Sunday, July 27, 2008

Five Top Books for Aspiring (or Established) Writers

Straight from the horses' mouths: last week I was fortunate enough to be in the audience when a group of agents and editors opined on their favorite writing books, offering a coveted glimpse into their messy, chaotic, or serial-killer-neat-and-tidy minds. The truth is, of course, that they're all looking for the next Harry Potter or even A Million Little Pieces (it did sell, didn't it?) with the twist of the century. Well, make it a little twist. Witty and clever, but little. It needs to be recognizable enough that the audience laps it up, buys advance copies, and blogs ad nauseum about the cleverness. Too different, and it's a snoozer. This is all encouraging for those of us who write, of course, because we've all read Ecclesiastes, and it was bloody depressing to realize that there was "nothing new under the sun" way back when we were all starting out. Joy comes in the morning, however, and with it came these book recommendations. I list them here for you: The top five books on writing for writers...

1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers literally had me writhing. At least my toes curled and I kept saying, "Ouch," as chapter after chapter critiqued yet another one of my cherished writing habits ('Tom Swifties' for one). I have two suggestions for potential readers: (1) bypass "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" completely if you have a delicate ego; (2) if you do read it, stock up on several different colors of magic markers and keep your manuscript nearby. It will soon be streaming with color." By E. A. Lovitt starmoth

2. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler "As a fan of Joseph Campbell and amateur writer, this book really appeals to me. It is more than just a how-to for aspiring novelists, it is a how-to for life. It is geared toward the writing of novels and stories with human drama and interaction, which makes it a bit more specialized." By Kort Kramer

3. The Sell Your Novel Toolkit by Elizabeth Lyon "Elizabeth Lyon's new book, Sell Your Novel Toolkit, provides a detailed roadmap for producing a well qualified query letter, synopsis and tips to manage that all important marketing strategy." By dhanselmo

4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott "I'm hooked on Lamott. She slaps me in the face with her startling revelations, nudges me in the ribs with her unpredictable humor, and prods my frozen little writer's hands back into action with warm compassion. This book won't solve the mechanical aspects of my writing, or lead me on the path of structural excellence, but it will spark my creativity, free my characters to be true to themselves, and, ultimately, shake me from my doldrums back into the writing mode." By Eric Wilson novelist

5. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
"This book is about what motivates writers (and editors) and gives you some insight on how the system works. Lerner talks about different kinds of writers - some rely on instinct or "natural talent", others are driven by anger, hope, or any other emotion. She encourages writers to be brave, to take a chance, but to recognize likewise if you've gone too far over the edge (it's a cliff, after all!). Lerner encourages writers to do their thing. She oozes confidence between the lines that a reader can't help but be caught up in." By Phome


Inland Empire Girl said...

I have two on the list: Bird by Bird and Forest for the Trees. I will have to explore the others. Thanks... I love book lists to add to my collection.

Alex Moore said...

@inland empire girl: do you have anything to add to this list? I know you have a library full:)