Wednesday, April 2, 2014

BOOKS On Writing

When I started my first novel back in 1984, I didn't give the craft of writing much thought. I figured I'd just write the dang thing then get it published. Okay, laugh if you must, but I was young. Thankfully, I've learned a few things since then.

Reading books on the craft of fiction writing is part of the journey to learning your craft. The same way we study recipes and test them on unsuspecting subjects: our kids and spouses.

I won't bore you with why I think you should read the books below. Would it help if I promised you'll get published if you do? How about: Read the books below and I guarantee you'll become a better writer. You'll definitely be inspired.

In alphabetic order: (read them in any order you like)

  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  2. Character, Emotion, & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
  3. Elements of Fiction Writing by Orson Scott Card
  4. On Writing by Stephen King
  5. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
  6. Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham
  7. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
  8. Techniques of the Selling Author by Dwight V. Swain
  9. The Elements of Style
  10. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

A to Z Challenge


Alex Hurst said...

Those are all on my wishlist, well, except Orson Scott Card's; I just need to buy them. Thanks for reminding me about that. :)

Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan. "B is for Books" is my current post.

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Thanks you for the books pointers. Some interesting names there; I'd really like to know what goes on in Stephen King's head :)
Tasha's Thinkings

Denise Covey said...

#10 is my favourite.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good list. Crap, I've only read one...

Michelle Wallace said...

I've heard about most of these... excepting nos. 2,3 & 8.
Now to pounce on 10 unsuspecting family members on my birthday/Christmas..... LOL

J.L. Campbell said...

Good advice, Joylene. I've read five of these and there are others on my shelf I need to revisit.

Pat Hatt said...

I've seen them all, read two of them too

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I totally agree with the King and the Maass books.

I recently read another good one - YOU'VE GOT A BOOK IN YOU by Elizabeth Sims.

CA Clark said...

I own one and read two others and maybe I will raid the library for the rest. :) Happy alphabet month.

Bob/Sally said...

On Writing and The Elements of Style are two reference books that have made the move with me to every house, office, and desk over the years. Indispensable.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great list. I've read five of them and have Elements of Style on my desk at all times.

Unknown said...

Read and love #1. Will look into the others at my library. Can always use advice from masters. Thanks for the info, and LOL on the recipes. My kids are always complaining about the foreign green bits in their pasta (capers I tell them) or the unnecessary fennel seeds in their chicken (it'll put hair on your least that's what my dad used to tell me.)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Excellent list, Joylene. I don't have Elements of Style, but I do own the Chicago Manual of Style and refer to it often.

Brandon Ax said...

I need to get on this list, sounds like some awesome stuff.

Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

Christine Rains said...

Excellent books. HOOKED by Les Edgerton was also a great help to me in getting the first chapter right.

LittleCely said...

I have read some of these. I have to start putting what I´ve learned into practice. Great list.

betty said...

Thanks for visiting my blog (A Bench with a View) and your kind comments. That looks like a good list of books to read to get further advice on writing. I'll have to make note of them to read a few along the way!

Good luck with the rest of the challenge!


Robin said...

I wrote them all down. Thanks for the list!!!

Chrys Fey said...

I'm so happy you put Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott as number one! That book is simply amazing! :)

Dean K Miller said...

Surprised to say I've read more than a few of these. Wish I'd taken more lessons from them!

I laughed last weekend. After a writing conference where the mantra was "don't open a book with a dream scene, or waking up from one," I continued to read a writing book (Not one listed here) and the example given to hook your reader was a character waking from a dream to find himself now a large beetle. Okay, Kafka is probably better at this than I, but it was humorously ironic!

Anonymous said...

and re: the above comment is one reason I don't read books on how to write or publish. I have taken classes and learned from other writers. And I self publish. I don't have the stamina

Unknown said...

Very cool. I haven't read most of those... this will be a fantastic resource for when I go book shopping next!

I go through spurts of reading how-to books and then get totally burnt out on them. They can be super helpful, but can also be stifling if one lingers too long on them (as I have...)

Anonymous said...

