Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top 6 Books for Writers

This was an idea I had awhile ago and never got around to really writing about. Here goes.

Top 6 book recommendations for writers with thumbnail sketch and in no particular order.

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. The New York Writers Workshop. Writer’s Digest Books. 2006. 282 pages. ISBN 9781582974408.
Everything you need to get started on independent study, for $14.95 instead of 40 grand. I’ve used the fiction and poetry sections extensively, but there’s also great chapters on screenwriting, memoir, and magazine writing. Complete with exercises and a reading list, this is a great option for those inclined toward an MFA, but not ready to take the plunge. It doesn’t offer the group critique or the classroom experience, but if you’re interested in taking your writing to the next level through the challenge of an MFA-like experience and have a mediocrum of self-discipline, this is a great option.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Anne Lamott. Anchor Books. 1994. 238 pages. ISBN 9780385480017.
Witty, informational, funny, and useful, Anne Lamott is a good time and stellar teacher in this must-read for writers. She offers not only great anecdotes about writing, but the actual sitting-at-the-desk nuts and bolts. It’s easy to see why this is a national bestseller and can’t believe I didn’t read it years ago.

On Writing. Stephen King. Pocket Books. 2000. 297 pages. $7.99 US. ISBN 0743455967.
Stephen. King. Do I need to say anything else? Yes? Okay then. It’s written in two parts, both equally useful. The first is a partial biography of King’s writing life. It wasn’t always bestsellers for this guy. He really worked, and I mean some shit jobs, to get where he is. It’s inspiring when this word-wielder gets ground down by the writing game. The second half is a crash course in grammar and writing tools. This is great too since it covers King’s take on the writer’s toolbox and how to use what’s in it. Must read.

The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency As a Freelance Writer In Six Months or Less
. Peter Bowerman. Fanove Publishing. 2000. 282 pages. $19.95 US. ISBN 978967059846.
The title pretty much says it all: self-sufficiency through freelance writing. Bowerman breaks it down and helps you get a handle on the reality of selling writing, especially useful for commercial writers and a think-piece for the more… erm… artfully inclined. Both he and Bob Bly are great resources for breaking into commercial writing so be sure to check out their websites, and

AP Stylebook/Thesaurus/ Dictionary.
Read them. Read them all. For fun. Seriously.

Writing the Breakout Novel
. Donald Maass. Writer’s Digest Books. 2001. $16.99 US. ISBN 9781582971827.
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Donald Maass. Writer’s Digest Books. 2004. $19.99 US. ISBN 158297263X.
Donald Maass is an agent for a reason. It might not be the recipe for writing literary fiction, but following his steps and some hard work will get you on your way to writing an action-packed, breakout novel. I should read it again, lol.

Other writing books I like are The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, Writing the Popular Novel by Loren D. Estleman, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard was all right, but really didn’t thrill me, as it was more well-written than containing useful nuts and bolts stuff about writing. Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular by Rust Mills was good for the basics, especially in a college setting, and How to Write a Dirty Story by Susie Bright was less useful for writing than getting in touch with your sensuality and sexuality, which, let’s face it, some of us still need from time to time.

So there’s my picks for writing books. Hope they help you as much or more than they helped me. Time to go make pages, workout, and head to the parlor. Get to see my honey tonight and hopefully meet a new contact for a contract I’m working on in the Caribbean. More details to follow when there are, erm, more details.


Rowenna said...

Great recommendations! I need to pick up the ones here I haven't read. Can I add that Stephen King's book is not only utilitarian but hilarious? The guy seriously cracked me up a few times, especially when he was writing about his juvenile efforts...funny stuff. Not at all what I expected :)

Ax said...

It was hilarious. I loved all the crap jobs he described working at. Gives drudges like us f*^%ing hope! (said in voice of Robin Williams, from the golf skit.)