Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#1
I'm pretty new to the site, and I'm not sure if I'm just a ranboob who can't search correctly but I couldn't find a thread in the forums, listing anyone's favorite books, or recommended books, about how to improve their writing. I've seen that some people appreciate having an emotion thesaurus on hand, but nothing beyond that.

I ask mostly because I've found myself preferring non-fiction over fiction in my reading of late, especially good audio books.  I'm always looking for more to add to the pile and was curious if anyone had any recommendations, or books they'd say helped them improve as a writer.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#2
Writing Into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith
The Pursuit of Perfection and How it Harms Writers by Kristin Katheryn Rusch

Those are the two best books you'll ever read on writing. I've read them at least a dozen times each.

If you like outlining, Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland. He's the coordinating judge of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. He doesn't only talk about outlining in the book, though. There's a few chapters on some concepts no other writer has ever written on in my experience.

How to Write a Damn Good Thriller
How to Write a Damn Good Thriller Vol. II
Forgot the name of the author on this one.

Jim Butcher's blog. I forgot what it's called, but he has some pages on writing. Some of the best, most concise instruction I've ever seen.

Brandon Sanderson's yearly BYU Creative Writing Lectures on youtube.

I could list you half a dozen other great titles, but I can't think right now. It's 3:38 am and I have to start work in twenty-two minutes, lol.

Oh, I just remembered. Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, also by Dean Wesley Smith, the third best book you'll ever read on writing and publishing. Period.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#4
I'm working on a detailed list of recommendations for books specifically for Royal Road authors. It's heavily biased toward worldbuilding rather than refining prose, but it sounds like what you want. 

If you want my absolute top three recommendations from the list, they are:
  • The Emotion Thesaurus 
  • The Knowledge, by Lewis Dartnell 
  • Customs of the World (lecture series from the Great Courses), by David Livermore. 

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#5
My favourite book about the fundamentals of writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. While this book doesn't offer much advice on turning your ideas into a novel, it is invaluable during the re-writing process. The author explains clearly what makes good sentences and, in turn, good newspaper articles, short stories, and novels. Also, I appreciate the author's casual tone--I hate when a useful book is tainted by a pompous-sounding author.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#6

NovelNinja Wrote: I'm working on a detailed list of recommendations for books specifically for Royal Road authors. It's heavily biased toward worldbuilding rather than refining prose, but it sounds like what you want. 

If you want my absolute top three recommendations from the list, they are:
  • The Emotion Thesaurus 
  • The Knowledge, by Lewis Dartnell 
  • Customs of the World (lecture series from the Great Courses), by David Livermore. 
I appreciate world building, but I was thinking more of the prose/structuring. I will say though I do love me some Great Courses. Two of those have been top of my personnel list. I do a lot of Dungeon Mastering and I build custom world sets for that.

I've been finding studying the fundamental mechanics of just good sentences to be the most motivating, if only for the inspiration to tinker with mechanics of language. That might just be me though.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#7

GameLit Wrote: My favourite book about the fundamentals of writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. While this book doesn't offer much advice on turning your ideas into a novel, it is invaluable during the re-writing process. The author explains clearly what makes good sentences and, in turn, good newspaper articles, short stories, and novels. Also, I appreciate the author's casual tone--I hate when a useful book is tainted by a pompous-sounding author.


That sounds exactly like the sort of thing I've been looking for. I've been listening to Building Great SEntences: Exploring the writers craft, which should really just be titled 'talking obsessively about cumulative sentences.' which are great, but I find stacking too many in a row feels doesn't read well. So I'll definitely give that one a look.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#8

Llamadragon Wrote: I like Save the Cat, because it's short and to the point. It's still over a hundred pages, but at least it doesn't ramble on about the authors opinion on Star Wars. I've got a short attention span so any books that don't just cut to the chase will make me lose interest before I make it to the end. 

But if you have more patience than I do, then Story Genius isn't bad.


I've read the 'writes a novel' version of saves the cat. I appreciate the, 'beat' style breakdowns (and Its got me working on my own system in my between times)
It's for sure a good system, and I mean, can't argue with what works. I think it's got some transition break-age from it being originally a screenplay writing kit though. Since the ebb and flow is different you know?

Story Genius is another one that I keep picking up and putting down, so I get what you mean about patience. I think it's got some interesting insights to sort through though.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#9

LambentTyto Wrote: Writing Into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith
The Pursuit of Perfection and How it Harms Writers by Kristin Katheryn Rusch

Those are the two best books you'll ever read on writing. I've read them at least a dozen times each.

If you like outlining, Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland. He's the coordinating judge of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. He doesn't only talk about outlining in the book, though. There's a few chapters on some concepts no other writer has ever written on in my experience.

How to Write a Damn Good Thriller
How to Write a Damn Good Thriller Vol. II
Forgot the name of the author on this one.

