Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Favorite "Writing" Books

With the themed post this month on the topic of our favorite books on writing, similar to the great post by my talented fellow Novelnaut, Jewel Amethyst, from 5/1/16 called "Learning on the Job," I too believe that the best experience is reading. Absorbing novels written by other authors serve as lessons in pacing, dialogue, setting, twists and turns, just as watching TV, movies, and plays contribute to story in a writer's mind. I know that shows written by Shonda Rhimes motivate and challenge me. The experience of taking in another writer's works are invaluable and should be absorbed as often as possible. A great writer, without even knowing it, can teach a fellow writer greatness.

The following are books that I read early on in my career. Some were suggested by my very first editor, and some were suggested by other authors. While I took many classes to learn the craft, which is the goal, I also read a lot of non-fiction books on writing, as I was as hooked and hungry as could be.

The very first book I read was Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee. It was suggested even though the focus was screenwriting, but it masterfully covered aspects that I needed, such as setting, character arcs, inciting crisis, climax, etc.

I understand that Robert McKee also has another book called Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen. I love that term, "verbal action."

Also, Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is excellent. He has some very unusual opinions about writing in general, i.e., to plot or not to plot, and how many drafts are necessary. He is relatable, and the book is respectful, quick, witty, and smart.

Lastly, the series of books by James Scott Bell are invaluable. I've read three of them, being Plot & Structure, Character, Emotion, & Viewpoint, and Description & Setting. As far as I know, he has three more: Dialogue, Revision & Self-Editing, and Conflict and Suspense.

I hope this list helps some of you. The best experience is to just sit down and write, though just as I discovered when I finished my first book (by the seat of my pants) in 1998, I needed to show the editors that I had what it took to craft a story, even if just the basics. One thing I knew was that I had the passion.

Our writing gets richer with time, and we learn what to do, and most important, what not to do, as we go along, though things like symbolism, endings, making characters 3-D, and more, come from study, reading, and a willingness to listen with our ears, our eyes, and then show the results of all of that with our busy, gifted fingertips.

Happy writing!


Neil Waring said...

I have found reading writing books from authors who write in vastly different genres from what I do to be rewarding and interesting plus it has opened me up to reading some things I thought I would always avoid. Great post

Liane Spicer said...

I haven't read any of these with the exception of Stephen King's On Writing. I've heard good things about Story; lots of writers swear by it. And thank you for the other suggestions.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Thanks, Neil, I agree, it can be rewarding indeed!!

Marissa Monteilh said...

Hi Liane, yes Story is excellent. And On Writing is quick yet thought provoking. Thx!!