Friday, February 15, 2013

Writing Books - My Personal Favorites

Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but I've bookmarked Mary Ann's Wednesday Writing Workout. What a fun exercise! Now, back to the topic of favorite craft-oriented books. We all have our personal favorites, of course, and there are certainly enough out there to satisfy everybody's tastes. I hadn't even heard of Carmela's pick, Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook, but I'm going to have to try to find a copy. I'm more familiar with the terrific books on Mary Ann's list, although I've never had the pleasure of reading Marcia Colub's I'd Rather Be Writing. These two are going straight to my (ever growing!) "must read" list. For my own list, I'm going to stick to those books that deal with writing fiction.

When I feel the need for a writing boost, there are books I go back to again and again. But if I were going to be stranded on a desert isle with only three books about the writing craft to read while awaiting rescue (and praying for a cookbook to wash up:  500 Ways to Cook Coconuts), my picks would be:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne & Dave King. This little gem was first published in 1993, but it's no less relevant now than 20 years ago. It's packed with information that vastly improved my writing. Vastly. And it's written in a friendly, chatting-over-the-back-fence style that appeals to me. So many illuminating examples are sprinkled throughout – good, bad, hilarious, and cringe-inducing – that there's no way you can read it and not come away a better writer. How many writing sins did Beginner Me commit? That's for another post.

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, by Lawrence Block. Reading these essays is like picking the brain of a warm and witty, well-published favorite uncle who's willing to cut through the baloney and give it to you straight. He covers every topic I can imagine about writing and the writing life. From selecting a pen name (or not) to speeding up your writing to creating believable characters to "the perils of icebox thinking." I'm not kidding. It's ALL here. An often eye-opening read.

For my third choice, I’d have to go with Stephen King’s On Writing. Half memoir, half instruction manual, candid and, by turns, heartbreaking and funny, this book gives me hope that success can happen for any of us willing to work hard and BELIEVE. And who doesn’t need that?

Many, many other books on my bookshelves beckon, but these three remain my faves.  Since I never studied writing formally, they pretty much provided my writing education, helped get me where I am today. How could I not love them?

Jill Esbaum


Kenda Turner said...

One of my all-time favorites is Jane Yolen's Take Joy, A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft. Super little book!

Jill said...

Me, too, Kendra! I had a hard time deciding between that one and On Writing. Jane writes to all of us in such an accessible way.


Linda B said...

There are so many good books about writing to read and re-read. Thank you for your suggestions too, Jill. They sound good!

Jill said...

So many books, so little time, Linda. :)