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Recommendations For Books On Writing Generally
October 10, 2012 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for books on writing that address general craft issues - help?

I'm doing a research essay for school about how university textbooks and commercial books tackle the subject of writing. The former I've got covered. As for the latter, I'm currently putting together a list.

The wrinkle: I'm looking for popular/commercial titles that address writing in a general sense, rather than paying specific attention to the conventions of a given form (memoir, fiction, poetry, etc.). Even ones that talk about a specific form AND more general issues (idea generating, revision, sentence construction, etc.) would be fair game. Some examples:

On Writing by Stephen King
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

Other suggestions? Thanks!
posted by xenization to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. 50 short chapters, each on an aspect of writing. It goes from real nuts and bolts - choosing words, constructing a sentence - to structure and dialogue. He's addressing fiction and non-fiction, with examples from journalism as well as novels.

I have a few writing manuals sitting around (I do tend to pick them up if I see them secondhand, possibly as a form of procrastination), but this is the only one I've found genuinely useful, and I've bought a couple of friends copies when they've become interested in writing.
posted by spectrevsrector at 6:29 AM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin
posted by 256 at 6:34 AM on October 10, 2012


John Gardner's The Art of Fiction
posted by Egg Shen at 6:35 AM on October 10, 2012


Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.
posted by BibiRose at 6:46 AM on October 10, 2012


Writing the Breakout Novel is extremely commercially oriented, much more so than any others mentioned so far, but it has become very popular, along with a companion workbook.
posted by BibiRose at 6:49 AM on October 10, 2012


Last one, I promise: I You Want to Write by Brenda Euland.
posted by BibiRose at 6:51 AM on October 10, 2012


Seconding Gardner's book, and emphasizing that, while "fiction" is in the title, much of the book is about how to write an English sentence that sounds right and feels right and makes sense, which applies to any kind of prose writing.
posted by escabeche at 6:56 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter--taught in a lot of MFA programs, including those that have workshops for commercial and genre fiction.
posted by rumposinc at 7:00 AM on October 10, 2012


From my own experience, two readable & useful references:
Ann Longknife & K.D. Sullivan - The Art of Styling Sentences
Italo Calvino - Six Memos for the Next Millenium

And one I haven't read but just learned about the other day: Robert McKee's Story, which is screenwriting-centric but surely applicable to story-crafting in general. Watch him give his seminar in YouTube clips. Other artists have represented it in other forms.
posted by knile at 7:03 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Critical Writings of Ford Madox Ford has some great observations and advice.

His description of a neophyte finally getting it:

He will come into his own when, reading those works a final time in a spirit of forgetfulness, for pleasure and with critical faculties put to sleep, he shall say: "Such and such a passage pleases me," and casting back into his subconsciousness shall add: "This fellow gets that effect by a cadenced paragraph of long, complicated sentences, interspersed with shorter statements, ending with a long, dying fall of words and the final taptaptap of a three monosyllabled phrase..." Just like that.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:18 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Techniques of the Selling Writer.
posted by Picklegnome at 7:25 AM on October 10, 2012


"On Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular," by L. Rust Hills.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:29 AM on October 10, 2012


Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:31 AM on October 10, 2012


Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:49 AM on October 10, 2012


Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:44 PM on October 10, 2012


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