Thursday, March 27, 2008
13 Books For Writers
Yes, I am about to recommend books for writers about the craft. I would never recommend any book that I have not read and used. The following books are not so much ranked but placed in the upper tier or first half, and the lower tier or second half of the list. My motivation for this T13 began as an exercise in "quick! let's get this done" and ended in a thoughtful review of books on my shelves, or in my hands, or in two cases, on my iPod and in my ears again and again. As Peter Pan says, "Look out everybody. Here we go!"
1. Strunk and White. The Elements of Style. Indispensable. Definitive. I cannot see how anyone could call himself or herself a writer without having read this. Owning a copy? I own several, including the illustrated version.
2. Zinsser. On Writing Well. Classic guide to non-fiction, says the cover. No matter what genre or sub-genre or memo you plan to write, this book is direct and readable. What I most admire about #1 and #2 is the love of language clearly singing from every page.
3. Vogler. The Writer's Journey - Mythic Structure for Writers. Eye-opening. I was planning to add Campbell's work on mythology to this list, but I believe Vogler presents mythic structure in a most delightfully accessible way.
4. Cameron. The Artist's Way. Tough program that has worked wonders for my creativity and my life.
5. Stein. Stein on Writing. Wow. Not just theory, but craft techniques and strategies that work. My copy is dog-eared and highlighted. Now I own the audio version and replay often.
6. McKee. Story. He's a god-small-g in Hollywood, so novel writers might discount these words of deep wisdom. This book is beyond marvelous. The dissection of a scene -- through postive and negative tension is worth the book's weight. Again, I've read and dog-eared and now own the audio version. I'm playing it over and over.
7. Pressfield. The War of Art. His discussion of RESISTANCE alone is worth the price of the book. The degree of resistance you have to writing, is equal to the degree to which you NEED to write. The universe wants you to succeed.
8. Gardner, John. On Becoming a Novelist (and The Art of Fiction). I met John Gardner shortly before his untimely death. Amazing raconteur, writer and teacher. He IS a master. This work resonates with truth.
9. Bernays and Painter. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. Go back to the well, prime the pump, and see what develops.
10. Atchity. A Writer's Time. Terrific work about the process and use of time. I own two editions.
11. Lukeman. The First Five Pages. If you desire publication, this is the book for you.
12. Pickard and Lott. Seven Steps on the Writer's Path. They've nailed the journey from Unhappiness to Fulfillment. Lots of zingers here for the serious writer.
13. Baldwin, Christina. Life's Companion - Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest. This book made me look at my life and find the courage to change. I always knew I was supposed to write and I buried that knowledge below the needs of others. My heart yearned and in the call, I found this book and stepped onto my own path.
These are by no means the only books I own on writing. I have several shelves of books that I use for teaching and for prodding my own process. These are the ones I use the most and the most important to the development of any writer.
Now, I'm going back to WRITING! Care to join me?!