I've read a few of these, but have missed several too -- it'll be fun to look them up next time I feel stuck. (That tends to be when I read them, though like Raquel above I can get burned out on them too.) I also like Lawrence Block's writing books -- or maybe I just like the title of "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit"!
-- Victoria (stopping by on the A to Z Challenge)

SK Anthony said...

Ooh what a great list, I've read a few of them...must get on the others! I always believe in learning as much as we can in our craft. And there's never too much reading or learning in my life, so I love this list ;)

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

I've read Bird by Bird and On Writing - both excellent. I guess I'll have to read the rest since you PROMISED I'd be a better writer!!!

One you might want to add to the list is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It gave me the confidence to finish my first book.

Unknown said...

The only one I have read on this list is Stephen Kings. Thanks for the tips and Happy A-Z trails!

cleemckenzie said...

You have two of my favs: Bird by Bird and Stein on Writing.

Unknown said...

Books on craft are so helpful. I've read a few of these, and I really want Maass's book. Amazon won't download to "Africa" (I'm in Egypt) so I have to hope to stumble across it someday. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Good a-to-z post!
I loved "On Writing" by Stephen King, even tho I am not a fan if reading his fiction (but love the stories);
Agree that the "The Elements of Style" should hang about your writing space!
Thanks, DK

Unknown said...

Ah! I saw this group mentioned on another blog. Glad I stumbled on it. Good luck w/ the A to Z challenge!

A to Z: and

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Ah, Alex, great minds think alike. I'm off to check out your post, B is for Books.

@Natasha, me too. His books scare me, but his quotes always inspire.

@Denise, I love that book!

@Alex, did you say CRAP! LOL

@Michelle, it's probably they're so old.

@Joy, there's something very inspiring about the these books. They never fail to give me hope.

@Pat, that's excellent!

@Madeline, thanks for sharing that. I'll check it out.

@Cecilia, happy A-Z!

@Bob, glad to hear it.

@Susan, awesome.

@Elizabeth, your dad must have known my dad!

@Diane, Elements and Chicago go hand in hand. My copies are looking pretty worn out.

@Brandon, you won't be sorry.

@Christine, great, a new book to check out. Thanks.

@Cely, thanks!

@betty, you're very welcome.

@Robin, glad I could help.

@Chrys, thanks for sharing that. It'll go a long way in helping others recognize Anne's contribution. I should actually read it again. It's been 27+ years, I think.

@Dean, Lee Child said once that a good writer can break any writing rule in a way that works. You're right some of those rules are funny.

@Susan, kudos to you. I read these books primarily because they inspire me to be a better writer. Mr. King's On Writing is awesome and just makes you feel proud to be in the same profession as him.

Anonymous said...

Have read & own three of these - theones by Nancy Kress, Stephen King and Sol Stein. Also have another Sol Stein, and Nancy Kress book is a well-worn bible. Need to check out others - have various Style books but need to go back to the original one day. Hope challenge continues great.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

On Writing is one of my favourite books of all time. Highly recommend it!

Suzanne Furness said...

I'll have to make a note and check these out. Thanks.

ELAdams said...

Of these, I've read Bird by Bird, On Writing, The Elements of Style and Writing the Breakout Novel - and they're all fantastic! I'll have to check the others out.

Liza said...

Bird by Bird is my favorite! Stephen King is right of there, too. There are a few there I haven't read. Thanks for the tips.

Liza said...

"up" there.

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to write a book. It's another to edit, proofread, publish, market etc. There's so much to learn, and it's important to learn from those who know a thing or two about it.

MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Writing Tips
Effectively Human
Lots of Crochet Stitches

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Raquel, so true. There is a proper time to read writing books. Otherwise when would we write?

@Victoria, I'll check out Lawrence's books. Thanks.

@Katherine, so true. We owe it to our readers to be educated about writing. What rules we follow is definitely a personal choice.

@Cathy, yes, I did promise! LOL

@Siv, Happy A-Z to you too.

@Lee, that's good to hear.

@Lexa, thanks. Hope you can get a copy of Breakout Novel soon.

@DK, I can't read Mr. King's horror stories either. But he's a gem at writing.

@Deborah, thanks!

@Roland, Kress is definitely on my larger list.

@Holli, I loved the book. Glad you did too.

@Suzanne, you're welcome!

