Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#256) -- Recommended Reading for Writers

What books do you recommend for writers and artists? 
-- republished from Cyber Age Adventures (iHero Entertainment)

Remember the old RIF commercials? The ones where people would hand out books and tell kids that "reading is fundamental"? Well, don't feel bad. They weren't nearly as catchy as selling Pepsi with shots of the bare midriffs of pop mini-divas. Still, that tag line got stuck in my head and stayed with me: Reading IS fundamental -- especially to writers.

Writers read. There's no way around it. And good writers read a lot. They're the kind of readers who can't eat cereal without reading the back of the box, even when it's full of boring health facts and that pyramid food chart. They're the kind of readers who skim even medical journals or GOOD HOUSEKEEPING (though we prefer HIGHLIGHTS if it's available!) while they're waiting in the doctor's office.

But if you want to bone up on your fiction-writing skills, that Captain Crunch or GOOD HOUSEKEEPING may not be the best use of your reading time. Why not check out a few books on the craft or writing?

The A-List

Four particular volumes no serious writer should be without are:

    MAKE YOUR WORDS WORK, by Gary Provost, Writer's Digest Books
    THE KEY: HOW TO WRITE DAMN GOOD FICTION USING THE POWER OF MYTH, by James N. Frey, St. Martin's Press
    THE TRIGGERING TOWN, by Richard Hugo, W. W. Norton & Company (ignore that it's a book about poetry; just read it and see how you learn to listen to your word choices)
    BULLIES, BASTARDS & BITCHES - HOW TO WRITE THE BAD GUYS OF FICTION,  Jessica Page Morrell, Writers Digest Books

Hands down, these are the four most helpful books about writing that I've ever read. Period. And I'm not making a cent off that endorsement.

More Great Writers Guides

Some other great resources I've checked out and recommend include:

    WHAT IF? WRITING EXERCISES FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, HarperPerennial
     THE SCRIBBLER'S GUIDE TO THE LAND OF MYTH: MYTHIC MOTIFS FOR STORYTELLERS, by Sarah Beach
    WRITING FICTION: A GUIDE TO NARRATIVE CRAFT, by Janet Burroway, Harper Collins
    BUILDING FICTION: HOW TO DEVELOP PLOT AND STRUCTURE, by Jesse Lee Kercheval, Story Press
    SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Browne, and Dave King, HarperPerennial
    DIALOGUE, by Lewis Turco, Writer's Digest Books
    THE ART AND FORM OF THE SHORT STORY, by Rick DeMarinis, Story Press
    WORD PAINTING, by Rebecca McClanahan, Writer's Digest Books
    WRITING DIALOGUE, by Tom Chiarella, Story Press
    CREATING CHARACTER EMOTIONS, by Ann Hood, Story Press
    THE AGONY AND THE EGO, edited Clare Boylan, Penquin Books
    ON WRITING, by Stephen King, Scribner

Writing in Tights

Some other helpful books for understand the fundamentals of writing comics and/or superheroes (not that the two are the same thing, mind you):

    UNDERSTANDING COMICS, by Scott McCloud, HarperPerennial
    REINVENTING COMICS, by Scott McCloud, HarperPerennial
    COMICS AND SEQUENTIAL ART, by Will Eisner, Poorhouse Press
    GRAPHIC STORYTELLING, by Will Eisner, Poorhouse Press
    HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, Stan Lee and John Buscema, Touchstone
    WRITING COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS WITH PETER DAVID, Peter David, Impact

So, next time you have to hit up the local medical practitioner for an expensive prescription request, don't waste your time on those picked-over copies of PEOPLE from 1986. Take a good book on the craft of writing. After all, with that family of five in line before you, you'll make it through at least three chapters easily.