Friday, August 12, 2011

Books On Writing

Note: I'm signing my books at the Mardel's in Hurst, TX tomorrow from noon to 2 PM. If you're in the area, please drop by. I'd love to see you there.

I had a professor in medical school who was once asked which textbooks he considered the best in his field. His answer was a classic example of hubris: “I don’t read books, I write ‘em.” Actually, he may have been correct. In medicine, especially in that pre-Internet era, textbooks were out of date almost as soon as they were published. What he read were professional journals, along with attending symposia and conferences to learn the latest in the field.
Fortunately, good writing advice goes out of style much more slowly than medical information. Although attending conferences and symposia remains a great way to receive good instruction from successful writers, studying books on writing is also a necessity for those learning the craft. Most writers are familiar with the classics on writing like James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure and the style books such as Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.  Everyone can give you a list of books like that. Today, I’d like to introduce you to some of the less known books. They’ve worked well for me, and maybe they will for the other writers among my readership.
Here they are, in no particular order. And if you have your own favorite, please leave a comment about it.
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman—There are lots of books on punctuation, but this one caught my fancy because it was entertaining in addition to being a great reference book. I still use some of the advice to punch up my manuscripts.
The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler—An editor turned me on to this one. It advances the theory that from Beowulf to Stephen King, the mythical “hero’s journey” remains the basis for most fiction. I find myself comparing my novels to the outline presented by Vogler, and if I stray, I try to correct it.
Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight Swain—This is an older book, but it still makes some excellent points. It’s worth the price of the book to learn about the motivation-reaction sequence, which makes scenes flow more naturally. Thanks, Randy Ingermanson, for the recommendation.
Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, Lawrence Block—An absolutely fun read about writing fiction. Block is an accomplished novelist who has lots to say to writers, including encouragement if you’re just a “Sunday writer.” And the writer’s prayer at the end is worth reading again and again.
The Flip Dictionary, Barbara Kipfer—When you know what you want to say, but can’t think of the word, this is your source. What’s the other word for dangerous current? The answer’s right there: riptide. As in using the Internet, the secret is learning the key words for searching. Still a handy reference.
 I look forward to comments from the writers among us about their own secret favorites.

1 comment:

Katie Ganshert said...

The only one I've read from there is Dwight Swain's? It's one of my all-time faves.

I'll have to check the others out!

I've heard The Moral Premise is really good and that's not talked about a whole lot (or at least if it is, then I haven't been a part of the conversation)