I’m not usually a neglectful student of the craft.
I go to conferences, I read blogs on the industry, and I follow the two most important things writers need to do to learn about writing:
- Write. Write. Write.
- Read. Read. Read.
I read a blog post recently by a writer, Karen Woodward, who quoted Ray Bradbury as saying,
Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.
This would equal out to be about one million words. She goes into great detail and thorough research about who accurately spoke these words first, but the idea is what’s important. And it’s not just that you write a million words, but that you learn and improve as you write that matters even more. Since I’ve been writing for over ten years (and thankfully my writing no longer resembles the writing from my beginning years) I will gladly check this one off.
You should also always be reading if you want to be a writer. This just can’t be stated enough. You should at least read books in the genre you write in so you know what’s out there. Some of the best books are master classes in writing in themselves, if you take the time to study them. I read a wide variety of books and genres every year, with a high concentration in young adult, since that’s what I predominantly write.
But lately, I have neglected the type of reading that is a bit more functional, and yet still vital to a well-rounded writerly education – the craft books. I have vowed this year to incorporate more craft reading into my routine and even do the writing exercises in the book – which I loathe doing.
Here are five of my favorite books on craft in no particular order:
1. ON WRITING: A MEMIOR OF THE CRAFT by Stephen King
King combines storytelling with teaching here, which makes learning all the more enjoyable. One of the most visual memories from this book focuses on rejections and how when the nail on the wall couldn’t hold any more rejection letters, he got a spike to hold them. Also, when his wife dug his CARRIE manuscript out of the trash. Yeah. His first book almost wasn’t. We all need someone who believes in us from time to time.
2. THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner
I think this was the first craft book I ever bought myself. I liked the cover. (Yes, I judged.) The advice made sense and I felt like a stronger writer afterwards.
3. THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman
This one was a suggested reading for a workshop, I think. Great book. As much attention as agents and editors give to the first five pages of our manuscripts, this book is well worth the time.
4. STEERING THE CRAFT by Ursula K. LeGuin
I just love Ms. LeGuin so much. She had some beautifully profound things to say. In the beginning, she said this of having innate talent:
There’s luck in art. There’s the gift. You can’t earn that. You can’t deserve it. But you can learn skill, you can earn it. You can learn to deserve your gift.
I think I need to go back and reread this one (and maybe be a better student by completing the exercises this time.)
5. SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne & Dave King
Once you have mastered the fear of the blank page and have made it to the end of the first draft, this is the book for you. With chapters discussing topics like show versus tell, POV, and voice, this book is great for those in the revising stage.
Of course, I also have a tattered copy of Strunk and White’s ELEMENTS OF STYLE on my desk that I flip through any time I need a refresher in the basics – my mind can only hold so much. You’d be amazed how many important facts leak out of my brain.
I also have a few good books that have been recommended to me or that have been in my TBR pile for way too long that I vow here and now to read this year:
- STORY by Robert McKee
- ART & FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles And Ted Orland
- WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg
How about you? Do you have any craft books to suggest?
Any valuable tomes on writing that you cannot live without?