Friday, 4 July 2008

Essential Reading

Are there any books about publishing, writing, or creativity that you consider essential reading?

If so, post a comment on this thread containing details of the book. As a minimum I'd like you to include the book's title and author, but you could also add further publication details such as the publisher, date and country of publication, or the ISBN.

A brief outline of why you like the book(s) would be very useful, as would some indication of who you think would most benefit from the book, or what it covers. And if you really wanted to go to town, you could include an Amazon link, too. Now that would be really helpful.


Annie Wicking said...

One of the best books I have ever read is 78 reasons why your book may never be published & 14 reasons why it just might.

(Hey I know its a long title but its a great read)published 2005 by Penguin.

Pat Walsh ISBN 0-14-303565-7

I think everyone who wants to be a writer should read this book before they put pen to paper. Pat Walsh isn't a fail writer but a man who knows a thing or two about the publishing world. He is the founding editor of MacAdam/Cage an independent publisher of fiction and nonfiction. The book is like a ice cold shower first thing in the morning, it's a wake up call to anyone who thinks writing is a quick & easy way to make lots of money for a little effort. Each chapter gives it to you striaght between the eyes and kicks you while you're down.i.e.

Your book isn't good enough.
You think too highly of yourself
You think you are a natural
You do not what you are talking about...

If you think you are strong enough get this book and read it because it will make you think twice before you hit the keys or pick up a pen to start writing. It may even save you a lot of heartache too.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

On Writing by Stephen King (ISBN: 0743455967)

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (ISBN: 068485743X)

Wannabe a Writer by Jane Wenham-Jones (ISBN: 9781905170814)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane - here are my suggestions a bit lengthy ( coffee fuelled), but I have found them all super helpful in their own weird and wonderful ways ( you will see what I mean below). All avail on Amazon I think, was too lazy for ISBN's. Also would add that reading good fiction and bio's help, just to help that writing mind click in....

Teach Yourself Writing A Novel (Teach Yourself series)by Nigel Watts - my GUIDE BOOK

- this book is one of the best I have come across. Of course I was put off by the ‘Teach yourself’ logo ( had I really fallen that low, am I some sort of writing ‘snob’? I did question myself). But from the first opening, I knew it was a winner. In my writing group we all just call him plain old ‘Nige’. He goes from the beginnning of novel writing to the end, and is never once patronising, only encouraging, with good sound advice, quotes and assistance without any frills. I think each writing project has its different problems, but there is nothing that Nige can’t shed some light on. Sadly Nigel Watts has passed away ( says in the forward by his wife) but it is a gift he all left us.

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty - MY GET ON WITH IT BOOK

- how could I not go past this title, that and it fit into my smallest handbag! The title doesn’t lie! The book is part of NaNoWriMo or whatever it is ( I can’t refer to my copy as it has taken a sabbatical at someone elses house, which reminds me I want it back). Some of the great things in it are how to deal with procrastination, poncing about and getting on with it. With Baty as your guide, it is a fun read. Yes you can write a novel in 30 days, it may be just a draft and you may annoy your family and friends, but at least you have got on with it and done something about that annoying story in your head.

Story by Robert McKee - MY NARRATIVE BIBLE

- this is a great book narrative structure. It is really about film scripts, but goes the distance for any story telling and I think especially fiction. I try to read it in portions, when I need some super assistance

Mastering Point of View by Sherri Szeman - MY GET THAT VOICE RIGHT BOOK.

-This book cost me $1, the cover is unattractive. But like Nigel, one can’t judge a book by the cover - “shows you how to choose and use point of view to create the most potent, effective fiction possible...” The back cover does not lie my friends.

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron ( or other Julia Cameron)- MY PAT ON THE HEAD BOOK.

-Julia’s books are great across the arts, but are very good when one needs a bit of a pat and a cup of tea and a lie down. Very good for nourishment when the creative juices have run to near empty.

Wabi Sabi for Writers Richard Powell - THE IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT BOOK -

-This books takes the idea of Wabi Sabi, finding perfection in imperfection and suggests walking and noticing the profundity in everyday things. Another great get back up on the horse book, when one is low/ used up/blocked.

Women who Run with the Wolves -Clarissa Pinkola Estes - THE GET IN TOUCH WITH THE SOURCE BOOK

-Pinkola Estes is a story teller and Jungian analyst - she explores fairy tales and the psyche together. I always think when one writes something they are also automatically learning something about themselves.

Tarot and the Journey of the Hero by Hajo Banzhaf Brigitte Theler - THINKING ABOUT ARCHETYPES BOOK

- this book, like the above is handy for how characters work in narrative. Or if writing fails can teach one how to read the Tarot! :) I found it useful to think about how some of my characters are operating within my narrative ( and has nice pretty pictures, rare in writing books)

Anonymous said...

