What I’m Reading: Books About Writing

If you want to learn about story-telling, these are some good books about writing. If it’s all the same to you, read them in this order (that’s what I did):

William Zinsser, On Writing: A classic. Indispensable for understanding grammar, how to write simple prose, how to structure your pieces and how to edit.

William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style: Another classic. Grammar, grammar, grammar.

Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference and A Pocket Style Manual: I bought both of these during college, when I was writing formal academic papers. They will assist you with grammar, style, citations and the like.

Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work: Great discussion of process. Offers examples of working schedules from such creatives as Thomas Wolfe, W.H. Auden, Carl Jung, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville and about a thousand more.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers: Discussion of structure for fiction and movie writing. Centers around the ancient structure of myths and early stories, based on the work of Joseph Campbell.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces: Combines ideas in modern psychology with Campbell’s work in comparative mythology. Will help you understand the elements of character creation and development as well as story structure.

Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey: A response to Campbell’s work, Murdock proposes competing psychology ideas from a women’s studies perspective. Great for character creation and development.

Michael Tierno, Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets from the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization: Provides insight on plot structure, based on the writings of the Greek philosopher and critic. Great if you don’t have time to read all of Aristotle’s Poetics… which I, unfortunately, haven’t gotten around to.

Dan P. McAdams, The Stories We Live by: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self: Discusses why we are how we are and posits various archetypal personalities. Great for character creation.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: A beautiful, journal-style chronically of the author’s journey. Combines specific instruction with broad life-lessons. Similar to what I have done with this essay (LINK).

Gotham Writers’ Workshop, Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School: More complex ideas about all the elements of writing (Plot, Character, Point of View, Description, Dialogue, Setting, Pace, Theme). Uses examples.

[I have read all the above books cover-to-cover and thus can recommend them in their entirety. I have many more books on writing waiting to be read, so check back as I will update this list as I can.

That list includes Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves; James Wood’s How Fiction Works; E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel; Henry Miller’s On Writing; Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!; Colum McCann’s Letters to a Young Writer; George V. Higgins’ On Writing; Stephen King’s On Writing; Ernest Hemingway’s On Writing.

If your read them before I do, let me know how they are.]

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