Jim Butcher's blog. I forgot what it's called, but he has some pages on writing. Some of the best, most concise instruction I've ever seen.

Brandon Sanderson's yearly BYU Creative Writing Lectures on youtube.

I could list you half a dozen other great titles, but I can't think right now. It's 3:38 am and I have to start work in twenty-two minutes, lol.

Oh, I just remembered. Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, also by Dean Wesley Smith, the third best book you'll ever read on writing and publishing. Period.


Now that's a big post.

Lots of which I've never heard of.

As far as outlining, I get why its a good idea, but it ends up locking me up more than anything. I've read a lot of things, like the snowflake method (which was interesting, I'll grant) and read some other bits and bobs here and there about it, and pantsing is even harder, but again, end up tinkering with the skeleton forever.

Appreciate the titles though, I'll see if I can track down a couple of them. That writing into the dark does sound interesting by title at least.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#10
Some great suggestions here already, but just to add to the list:Have fun! Just remember that reading about writing can also be a great way to avoid doing the thing you need to do the most- writing.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#11

UltraRob Wrote: Some great suggestions here already, but just to add to the list:Have fun! Just remember that reading about writing can also be a great way to avoid doing the thing you need to do the most- writing.


Yes, it is a GREAT excuse to avoid writing, but I'm not trying to.

Anything with 'Tool' in the name typically pleases me immensely so I'll have to check it out.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#14
Could have sworn I wrote a post here recently about my favorite writing theory books, but I couldn't find it.  So, here we go again.  I've done graduate-level study in narratology and structural analysis, but that's probably beyond the scope of this thread, so if someone wants to hear about that, ask me.

I don't really work with beginners at writing fiction, so the "starter" book I usually recommend is actually for beginners who want to move to the intermediate level.  That's Story by Robert McKee.  This book is like a survey course, it introduces about 90% of the concepts a novelist, screenplay writer, or other writer of long format fiction will encounter.  I tell students to read this with a pad or sticky notes or pack of note cards that they can use to bookmark anything that interests them enough to investigate more deeply.  Depending on their interest, I have a variety of books on my shelf that I can pull out to recommend as further reading.  People in this thread may similarly request books about specific topics (Not grammar though.  Plot, characters, theme, worldbuilding, or analysis of fiction.)  I see Truby's Anatomy of Story here, that's on my further reading recommendations shelf.

The first class I've taught was a walk-through of brainstorming and creating a new fantasy or science-fiction story.  That one didn't have whole books as assigned reading, just a lecture from me explaining the day's task and some links to web pages or YouTube videos.  Like I could send people over to Holly Lisle's website for some of her public content and mention that of her pay content I had bought X and found it useful.  Or there's a neat web page somewhere that talks about plot structures with more than 5 acts and customizing your planned act structure.

The other class I've taught is a historical survey of fiction theory; the required first reading is Aristotle's Poetics, and the connections between fiction and learning by mimesis.  Fiction and the Unconscious was severely out of print last time I checked, so I had to do brief quotes of the key points rather than assign it as reading. That intro is followed by a timeline illustrating the development of act theory and Freytag's triangle/pyramid.  Topic three is character archetypes before, during, and after Jung.  Topic four is plot templates from Eugene Scribe and Vladimir Propp through Dramatica, the narrative-as-dialectic argument concept, the Hero's Journey, and some other odds and ends.  Probably I should break this into two topics because it always needs more time...  Topic five is theme with required reading of Lajos Egri's Art of Dramatic Writing and the very different Blueprint Your Bestseller which contains a thematic analysis of The Ugly Duckling.  Also a discussion of tropes and genres.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#17
I think finding books that resonate with your personal style as a writer is important.

I enjoyed Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

I did enjoy reading Stephen King's book, its worth reading even if you don't want to write, IMO. But his advice does lean heavily to writing in his style, (which Neil Gaiman termed American Realism I think). My writing is not that style so I found that a bit of a roadblock when I tried to use it many years ago.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#18

BrightSparrow Wrote: I think finding books that resonate with your personal style as a writer is important.

I enjoyed Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

I did enjoy reading Stephen King's book, its worth reading even if you don't want to write, IMO. But his advice does lean heavily to writing in his style, (which Neil Gaiman termed American Realism I think). My writing is not that style so I found that a bit of a roadblock when I tried to use it many years ago.


Also, though he's brilliant at setting up the conflicts so he doesn't need to plan, his method does seem to rely on setting-as-arena.

Re: Recommendations for books about writing?

#19

GameLit Wrote: My favourite book about the fundamentals of writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. While this book doesn't offer much advice on turning your ideas into a novel, it is invaluable during the re-writing process. The author explains clearly what makes good sentences and, in turn, good newspaper articles, short stories, and novels. Also, I appreciate the author's casual tone--I hate when a useful book is tainted by a pompous-sounding author.
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