A colleague recently posted on our LinkedIn forum and asked what books writers read to learn and improve their craft. I would like to offer a few.
I have the paperback, but once a year I check the audio book out of the library and listen to Stephen himself read it. Now I understand that he has been criticizing for reading one of his novels (never heard it myself), but since this is so personal, it is very intense. I feel as if he is a teacher.
But beware – he is the tough no-nonsense teacher. He lays out how it should be and brooks no dissent. There is no fluff, and no feel-good. This is a small book but packed with tips and direction.
A must read – probably annually.
I had never met Stephanie Plum (Janet’s protagonist) before I read this writing book, but she is a good friend now. Janet’s book is geared to e a reference. Much is presented in Q&A form (it is co-written with Ina Yalof) and there are lists and summaries.
I particularly learned a lot about writing a series and character development beyond one book.
Warning -You may find yourself reading a Stephanie Plum novel or twenty. Be prepared to set a summer reading space aside and get ready to laugh.
It is considered one of the classics. I haven’t read it in years and it doesn’t sit on my shelf to quickly check. But I remember it had a big influence on me and was mentioned in the LinkedIn list as often as any other book.
While fantasy writers will get more out of this than those who write in other genres there is a lot of fundamental stuff. However, such topics as creating a whole world are more unique to fantasy and SF.
Whatever you decide – the first chapter is unforgettable. If you have ever been where Terry takes you, you will understand what I mean!
Natalie has written a number of inspirational books on writing (with plenty of practical tips. She writes from the perspective of one deeply in Zen practice. Her latest is about memoir writing.
Finally books mentioned by other writers:
Story – Robert McKee
Writing Basics for Beginners by Jeanne Marie Leach
The Weekend Novelist – a Writer’s Digest book
I want to share that I believe it is important to choose a couple of authors and read everything they wrote. This includes their novels, their how-to books, their blogs, interviews etc.
This is important for your own level of craft and how you market your work and present yourself. We all write as individuals, but we can learn a lot from those whose company we strive to share.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).