Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Books on the Craft of Writing

We've all read 'em... How to Books on the craft of writing.

I am currently reading Richard Peck's Invitations to the World. I'm kinda-sorta enjoying it. Some chapters are about teaching in a world where kids grow up in families without dads or in families with both parents working, so no adults are ever home. He talks about teaching in a world where the present becomes the past in a nanosecond.

Then, some other chapters are about when he was a kid and the vast difference between then and now; How when he was young, you lived in a community and fathers were home for supper at 5:00 and you learned to negotiate life by living it, not by playing virtual versions of it.

Then other chapters are where he quotes himself from his plethora of novels to show this point or that point about character and voice.

So far, it is not moving and shaking my world. As a speaker, Richard Peck is my hero. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He recieved a standing ovation at this year's NJ SCBWI June Conference. But I am finding it hard to remember what I've read in this book. FOr me, the format does not lend itself well for sticktoitiveness. I like the chapters best where he talks about his past. And I even like parts of the chapters where he talks about today's youth. But I find the chapters where he quotes himself indulgent, if I can be so honest.

So, how about it... What are your absolute most favorite, must reads for writers today? If the world were ending and you were allowed to bring one How to be a Better Writer book with you to our new planet, what one would you bring and what did it teach you?


Casey McCormick said...

My favorites are:

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.


The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.

To be fair though, I've only read one other how-to writing book that I didn't like. So I'm not sure how these compare to all the others out there.

Sheri said...

So, Casey, if you had to choose only one, which one would it be?

Thanks for playing along.

PJ Hoover said...

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
Fiction First Aid


If I had to pick one, I'd start with Fiction First Aid, but the other is amazing also.

Jeanie W said...

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is good for dealing with emotional issues as you start up your writing career. Lamott does address the mechanics of writing too, but there are stronger books out there for that.

Such as...
Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Good to read it right before you begin revisions.

Character and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card is another I'd recommend (but I'd still probably read the Browne and King book first). It's very well written. Card has a terrific narrative voice that's easy to read.

I've also read Stephen King's On Writing, but that was after the three books listed above. It was an enjoyable read, but I don't think it gave me anything I hadn't already gotten from the other books.

You ask which one would I choose? Well, I'd start with the Browne and King. But I'm pretty serious about making a career in writing, so I wouldn't stop there. I believe it's well worth the time and money to pore through a lot of books on craft. No one has all the answers, and each book probably contains some piece of advice that won't work for your writing. Reading another book with a contradicting lesson might make you aware of that fact faster than trial and error would.

Sheri said...

Amazing, so far three out of three votes for Browne and King.

This is really interesting and I have a couple books to add to my to be read list.

Kelly H-Y said...

I'm just at the beginning of the newly released 'Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication" by Ann Whitford Paul! It looks quite promising!
Thanks, by the way, for your recent post on my site ... I mentioned this in response to your comment, but didn't know if you'd gone back and checked ... yes, it did end up being mono! You are good!!! And ... I've submitted a picture to the bugman you suggested and can't wait to hear back! Thanks for your help!

Sheri said...

Oh no! Mono! I hoped I was wrong, but it sure sounded like it. How old is he? he seems young to get that though. I hope he is feeling better soon and let me know what the bug man says.

I'm coming over to your blog right now...

Amy Tate said...

That's easy. It would be Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It changed my writing. BTW, check out yesterday's post on my blog. I have something waiting for you.

Sheri said...

Hey Amy,
Love your tree-man! You knew I would.

Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I haven't read that one but it is going on my list right now.

Sometimes I feel like I am being buried under my TBR list!

Amy Tate said...

I don't think you saw it - here's the li

Becky Mushko said...

Definitely Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages followed by Constance Hale's Sin and Syntax, followed by Browne and King's book.

Sheri said...

Oh, Amy, I wonder what I missed. I'll check it out again...

Welcome, Becky. Boy, do I have a lot to read! Everyone seems to vote on the Browne and King so that seems a good place to start.

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous