Recommend books on enchancing poetry and short story craftmanship?
May 19, 2015 9:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find some valuable works of advice to improve my craftsmanship on writing poetry and short stories. If you can recommend any advice books, poetry, novels, and short stories that can help contribute to better writing in the genre of: science fiction, southern Gothic literature, classic literature, modernism, and modern ligature works, that would be most appreciated.

I have been writing poetry and personal essays and political opinion pieces for about four years now and have not published my work. I would like to publish some of my work in the foreseeable future sometime. I do not have any academic experience in creative writing or an English degree, but I think I have a gifted knack for poetic writing. I simply need some advice and improvement on my poetry and short story writing. Are there any books that have been helpful for writers like yourself? I would love to write a short story, but I'm not sure how the structure and mechanics of it exactly works. I find that reading John Steinbeck, The New Yorker, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Frost has helped immensely with my creativity for writing poetry these days. The problem is, I'm a Sociology Major, and I'm stuck writing rigorous papers, which can stifle creativity and imagination, if I'm not reading too much fictional work. I suppose balance is key in order to enhance craftsmanship. Would you recommend enrolling in a Creative Writing programme after finishing my BA, Honors in Sociology? I seriously think writing is an important passion of mine, and making a career of publishing my work might be a rewarding prospect as well as writing for a political online newspaper.
posted by RearWindow to Education (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The absolute best thing you can do is to find a critique group. This has the added benefit of not costing you any money. It's been so great for me. Bottom line is, you can read all the books on the craft, but you still won't REALLY know how a story of yours comes across to someone who is not you until someone else reads it and tells you what they think.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:29 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with showbiz_liz -- a critique group sounds like a good next step. If you haven't written a short story yet and you suspect that's a significant part of your passion, it's probably best to write a few of them -- and workshop them -- before considering a formal program. As a bonus, the structure of most critique groups is naturally suited for short stories.

All of that said: You might like Ursula LeGuin's Steering the Craft . You can use it alone, or with a group.

You're right about balance. Just as you've found with poetry, reading lots of short stories will help your writing more than anything else. Fortunately, that's not difficult to do. Here's a large database of literary magazines, online and print.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've read a lot of different craft books. For poetry books, I like Wingbeats and The Practice of Poetry, both of which have a lot of exercises. There aren't a lot of short story books specifically for fiction, but I liked Naming the World, Architectures of Possibility, and the Plot Whisperer books for fiction. (Sorry for not linking these.) There are two by Brian Kiteley that are good--the 3 AM Breakthrough and the 4 AM Miracle (I might have reversed those, but search his name). Also a lot of exercises, but good ones. I also like the interviews in the Paris Review where writers discuss process. Vonnegut published a list of short story tips that I like a lot. There are tons of blogs/websites, of course, but one tumblr I really like is Re: horror, there is a book called On Writing Horror that is a good guide put out by the Horror Writers' Association. These are more applicable to longer works, but I like the Write Great Fiction series.
posted by mermaidcafe at 7:29 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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