Writers have extensive libraries. It’s a part of who we are. We have books in the genres in which we write, books outside of the genre in which we write, research books, and we have how to books. We LOVE our how to books. Even when we should put them down and just write, we can’t pull ourselves from learning our craft from experts.
Every writer has a list. Books that touched them and sent them down a path of no return in terms of their growth as a writer. I’m no different. Les Edgerton quotes some of my favorites in his book, Hooked, so it made me think about my list, my top ten, as it were. Here are the first five:
On Writing by Stephen King: Brevity is probably the surprising aspect of this part autobiography/part book on writing King penned after a horrific crash nearly took his life. When you look at the average length of his works, this book’s length is a picture book next to an unabridged dictionary. Still, he is classic King throughout offering tongue in cheek humor and dead serious professionalism about the craft. He offers up his own work in draft form as examples of the editing process. If you’re not afraid of climbing into the dark mind of genius, this is a must read.
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway: This is perhaps the most comprehensive how to book I’ve ever read. I read it my first semester of grad school, and she blew me away with her insights. It’s like a mini writing class. I especially love the organization of the book. She takes an aspect of the craft; for instance, characterization, and she talks about it. Then at the end of that section, she has several pieces which best exemplify what she’s tried to teach you. I never put this one away because I am always referring back to it. It’s doggy eared, highlighted, scribbled in and my most used book.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas: This guy is the guru of agents. Not only is he a well-respected agent, a hot ticket on the conference scene, and a great writer, he appears to have unending energy. This book offers signposts for those seeking to find a way to make their novel break free of the pack and find success.
The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maas: This is another great book to use for revision. I’ve used the exercises in it for my writer’s group as we do rewrites of our WIP. Some of my best writing has come from these pieces. If you want to find your way down to the core of your writing, this book is a great way to start.
Hooked by Les Edgerton: If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m reading this book. I’m moving slowly - school year and I’m teaching six days a week – but I’m experiencing high levels of excitement from what I’m learning. Honestly, given the ADD nature of people today, you need to have everything on your side when it comes to your book. Getting the reader hooked isn’t just a good idea, it’s imperative. Read this book!
Next time I’ll provide the bottom half of my top ten. Tell me, what books are on your writer’s bookshelf?