Tuesday, June 09, 2009

(More) Books on Writing

About a year ago, I blogged about 2 writing craft books that I found valuable.

In the year since, I have read several more and am working my way though another.

The ones I have read include:

"On Writing" by Stephen King

"Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott

"Steering the Craft" by Ursula K LeGuin

The book I am working through now is "How to Grow a Novel," by Sol Stein.

Why do I read 'how to' books if I've already figured out how to write a novel?

Well, first of all, I'm still unpublished, so in the eyes of the world, I haven't graduated from apprentice status. Second of all, I have always been committed to the precepts of being a life long learner. Third, I am fascinated, in particular, with the creative process, so in between reading the latest interesting YA fantasy (to keep up with my kids), the latest thriller hubby brings home from his most recent trip, and my forays to the library and the bookstore (not to mention the Kindle store), I reach into the craft pile and read another one.

So what do I think?

I enjoyed reading King's book, as much because of his honest self-appraisal as his writing process. Here is a 'genre' writer who doesn't give a you-know-what what the literary world thinks. I also understood his writing process--it seemed a lot like what I have come to see as my own. It is less a 'how to' book than a 'my example' book, but his voice is very clear and I found it a useful read.

Lamott's book struck me as self-consciously precious. There were some chapters I found useful and affirming, but there was little in it that I hadn't already seen elsewhere and without the continual personal references. I don't want to share a writer's self-esteem issues as I'm reading her craft book.

LeGuin is one of my favorite writers. I have also read her essays, "The Wave in the Mind," along with most of her novels. "Steering the Craft" is full of specific lessons aimed at helping a writer either put together a writing group or use as a self-paced private course. As a poet, I loved that one of her first lessons was on writing and using the techniques of poetry. I highly recommend this book as a bookshelf keeper.

I am 3/4 of the way through Stein's book, and for the most part, it is extremely well written, to the point, and a useful reference. My one caveat is the bias he seems to have against genre fiction. While he takes pains to also criticize some literary fiction as being useless navel gazing, there is a not so subtle slant against what he calls 'transient fiction' and compares it to "a one-night stand, sex as entertainment." At the end of the day, I can't understand the negativity directed to a well-told story of whatever stripe. If you can get past that, the advice in the book is specific and very good.

The next craft book on my TBR pile is Browne and King's "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers." I'll let you know what I think.

Any other craft books out there that you folks in writer-land recommend??

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely loved the Self-Editing for Writers. The chapter on dialogue was amazing, and completely changed the way I looked at conversation and how to make it pop. Can't wait to hear what you think of it!:D