Books on Writing

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Books on Writing

Postby Wordtrip » Fri Apr 25, 2003 8:59 am

This thread is for linking and reviewing books on writing. Share with others what books have worked for, and inspired, you.
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For Writers Only, By Sophy Burnham

Postby Wordtrip » Fri Apr 25, 2003 9:07 am

For Writers Only, By Sophy Burnham
I finished this book over a week ago, and I've still got it checked out of the library cause it has such great little quotes and such in it.
It's less of a guide on how to WRITE, and more on how to BE A Writer. Touching on the philosophy of writing more than the mechanics. Thoughts and ideas on getting started, getting over writers block, how long to write, how to find your muse, etc, etc, etc. I LOVED this book, and I copied out a bunch of quotes from it that I have taped beside my monitor here in my cubicle at work. It's a nice easy read, broken into wonderful little sections that make it almost useful as a writers daily devotional (not spiritual devotional.. but a writing one). This is another one I think will soon join my family library.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from it.
----------------------------------------------------

It's nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.
---Shirley Hazzard

It takes a heap of loafing to write a book
--- Gertrude Stein

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
--- E. M. Forster

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.
--- W. Somerset Maugham

Talent is a question of quantity. Talent does not write one page; it writes three hundred.
--- Jules Reynard

Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead
---- red smith

All my major works have been written in prison..... I would recommend prison not only to aspiring writers, but to aspiring politicians, too.
--- Jawaharlal Nehru

God has promised forgiveness tor your repentance; but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination
---- St. Augustine

Walking on water wasn't built in a day
--- Jack Kerouac

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.
---- W. Somerset Maugham

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down..... If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.
--- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Almost anyone can be an author; The business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.
---- A. A. Milne

I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.
---- Cormac McCarthy

The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.
--- John Steinbeck.


We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.
--- Rejection slip from a chinese economic journal, quoted in the financial times.

An author is a person who can never take innocent pleasure in visiting a bookstore again. Say you go in and discover that there are no copies of your book on the shelves. You resent all the other books --- I don't care if they are Great Expectations, Life on the Mississippi, and the King James Bible---that are on the shelves.
---- Roy Blount, Jr.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
---- Anonymous
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The Plot Thickens: 8 ways to bring fiction to Life, By Noah

Postby Wordtrip » Fri Apr 25, 2003 9:08 am

The Plot Thickens: 8 ways to bring fiction to Life, By Noah Lukeman
I read this book a month or so ago and really liked what Noah had to say about writing. The author is an editor so he obviously knows at least what is necessary to publish, and as the author of "the First Five pages" I'm guessing he knows how to write as well (though I've not read TFFP I have heard good things about it).

The first two chapers of this book do a GREAT job of getting you thinking about your characters, by putting you in various roles (Dr, Police, Blind Date) and having you ask the questions about your character that those people would ask. The inner life section (chapter #2) gets into the motivations and inner workings of their mind, etc. There's not a lot of prose in this, but there is some wonderful stuff on getting into your characters heads.

After that Lukeman goes into how to apply those characterizations and how to work them into the book. Things like how other percieve each other, how often the person is going to be in the book, major and minor characters and what level of development is appropriate for each.

Chapter 4 goes into the journey, explaining the basic premises of the major styles of journey, Profound journeys, Surface journeys, why the journey, the circumstances around the journey and such. Does a good job of pointing out where new authors usually come up short in these departments, and how to migrate your journey from one type to another.

Suspense, creating it, how long to let it carry on, etc is the 4th "way to bring fiction to life"

Conflict, discusses the ways of creating conflict (i.e. Having conflicting character, group dynamics, forced to be together, conflicting objectives, raising the stakes of objectives, power struggle, competition, etc)

#7 is context, taking your characters, conflict, journeys, etc and placing them in the right context for your story. Sometimes this means cutting them out of the writing altogether as they don't really HAVE a place in your story, no matter how great your prose was.

#8 Transcendancy, that hard to nail down aspect of works that makes them "timeless" something that even though the technology and the world the book lives in is so different from your own that the characters and problems are so universal that people continue to identify with them.

