Stack o Writing Books
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I cannot read enough about the craft of writing. I love it especially when the author offers insight to how he or she does what they do. That doesn’t mean I want to copy it, but there may be something in there that I haven’t yet considered. It’s like digging around the library and finding books you didn’t know you needed to read.
To the left is my writing reference library sans dictionaries. I just added a few titles over the last week and have been enjoying digging through them. The new titles are listed below with review snippets to give you an idea of their content:
The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot – I’ve yet to really settle into this one. Once I’ve finished my latest draft of Shadow of the Black City, I’ll take time to go through the who thing.
Here’s a an excerpt from a Publishers Weekly review to give you an idea of the contents: …as the brief chapters of this little book build on each other, Baxter’s observations-which initially seem more like interesting rhetorical devices than substantive arguments-gain clarity and momentum, and the accumulation of anecdotal asides about writers’ workshops and former students turn them from annoying interjections into helpful indicators of Baxter’s relationship with literature. Many of the issues raised in this volume are as old as the study of literature itself, but Baxter’s ability to ask unusual and incisive questions of familiar topics (Why is the volatility of Dostoyevsky’s characters so unpleasant? Why is it so difficult-and yet so vital-to describe facial features?) makes this little volume worthwhile for the engaged student of literature. – Publishers Weekly
Self-Editing for Writers – (Thanks to Sara McClung for the recommendation!) I’ve read about 50 pages of this one. The information on show v. tell is particularly useful. The chapter on characterization and exposition has great, succinct examples of good and bad uses of both
Creating Short Fiction – I read all the way through it and look forward to reading it again. There’s a lot of good stuff in there that is useful not only for short fiction, but for all fiction. Knight divides the book into six parts: Developing Your Talent as a Writer, Idea into Story, Beginning a Story, Controlling a Story, Finishing a Story, and Being a Writer.
From Jeff VanderMeer Booklifenow.com – Knight was known for his science fiction writing, but this guide is much more universal than that and steeped in the wisdom of fifty years of writing fiction. Perhaps more importantly, Knight includes diagrams of various plot structures. Early on, this helped me visualize my plots as diagrams and sometimes enabled me to spot structural problems as a result. His thoughts on “form” are also useful to beginning and intermediate writers.
Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers -Because I have only skimmed this one, here’s VanderMeer’s assessment of this work from Booklifenow.com - Madden breaks fiction down into its components (like character, theme, setting, etc.) and then creates subcategories of possible problems you may be having in your work. He uses examples of these problems from the drafts of books and stories by famous writers, and then shows you how the writer fixed the problem in the final draft. Just being able to see an early paragraph from The Great Gatsby and compare it to the published version is invaluable, but Madden’s advice and commentary make this my favorite writing book of all time.
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft – I just got this one two days ago so here’s the info from the back cover – The most widely used and respected book on writing fiction, Writing Fiction guides the writer from first inspiration to final revision. Supported by an abundance exercises, this guide/anthology explores and integrates the elements of fiction while offering practical techniques and concrete examples. A focus on the writing process in its entirety provides a comprehensive guide to writing fiction, approaching distinct elements in separate chapters while building on what has been covered earlier. Topics include free-writing to revision, plot, style, characterization, dialogue, atmosphere, imagery, and point of view.
Narrative Design – I’ve read the first short story and accompanying notes. Bell breaks down each story in terms of plot, character, tone, point of view, dialogue and design. Other elements such as time management, imagery and description, and suspense are addressed where appropriate. The story was enjoyable, and the analysis helped drive home some techniques and opened up possibilities for my writing. I look forward to delving into the other 11.
That should be enough to chew on for a couple of months. I got a few recommendations for Bird by Bird, which I plan to track down through our library system. It’s a 50/50 proposition at best. If I can’t get it that way, I’ll break down and by a used copy somewhere.