@Emma, thanks for visiting.

@Liza, LOL, I knew you meant UP.

@MJ, I agree!

Anonymous said...

I read the Stephen King book on this list. Maybe I should give another one a shot.

Anonymous said...

I see you've listed some of my favorites and a couple I need to read. Thanks for the recommendations!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I've only read four of them... eek!

Brenda said...

That first paragraph would be something I would say. I still have the manuscript to the first novel I wrote 20 years ago and while I still love the story plot, I cringe at my writing skills.


Anonymous said...

I've read 1, 4, 5, & 9. I should be a better writer then I am. haha.

klahanie said...

Hi over here, human, Joylene,

Do you realise how difficult it is for me to click on links with my paws? Go put on a pair of mittens and you will understand. Sheesh...

Anything by Stephen King involves run-on sentences that make you feel like you are about to pass out from holding your breath.

Penny, the pawsitive host of the Alphabark Challenge, 2014!

Lisa said...

I've read most of these, and yes, started reading them when I buckled down to get serious about writing as a career. Thanks for the list. Very good. Thanks also for dropping by my blog and commenting!

amy said...

I haven't read them all but the one that's helped me the most is the one by Stephen King.

Lynda Dietz said...

This is a terrific list! I'm going to have to make note of those to go through, one by one. I'll probably start with Stephen King, only because it's the one I've heard the most about.

Though I'm not an author, I like to keep up with the writing advice so I can be a better editor for "my" authors.

Unknown said...

I love Stephen King's book and Bell's and Maass's. They are amazing reads. I have been meaning to read Bird by Bird.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great list of books. Thanks. I've read a couple of them. Will take a look at the others. It's good to have a refresher and learn new ideas.

simple girl..... said...

That is cool.. I haven't read any of those .. Will try and read some of those..Thanks for the list ..

simple girl..... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tonja said...

That's a very helpful A to Z post. Thanks!

jsteck said...

I just heard about Stephen King's book yesterday. I'm going to go to Amazon and order the first book right now. Thanks for the great list. I'm going to save it.

Rhonda Blackhurst said...

So thankful to have stumbled upon this site! Each time I go through On Writing by Stephen King I get something new from it. I'm reading Character, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress right now. Great book!

Julie Musil said...

Plot & Structure is my FAVE! Such a great list. Thanks

PlanetKimberly said...

I have some of these books, but I must get the others. Thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joylene .. I really need to read these - I believe I have one! Thanks for the list .. and yes perhaps these I should add to my TBR list ..

Thanks - cheers Hilary

Anna K. Stewart said...

I've read #1 and #4, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird being my favorite. And #8 has been recommended to me before. Despite the fact that "how to write" books are a guilty pleasure of mine...I haven't heard of the others. Which is awesome...because now I have books to hunt down! :-)

Trisha said...

This post is awesome. I'm pretty sure I haven't read a single book on your list, and I haven't even looked at it yet. heh.

It's definitely one area of the learning process in which I have fallen down!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Lee, I promise, pick any one of the books listed and you won't be disappointed. I've always declared that if you learn one thing, it's worth it.

@Melissa, you're very welcomed.

@Lynda, you probably gained lots just from 4. I tend to overkill.

@Brenda, but what's it fun being young and foolish!

@Sydney, LOL. You probably are.

@Gary/Penny, warf, warf, warf.

@Lisa, you're welcome.

@Amy, me too!

@Lynda, good attitude!

@Kim, Bird by Bird is very old, and yet just as relevant today as it was back when.

@Beverly, hi! Thanks for stopping by.

@Simple Girl, thanks.

@Tonja, thank you.

@Jsteck, great.

@Rhonda, excellent.

@Julie, you're welcome.

@Kimberly, thanks for visiting.

@Hilary, hi! Cheers.

@Anna, super.

@Trisha, here's to lifting you up!

Thanks everyone.

Karen Lange said...

Looks like a great list, Joylene. I have 4 of these, but need to check out the others. Thanks a bunch. I value your input! :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thank you so much for saying that, Karen. What a sweetheart!

Toi Thomas said...

Good post and very insightful list. Thanks for sharing.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks for stopping by, Toinette!