The appendices even have reading lists of good books on writing, and just good books that have been written well and will help you get a good FEEL for the craft.

I really enjoyed this book and felt like I got a good deal out of it, it is one I got from my wonderful library system but one I will probably end up adding to the family library soon.
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Words Fail Me, by Patricia T. O'Conner

Postby Wordtrip » Fri Apr 25, 2003 9:10 am

Words Fail Me: what everyone who writes should know about writing, by Patricia T. O'Conner

Another book on writing... been reading a lot of these lately. This is another book somewhere between Lukeman's "The Plot Thickens", King's "On Writing", and Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style". O'Conner breaks down into 3 parts (and many chapters per "part) the act of writing.
Part 1: Pull yourself together; know what you're writing, know who you're writing for, Get organized, Starting, And checking of progress.
Part 2: The Fundamentals; All about the grammatical issues of writing, picking good verbs, dealing with time and place, pronoun issues, sentences and paragraphs, etc, etc
Part 3: Getting Better all the time; More theoretical issues here, like the rythem of writing, the point of view, continuity, writer's block, etc, etc

Suprising how good I've done in finding books on writing that I've been able to find good information in. They don't all agree on everything, but there are good bits of info in most of them, and this one has a plethora of good tidbits to re-read on occasion and keep in mind when writing.

One of my favorite quotes from this book
"It's easy to find throwaways in your writing --- just use the search function in your word processor and look for very, a little, a bit, pretty, somewhat, sort of, kind of, really, rather, and actually. If a word does nothing but take up space, it's disposable. So dispose of it."
--- Patricia T. O'Conner Words Fail Me.
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The Forest For The Trees - Betsy Lerner

Postby Wordtrip » Fri Apr 25, 2003 9:11 am

The Forest For The Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers - Betsy Lerner

I've been reading this book for several days and have GREATLY enjoyed it. While it certainly isn't the easy read that "On Writing" by King is, or as philisophical as Sophy Burnhams "For Writers Only", it has a ton of wonderful information and insights into the writing and publishing process. The book is broken into two parts, one on writing, the other on publishing.

The writing segment looks at some of the writer styles, not as a style of the word on the page, but a look at the character and psyche of a writer. The Ambivalent, Natural, Self-promoting, Neurotic, and more, are all touched upon, with great insight as to how to overcome your weaknesses and employ and enrich your strengths as a writer.

The section on publication I found very informative, giving great thought to each step of the process once the "writing is done". Betsy speaks with candor of the difficult nature of the process for all involved, and feels like an Aunt giving you advice when she finds out your dreams, wise and learned, close enough to care about your feelings, but not so close as to give you false calm and assurances.

I was intrigued by her description of Phillip Roth's " Portney's Complaint" and think it will go on the reading list.


Favorite quotes/lines from the book:

Cocteau - "Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the critics don't like and cultivate it. That's the only part of your work that's individual and worth keeping." (pg 69)
"Asking what editors want is a little like asking what women want." (pg 182)
John Cheever - "My definition of a good editor is a man I think charming, who sends me large checks, praises my work, my physical beauty, and my sexual prowess, and who has a stranglehold on the publisher and the bank," (pg 209)
Bernard Malamud when asked if the narrative is dead - "It'll be dead, when the penis is."
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On Writing: Steven King

Postby Wordtrip » Fri Apr 25, 2003 9:15 am

I read this book a month or two ago and recently checked out the Audio book from the library to listen to in the car and while I'm on the treadmill. One of the first things I discoverd when I read this book was that Steven King's mother's maiden name was Pillsbury which isn't that common, and is also my last name. He has a wonderful book here with a sort of an autobiography of his life as a young boy and his path to becoming a writer. He then goes on to talk about specifics of writing, write every day, read Strunk and White's Elements of Style and use it, and many other bits of advice.
This is well written and I purchased it soon after I returned it to the Library, of course I then loaned it to a writing friend who is still reading it.
waterbaby

Postby waterbaby » Wed Jun 04, 2003 10:14 am

I have read and "done" The Artists Way by Julia Cameron which was incredibly helpful for getting my "writing life" back on track and understanding where my fears & blocks were coming from.

