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Recommended books on how to write

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Toby Frost, Dec 27, 2016.

    Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

    Jan 22, 2008
    I suggest that this thread be used to recommend books on how to write.

    On Writing by Stephen King is very well known. It provides good and clear advice and is pretty sensible throughout. As you would expect, it is very readable and, apart from a few small digressions, stays on topic. It covers most elements of writing, from finding somewhere to sit to how to fine-tune a manuscript. Towards the end of the book, King talks in detail about editing and re-writing. Pretty much an essential read.

    How To Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by J.N. Williamson. This is a collection of essays written around 1990 by some eminent SFF writers of the time, including Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. The first two thirds are extremely useful (this is the book I learned from, for what it's worth) but the last third, which deals with the market and gives lists of publications, is outdated. It also includes a suggested reading list, which is definitely worth a look. It may be out of print, but is available very cheaply second-hand on the internet.

    Danse Macabre by Stephen King is predominantly concerned with films, and does ramble somewhat. However, King's comments on how films work are useful to writers too. Also, in the second half, King examines half a dozen novels very closely and discusses their technique in considerable detail, which is very useful for the writer. Not essential, but helpful and engrossing.

    All of these were useful to me. I would recommend them for good advice and clarity, as well as being interesting in their own right.
    The Big Peat, Vaz and Brian G Turner like this.
    Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Writing and reading Staff Member

    Nov 23, 2002
    IMO the two big ones every aspiring writer should read are:

    Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer - everything on the technicalities, from basic to advanced. Concise and entertaining, too.
    Save the Cat by Blake Snyder - one of the best books on emotional development arcs for characters.
    Toby Frost likes this.
    Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

    Jan 22, 2008
    I must admit that I found Wonderbook pretty hard to follow, just because of the layout. But I think my mind is built for dealing with blocks of serious text so it may well be ideal for some people.

    MWagner Well-Known Member

    Feb 25, 2015
    Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain.

    I have around 10 books on writing fiction, including most of the best-regarded books on the subject out there, and Techniques of the Selling Writer has more practical content than the others put together. It's a remarkably dense and systematic book, which breaks narrative right down to the level of the scene and its purpose. I'll usually highlight the key points of a book on writing, and then copy those key points into a summary document. I can summarize other books in 1-2 pages of point-form text. I haven't attempted to summarize Techniques of the Selling Writer, as it would easily run to 15+ pages.

    But be warned - it isn't a warm or breezy read. It doesn't offer folksy advice, encouragement, or pithy humour. It's the hefty toolkit you inherited from your grandfather, full of monkey wrenches, hammers, and socket sets that bear the marks and wear of long-time use. There's good reason why it's been in print since 1965.

    TWErvin2 Well-Known Member

    Oct 31, 2016
    Ohio, USA
    A book that covers a narrow aspect of writing that may be useful is Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter.

    It's really a novelette that focuses on writing convincing fight scenes.

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

    Dec 10, 2012
    Either I'm dense or this interface doesn't like me
    I would recommend::
    Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict and Suspense: James Scott Bell: 0035313653513: Amazon.com: Books
    Amazon.com: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (9780060545697): Renni Browne, Dave King: Books
    Amazon.com: Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level (9781582971827): Donald Maass: Books
    How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy: Orson Scott Card: 0035313107832: Amazon.com: Books

    Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client: Amazon.co.uk: Donald Maass: 9781582971827: Books
    How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy: Amazon.co.uk: Orson Scott Card: 0035313107832: Books
    Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense: Amazon.co.uk: James Scott Bell: 0035313653513: Books
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: Amazon.co.uk: Renni Browne, Dave King: 9780060545697: Books

    Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need eBook: Blake Snyder: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
    Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need: Blake Snyder: 9781615931712: Amazon.com: Books

    On Writing: Amazon.co.uk: Stephen King: 9781444723250: Books
    On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: Stephen King: 8601400084076: Amazon.com: Books

    Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction: Jeff VanderMeer, Jeremy Zerfoss: 8601404557101: Amazon.com: Books
    Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction: Amazon.co.uk: Jeff VanderMeer, Jeremy Zerfoss: 8601404557101: Books
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017

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