Books on Writing

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Some of you will have seen this Guardian article recommending enjoyable books to read on writing, but I can think of a couple more:

From Stephen King to Anne Lamott: the 10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write

What I like in such books is not just practical advice, but someone who gives me encouragement.

For this, I recommend Walter Mosley's This Year You Write Your Novel. It's a mere 103 pages, readable in a few hours, but it contains reassuring and common sense advice that any writer could benefit from, even though it's aimed at debut authors.

Any of Noah Lukeman's books on writing is worth the asking price.

Incidentally, Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is widely recommended, but bear in mind that it was first published 100 years ago and revised in 1959, making its advice formal and dated. It still holds good advice, especially about concision.

It is available as a free download in several places, but Project Gutenberg offers the widest choice of file types:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk

I have no formal training as a writer but I do write a lot. I spotted something in an article back in December mentioning Stephen King's On Writing. I had some credits knocking about on Audible so bought it. Stephen King On Writing

I think it was a credit well spent and I was heartened to see some of the things that I had agonised over I needn't have. Turned out I'd been doing a lot of the right stuff. Who'd have thunk it?

In the end I decided Stevie's a bit like wot I am - except for the impressive body of award-winning books, movie options, movie adaptations and of course the squillions of dollars in the bank. :)

I found it very accessible and entertaining also. He narrates it himself and his style is no frills, no airs or graces but also very amusing at times. I think the eBook is about £8.00 (UK)
There's so many! I'm actually trawling for my next one, I try to read a few actual novels then slip in a book on the craft in between, then rinse and repeat. On Writing is an interesting book (read it twice). I've enjoyed so many:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron (which is listed in the link);
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks;
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass;
Story Stakes by H.R. D'Costa;
Into the Woods by John Yorke;
Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.

But there are so many more!
Not long after I joined here @Rich. mentioned 'Techniques of the Selling Writer' by Dwight V Swain
As the most helpful book I have read I recommend it. It has helped me a lot.

Woah, I just checked this out $AU38.44 for Kindle. A physical book is around $AU20.00, that's a bit steep for Kindle!
Woah, I just checked this out $AU38.44 for Kindle. A physical book is around $AU20.00, that's a bit steep for Kindle!

Try the Debra Dixon rewrite of the same principles brought up to date:
Still expensive ($18 AUD?), but in my mind the better option is Randy Ingermanson. All his advice is free on his website, or there are a few books (one with Economy, which I re-read often just for pleasure).

However, as with all these things, the GMC is a basic tool, a reminder that a scene needs a purpose, the character in the scene needs a goal to strive toward, and there needs to be some form of end-state that is one of: failure (need to restrategise/change tactics), failed, but closer, or win!

Objective, Obstacles, Outcome - as long as we understand why these parts of a scene are necessary, all those books about the structure of a scene are similar.

This book: Thanks, But This Isn't for Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected eBook: Morrell, Jessica Page: Kindle Store
was very helpful to me. Yes, it's an editor, but it's excellent to know this stuff which then makes it easier to understand some of the craft books.
I also like a few books about screen-writing. Story is story is story, regardless of the medium (however, novels do allow for a deeper connection between the reader and the characters).
in my mind the better option is Randy Ingermanson. All his advice is free on his website,
Thanks for this. I am going to devour his stuff in detail but just about the first thing he hit me with was this :
'I am going to steal insights from Dwight Swain’s book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. This is quite simply the finest book ever written on how to write fiction. If you don’t have this book, you are robbing yourself blind. I will be giving you the high points in this article, but there is really no substitute for reading the book and digesting it. '
This is why it holds its price
This is why it holds its price
It may be good, but the price is outrageous. Nearly $40 for the eBook, and with postage, the paperback is $50. I'm quite happy for Ingermanson to steal the insights and share them with me (and millions of others). If, one day, I earn enough from writing to buy Swain ...
I can't remember how much I paid for it but it was nowhere near $40 more like $9.99 I think. It may be that its been in demand lately so the publishers are making hay. I'm sure Ingermanson gives you the essence of it. It's what I did with the book and have done with all my studies through school and university. I went through it and made notes of all the important bits so now I have about 10 pages of highlights. Writing down the essence means it penetrates my brain and I can refresh the memory in less than an hour whenever I feel the need.
And I'm never going to recommend Damon Suede's book, Verbalize, just in case. I don't want to let anyone else in on the secret sauce. So don't tell anyone, okay? And don't read it. Or the companion book, Activate. Just forget you ever heard about it, okay. You don't want to know this stuff. Trust me.
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