It's a 12 weeks course and requires you to undertake "morning pages", 3 handwritten pages of whatever fills your head first thing in the day. It's been years since I've kept a journal and now I get cranky if I don't write everyday! It also has a series of activities and assignments to help get your creativity flowing and encourages to look at your situation and make gentle changes to your life and lifestyle. This book changed my life. After reading it, I moved to China to teach English at a university so that I would have lots of free time to write. China didn't work out for me... but the writing lifestyle is still growing on me.

I have since read another Julia Cameron book, "The Write to Write." It follows the thread of The Artists' Way and takes on a holistic approach to living and writing, treating them as one.
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Postby charlesp » Wed Jun 04, 2003 4:11 pm

I like the sound of the morning pages... after reading the King book I was motivated and writing my 1000-2000 words a day... but then I got sidetracked on a short story and my novel has been almost entirely dormant for a month or so. I like that idea of writing whatever comes into your head... though I don't think I could do it handwritten, I'm too much of a computer junkie to write that much with pen and paper (not to mention my handwriting is difficult for ME to read, and i'm about 10 times as fast on a computer as I am with a pen).

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
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ok I just picked this up

Postby charlesp » Tue Jul 01, 2003 9:17 pm

I just saw this at the library and grabbed it... started reading a bit last night and it looks like it might be pretty good.

Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a writing life
By Terry Brooks

Looks much in the vein of On Writing: A memoir of the Craft by King... part story of a writer part writing advice.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
blackswan

Postby blackswan » Mon Feb 16, 2004 3:53 pm

On Writing--Stephen King.

It's like the best book on writing, and I thank FedRec for putting it before I could...oh well. It's wonderful, really. The best. Read it, even if you're not a fan of Stephen King's work.
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Postby charlesp » Mon Feb 16, 2004 4:37 pm

I haven't added Bird by Bird on this thread yet... but I've got a whole review of it up
http://wordtrip.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=142
Another amazingly good book on writing.

CharlesP

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
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No More Rejections

Postby charlesp » Fri Apr 09, 2004 9:36 pm

I was at the library in the last few days and picked up a new book on writing... don't know if anybody ELSE has seen it, but thought I'd throw in a link here. I'll give comments once I actually read some of it.

Title: No More Rejections: 50 secrets to writing a manuscript that sells
Author: Alice Orr

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
Inkslinger

Postby Inkslinger » Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:22 am

I must be the only writer who didn't like Bird by Bird. I felt it had nothing to offer.

I Stephen King's On Writing, too. It motivates me.

I also like The Writer's Book of Days. It has a prompt for each day of the year. There are also tips, quotes, and info about how successful writers write.
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Postby kexxy » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:20 am

Here are writting books I DO NOT RECOMEND! "Poem Crazy" or Poetry for Dummy's" both are useless.

I love stephan King! Just reading what he write in the back of TIME magazine, makes me want to write!
Dont "should" on yourself,
Dont "Should" on others,
And NEVER let anyone,
Should on you!
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Postby TheMudge » Sat Apr 10, 2004 10:50 am

Inkslinger wrote:I must be the only writer who didn't like Bird by Bird. I felt it had nothing to offer.


You're not totally alone: I'm a Anne Lamott fan--I'm the one who turned CP on to her in the first place--but I wasn't that impressed by BBB, either. I won't say it had nothing to offer--she DID go through the basics that EVERY writing book goes through--but there really wasn't much in the way of NEW there. It was entertaining, for the most part--a good, easy read--but it didn't inspire me the way SK's book did.

A similar book which I thought was honest and decent is Marcia Golub's "I'd Rather be Writing". I found it to be maybe half-way between King's and Lamott's respective books, in terms of inspiration.
"Throughout history, Truth and Love have always won." - M. Ghandi

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Postby Mlou » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:41 pm

Just now, I'm reading Dwight Swain...Creating Characters.
It amazes me that there are so many "How-to=write" books, all telling you essentially the same thing, yet they continue to sell, and to generate more of the same.
Guess we're all searching for the magic key! :o)
nothing is ever simply Yes or No. There's always a But...