I share debs's recommendation of Jane Wenham-Jones books because a) it's very funny - especially on the vexed topic of writer's bottom - and b) because she says nice things about me in it!

Seriously though, the one book I couldn't be without is The Creative Writing Coursebook. It says it all. The link is here:

Anonymous said...

Bother. Bother. Bother. The link doesn't work but if you type The Creative Writing Cousebook into search line, it will pop up at the top of the list. (I hope.)

Anonymous said...

Or copy and paste the link.

Jane Smith said...

Or even search for the Creative Writing Coursebook.

Drinking again, Sally? Ha!

You're right, it's a great book and I love it. Thanks, all, for your suggestions. I'm off to investigate the ones I don't know, and might add links to those books to the front page as soon as I can figure out how to do it.

Jane Smith said...

Mastering Point of View by Sherri Szeman: Hmmm. This one sounds familiar to me--but for all the wrong reasons.

Ms Szeman wrote an extraordinary novel called The Kommendant's Mistress, which I read when I took my MA. It's hard going sometimes, but I thought it was extraordinarily well-written.

She also ran Rockway Press, which had a few dubious ways of doing business and which collapsed quite spectacularly a couple of years ago. You can read about it all here:

Unknown said...

Donald maass Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and Sol Stein Solutions for Writers

Anonymous said...

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction - I've only just, finally, managed to read it, and it seems to me the original of so much how-to-write teaching and writing that's followed. Rigorous, opinionated, high-minded, beautifully written itself.

I'd second (third? fourth?) The Creative Writing Coursebook for being comprehensive, and the Jane Wenham Jones for encouraging light-heartedness.

Dorothea Brande, Becoming a Writer
The original and best of the Julia Cameron/Artist's Way, Natalie Goldman/Writing Down the Bones school

Another goody of that school is Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Elizabeth Benedict, The Joy of Writing Sex does exactly what it says on the tin, in an area which many writers find very difficult to get right

Some of the best how-to-write books are actually how-to-read ones:

David Lodge's The Art of Fiction

Francine Prose, Reading Like A Writer

Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots is extremely thought-proking, and also extremely argument-provoking

And finally, some realism on the becoming-a-professional-author is good.

Alison Baverstock, Is There A Book In You? is good on the realities of the should-I-go-for-it decision

John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist is a bit dated in the industry details, but how to deal with it all emotionally doesn't change

Betsey Lerner, The Forest for the Trees, An Editor's Advice to Writers is good the whole editor-writer relationship, from writing the thing to being remaindered.

(Jane, I've just spring-cleaned my blog links, and added yours - I have a lot of aspiring-writer and newly published readers, and it's so useful.)

Jane Smith said...

Ah, Emma, you've listed some of my favourites! So far no one has added "Taking Reality By Surprise", which I love, but it's only a matter of time.

Another essential read is "The Mathematics of Love", which is a wonderful book. Now, who was it who wrote that one...? Fiction, rather than a guide to publishing or writing, but still. Buy it, read it, queue up for the sequel. Everyone.

And by the way, thank you for adding me to your blog list.

Anonymous said...

Aw, thanks, Jane.

And you're welcome to the link. The book trade is so counter-intuitive, anything that wises aspiring writers up to how it works, and how to avoid the sharks, is so valuable!

Anonymous said...

I second (or third) the Steven King ON WRITING comment, and would like to add Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. She is brilliant.

Anne Walls
Writer/ Co-Founder

Nicola Slade said...

Couple of books about the practical business of setting out to write a novel; ie practical as opposed to angst and heart-searching. They're aimed at wouldbe romantic novelists but are helpful on the nitty gritty of writing.
Teach Yourself Creative Writing by Dianne Doubtfire.OK the author's name sounds like the heroine of a bodice ripper, but her book is full of practical advice and need not be limited to the romantic genre. Check her out on:

And check out Marina Oliver's guides to writing. Her commonsense approach is excellent and ideal for beginners in any genre.

Anonymous said...

I second the Robert McKee book mentioned above. It's for storytellers in all mediums.

I also second Sol Stein, but the book I'm using is "Stein on Writing" -- Sol Stein ISBN 0312136080. On amazon:

Richie D

Carrie Wilson Link said...

You've got some good ones already - I'd just like to add:

Elizabeth Berg's, Escaping Into the Open,

And Michael Larsen's, How to Write a Book Proposal,

Unknown said...

Hi - I can't see Annie Dillard's The Writer's Life here yet - although it is a bit scary. There's a great conversation between Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron that you can get at I also return to Bird by Bird often...