out specific writers who were adept at a particular aspect of the novel. 

I can easily recommend it.
Donalss Maass put out an excellent book titled Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. This follows his two other "breakout" books:  Writing the Breakout Novel, and The Breakout Novelist: How to craft Novels that Stand Out and Sell. Honestly, I didn't read the first two.  But the workbook is a standalone. It gives you instruction on character development, plot development, and general story techniques. But, to me, its real strength is in the exercises he presents after each section.  They are carefully thought out to emphasize the points he has just made.  An excellent tutorial.
For your characters, Ann Hood's Creating Character Emotions is a tight, engaging book that will improve your characters.  I like that she gives both good and bad examples of the points she is trying to make. And then, she gives you some exercises to work toward a specific objective.  She takes each emotion and shows you how to incorporate it into your characters.  Not the newest book on the subject, but possibly the best.
Lastly, it is impossible to go wrong reading Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey.  Vogler based his book on the work of Joseph Campbell.  If I put Hood's book on top for character, I put Vogler's book on top for plot construction. Now I know someone will say Vogler was aiming at script writers. Certainly he has an immense background in screenplays for all the major studios. But any writer can benefit from Vogler's approach.  If you haven't read The Writer's Journey, get a copy and start on it today.  You won't regret it.

James R. Callan

7 comments:

amreade said...

Thanks for taking the time to cull some of your favorites from the enormous and always-growing list of writerly books out there!

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read the King and the Maas. Will have to have a look at the other two.

James R. Callan said...

hanks for stopping by. You are right about the ever-growing list of these books. (I've written two myself.) And Charles, you will like those. Hood does a fine job. And Vogler's book is important. Thanks to both of you for commenting. Jim

Maggie said...

Great suggestions. For mystery writers, I can recommend You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Roberts.

Liane Spicer said...

Thanks for the suggestions, James. Of these I've read only King's.

Marissa Monteilh said...

James, I do remember hearing about Writing the Breakout Novel, I'll have to check it out, as well as the others. Thanks for the suggestions!

KeVin K. said...

I've read Writing the Breakout Novel but never the companion volumes. I'll check those out.

I've seen The Writer's Journey on the shelves - or did back when I spent time in big box bookstores - but the title put me off. Sounded like one of those feel good about self discovery (and self-published chap books are good enough) writing books. Now that I know better, I'll check it out.
[Insert observation on judging books by their covers here.]