Helpful texts, tools, and resources for the aspiring and seasoned writer.
- The Elements of Style. Strunk and White. Thinking about getting into writing? This book should be the first investment you make. Or at least bookmark this online version. Use it often. You must know the rules before you can break them. Then it’s with purpose and not ignorance.
- Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form. Madison Smartt Bell. Many writing texts make the assumption that the reader is incredibly well-read and only reference stories and books as examples in passing. Split into two sections, one on linear narrative and one on modular, Bell wisely explains his points, provides a story, and then dissects how that story reflects success, failure, or something in between in constructing narrative. His analysis is particularly helpful for the writer wanting to build skill in reviewing their own work.
- On Becoming a Novelist. John Gardner. It’s no wonder than the Grendel author was the chief influence on American short story poster boy Raymond Carver–not only is he a great writer, he’s a great teacher. I prefer this to his guide for young writers because it specifically addresses the challenges of novel writing.
- On Writing: A Memoir of Craft. Stephen King. Immensely quotable, King’s critique of his own work and thoughts on writing as both craft and occupation is accessible and to the point while still being spot on. Warning: it will leave you feeling ridiculously inadequate when you realize how much he reads in a single year while still finding time to write.
- Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction. Although I have heard mixed things about the actual Gotham classes, this book is a great resource if only because it gives a myriad of writing exercises. I know many people cringe at the thought of writing exercises for writing exercises sake. I think that just because it isn’t a fully constructed story doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from the experience, even if it’s just developing your setting and clarifying your intentions. My favorite exercises are the dramatic question and the character questionnaires (available for free here).
Some essays that, while appearing anthologies, are stellar on their own.
- “How to Feed and Keep a Muse.” Ray Bradbury (from Zen and the Art of Writing)
- “Place in Fiction.” Eudora Welty
- “The Shitty First Draft.” Anne Lamott (from Bird by Bird)
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