GINGERBREAD MAN by Mary Lou Healy at Amazon.com http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping/ ... ogid=16658 at Publish America
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Postby Violinagin » Tue May 11, 2004 5:42 pm

"The Forrest for the Trees" was one of the best books I've read about writing. Huh. Funny thing is, I'm still reading it!
Aiden

Postby Aiden » Tue May 11, 2004 5:48 pm

I've been reading "Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life". It's a lot of fun, especially for a Penuts fan like myself. It has both comic strips and short essays by popular writers sharing their views on the different aspects of writing life.
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Re: On Writing: Steven King

Postby Nephtalius » Tue May 25, 2004 4:02 am

BFedRec wrote: One of the first things I discoverd when I read this book was that Steven King's mother's maiden name was Pillsbury which isn't that common, and is also my last name.


Are you any relation to Harry Nelson Pillsbury, the great chess player??
Ethics are so annoying. I avoid them on principle. -- Bucky in the Get Fuzzy comic strip.
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Postby charlesp » Tue May 25, 2004 8:42 am

hmmmm don't know... another relation to look into.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
"Coffee is sufficiently advanced technology" - Merlin Mann
One day I realized that sadness is just another word for not enough coffee." - Wally (Dilbert)
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Postby Nephtalius » Wed May 26, 2004 1:05 am

If you ever get around to it, I would be interested to know what you find out. Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1872-1906) is one of my chess idols. He didn’t learn to play chess until the age of sixteen. (Most great players start at four or five.) He was the best player in the U. S. by the time he was twenty.

He hungered for a world championship match against Emmanuel Lasker. The match was finally arranged in 1904. Pillsbury was only thirty-two, but he was in very poor health and proved no competition for Dr. Lasker. He never played chess again, and died two years later.

Pillsbury’s fans said he was an eidetic, though he made no such claim himself. The incident in which he proved he was is probably the most famous story in chess history.

Two researchers (along with several witnesses) approached him a few minutes before a chess tournament. They asked him to help with a memory experiment. They would read a list of words, and see how many of them he could remember. One of them read the list - once only. Pillsbury repeated the entire list, pronouncing every word correctly. Then he recited the list backwards. He went off to play in his chess tournament. When the tournament ended, the next day, the two researchers wanted to see if he had retained any of the words on the list. He again recited the list backwards and forwards.

This is the word list:

Antiphlogistine
Periosteum
Takadiastase
Plasmon
Ambrosia
Threlkeld
Strepococcus
Straphylococcus
Micrococcus
Plasmodium
Mississippi
Freiheit
Philadelphia
Cincinnati
Athletics
No war
Etchenberg
American
Russian
Philosophy
Piet Potgelter's Rost
Salamagundi
Oomisellecootsi
Bangmanvate
Schlechter's Nek
Manzinyama
Theosophy
Catechism
Madjesoomalops
Ethics are so annoying. I avoid them on principle. -- Bucky in the Get Fuzzy comic strip.
WELTY69

Postby WELTY69 » Sun Sep 11, 2005 10:48 pm

Chris Baty's No plot no problem, is a great read. He came up with national novel writing month. 50,000 words in 30 days... takes you thru it week by week with tips and help.
WELTY69

Postby WELTY69 » Sun Sep 11, 2005 10:50 pm

the book below is a great insperation it has lots of famous writers telling some of thier storys on how to never give up. a great read.
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Postby Delaney » Sun Sep 11, 2005 10:51 pm

I have that one!
<i>It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people. - Terry Pratchett</i>
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Postby Weenokee » Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:59 pm

Has anyone read The Portable Writer's Conference? It's a good read. It was
actually one of the first books I read when I became serious about writing.
There are alot of tips, and just general info about writing. Alot of authors have
there own space in this. :)

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