Friday, December 3, 2010

Books on Writing

I've been thinking about this video which has been making the rounds in writing communities:

In the past five years that I have participated in online writing communities of one form or another, I have heard all of those things said at one time or another. Interestingly enough, those people usually disappear rather quickly from the writing community.

I have also encountered quite a few writers who refuse to read any book about the craft of writing. They may have read one or two, but since the method in the book that they read doesn't work for them, they decided that all writing books are bad. Which makes as much sense to me as someone rejecting all Science Fiction and Fantasy because they didn't like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.

Then again, I'm also an engineer and my analytical brain wants to know as much as possible about creative writing. Writer's Digest publishes a lot of really good books about the craft of writing. Some of the writing books that I have purchased have really helped me understand the craft aspect of storytelling. And some have not.

Some writers can sit down without understanding anything about point of view or characterization and churn out a decent first draft. Tolkien sat down and wrote Lord of the Rings from the beginning. When he wrote himself into a corner, he stopped and started writing all over again from the beginning. It took him a long time to write Lord of the Rings, but it worked for him.

Awhile back I beta-read a short story for a writing friend. The feedback that I gave him was, "I don't understand what the story question is in this piece. Where are you taking me and why?" His response was: "What's a story question?"... Okay... On the one hand, it's okay that he didn't know what I was talking about. On the other hand, it makes it difficult for a beta-reader to provide meaningful feedback on a story if the writer doesn't know what the reader is talking about.

It's not mandatory that a writer study the craft of writing, but there's a huge toolkit available to writers, why not try a few of them out? Take what you want and will work for you and leave the rest.


  1. Nice post. I loved Stephen King's On Writing. I can't imagine that anyone who writes or wants to write wouldn't.

  2. Great post! I think it's a good thing to study the craft of writing, even if some of the information you get doesn't work for you.

  3. I haven't read Stephen King's On Writing. Everyone who's mentioned has said that they liked it, so I'll have to give it a looksee.