Books/writers to learn writing from.


200 words a day = 1 novel/year
Mar 27, 2020
I'm talking about style, not necessarily content. For me a few are
  1. Gone Away World: I loved the writing, couldn't care about the story. I DNFd, but the writing is exquisite
  2. How to Live in a Science-Fictional Universe: Loved the writing and the fluid imagery. I got tired of not much happening and DNFd it.
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's: I loved the writing and story. The writing is what I consider the best of American writing: simple and gets out of the way of the story. This goes for anything by Steinbeck
  4. American Gods: I found the writing extremely attractive and engrossing. Couldn't care for the story. DNFd.
  5. The Color of Magic, Going Postal: Pratchett has a style that reminds me of Jerome K Jerome, another great British comic writer.
  6. To Kill A Mockingbird: Another best of American writing: engrossing but gets out of the way of the story.
  7. Hemingway: he definitely had a voice, and I read him as an teenager. so the mark it made is deep, but it also biases me.
  8. PKD: his writing is not fancy, but he has a way of creating images in my brain that makes me think I'm on drugs. In fact, I went a little wonky once after reading too much PKD in one sitting.
Would you have books I should read because they would teach me how to be a better writer?
Anything by Iain Banks and Neal Stephenson are great for learning about putting humor into your writing. Banks is great for adding elements of horror for realism and Stephenson for how to break the rules about info dumping. Banks' writing is particularly lovely. Both pack in the ideas. Banks' The Crow Road is non-SF and just wonderful.

Robert Reed's books have an interesting loftiness that some hate and I quite like. A grandness. Worth reading Marrow just to feel something different in the way a story is presented.

William Gibson sees the world with fresh eyes, making fascinating analogies out of the mundane. Recommend Pattern Recognition or The Peripheral.

Also recommend Intersex by Jeffrey Eugenides, who also wrote the excellent Virgin Suicides.
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Ah, yes, I should add Ian Banks to my list! I've only read Inversions from him (I think) but I loved the writing.
All of Stephen King
Plus he has a book explaining how he does it.
@msstice I'm not a fan of Stephen King: I have his FireStarter and the writing book. However even though he filled the rest of On Writing with his somewhat witty life story; there are some very good points made about how he writes and in the one book I have of his, his method does show up, so I wouldn't discount it.

In fact I have about a dozen or more books on writing and 50% seem to fall in the same category as his--some good points and then a lot of filler.
That's because it mostly amounts to saying that you need to write well--here's some examples--and now here's something to hopefully make it worth the money you spent on this thing.

Two keys: write well: write as often as you can.
write well: write as often as you can.
I don't know how to write well, but I can tell when I have written well. So my current strategy is to write as much as I can. Them sometimes I find that I have written well and I keep that stuff.
I have no plans of becoming a writer but I think those who do could do worse than pick up a few tips from some of the masters and I would consider Haruki Murakami one of the masters. As a lover of his work this is one I might read anyway:
Novelist as a Vocation By Haruki Murakami
I understand it's not a techniques book but more philosophising on the creative process and one thing is certain; Murakami is a very creative writer!
If you want to see how to write a perfect ghost story, then you can't go far wrong with most of MR James' tales. And for sci-fi comedy a read of Douglas Adams' HHGTTG shows how to make a story scientifically plausible and absurdly funny at the same time.
If we're really talking about people with an exceptionally good writing style, I would recommend George Orwell and Raymond Chandler. In particular, Orwell's essays and his advice for writing are definitely worth a look. I also like the prose of Clive Barker and Mervyn Peake a lot, but they might be a bit excessive for some people.
And for sci-fi comedy a read of Douglas Adams' HHGTTG shows how to make a story scientifically plausible and absurdly funny at the same time.
While Hitchhiker's guide is funny, for some values of funny, and it has inventively great ideas, I would not call it scientifically plausible.
All of Stephen King
Plus he has a book explaining how he does it.
Great story lines but, oh boy, does he need an editor.
While Hitchhiker's guide is funny, for some values of funny, and it has inventively great ideas, I would not call it scientifically plausible.

I think that one of the hardest thing to do in science fiction is comedy. In fact the toughest thing about comedy in general, is that harder you appear to try, the less funny you usually become. Comedy has to appear effortless, and Douglas Adams was able to achieve this admirably. If you like his type of oddball humour.

When I say scientifically plausible, what I should have said was that he (usually) explains the science behind his reasoning to make it appear plausible. Adams explains that there is a way of creating an improbability drive, there is a meaning to life, and if you think that being drunk seems fairly unpleasant, just think how a glass of water feels.
I would recommend George Orwell and Raymond Chandler
Interestingly Haruki Murakami comments:
“Philip Marlow is Chandler’s fantasy, but he’s real to me.”
“I translate what I like to read. I have translated all the novels of Raymond Chandler. I like his style so much. I have read The Long Goodbye five or six times.”
I think these always stuck me as having a wonderful style of prose:

Ursula K. Le Guin
Roger Zelazny
Stephen Donaldson

I think R. Scott Bakker is also a fantastic writer.
Some authors I find stylistically interesting...

Pratchett - Already mentioned, but the things that impress me most about Pratchett are
a) how utterly propulsive they are, and yet how much time you can spend with one page. You can finish his books in hours, or in days, and it works both ways. To me, that is the holy grail.
b) his ability to set a scene very quickly through metaphor, simile and so on

Le Guin - I think her prose is so clean and flowing. She gets writing as an almost poem, as weighing the length and feel of things, without ever appearing to to the casual eye. Very evocative descriptions too.

Sutcliff - Few authors have made days none of us ever saw come as alive as Sutcliff could

Kay - I love the way he writes characters' interior thoughts.

Cornwell - Writes some of the best battle scenes around if that's your jam

Sayers - A study in how to turn a phrase.

I could go on and on, but shall try to restrain myself.

That said, everyone's got something. I don't think anyone thinks David Gemmell is one of the great prose stylists, but I think his ability to dump a memory into a scene and make it affecting without slowing things down was very impressive. If people could readily learn to write with the visceral power of Robert E. Howard the world looks very different. The Eddings were sloppy but a great study in how strong dialogue creates charm (although maybe less of one than Wodehouse, but then less ostensibly humourous).

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