Craft books

Apparently there are some writers out there who don’t read. They write. Of course they do. All the time. They work really hard on their writing.

But. They. Don’t. Read.

Jack Nicholsom

I have strong feelings about this but there’s no point going into all that. I would just sound like a judgmental old lady, sitting on my porch with a scowl and a corn cob pipe and yelling at elementary school kids to do something useful with their lives. After all, who am I to say what the best path is for any other writer?

I do believe there’s a point of intersection between the readers and non readers, and that is craft books. It seems to me that both writers who read and writers who don’t read (buckets of tears, the magician’s apprentice in Fantasia amount of tears) do tend to read writing craft books. Most of them are structured so that you don’t have to start from page one and go straight through to page nine hundred and fifty three. They can be perused. Dipped into. And the best of them are fun to read.

Here’s a selection of my favorites, that I would recommend to all:

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert This is sort of a self help for writers and artists. I found this book to be both a gentle push to keep going, a shoulder to cry on, and a big loving hug. “What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?”

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott A classic in inspiration. Part memoir, part encouragement to start with a shitty first draft and keep going little by little, Anne Lamott’s warm encouragement is like a mug of hot chocolate for your writing soul.

On Writing – Stephen King This is the other big one that nearly everyone recommends. For a reason! It is an easy and compelling read, full of straight-talking solid advice.

Wonderbook – Jeff Vandermeer One to purchase for your home library if you can afford it. This has simply gorgeous full color illustrations. Fun diagrams of tension and maps about plot and tables of writing styles. My favorite part of it are the interviews and essays by other authors, such as Lev Grossman’s essay about his long road to publishing the Magicians and GRR Martin discussing his disregard of magic systems. This book taught me a lot about first lines, opening scenes, how to cut scenes, end scenes and so much more.

John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story This book changed my life. It is more about screenwriting and uses old-fashioned examples of great screenplays (Casablanca, the Godfather) but this book explained character weakness and need to me finally and thoroughly and I got it and my story telling ability rocketed into the stratosphere.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print A nice change. This is an editing book by editors. Chock full of excellent advice and examples. Way better than simplistic writing and editing tips posted on twitter.

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How do you stay inspired?

Honestly, I stay inspired by reading about what other authors do and think and experience. How about you?

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fiction’s about what it is to be fucking human.— David Foster Wallace

How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words. — David Foster Wallace

I am part of everything that I have ever read. — Theodore Roosevelt

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. — Stephen King

Don’t talk about it. Write. — Ray Bradbury

The obstacle is the path.  — Zen proverb