First, I asked, “What makes a good writing instruction book?” I had a reason for asking this question. I plan to write a series of reviews on writing books for The Blood-Red Pencil and wanted to know how other writers evaluated such books. Here are some of the responses:
I want to thank everyone who responded to this question. I'll keep your measures in mind while reviewing writing books over the next few months.
“I judge a good instruction book on clarity, specifics, and inspiration. It doesn't do the reader much good if the only information given is a generalized 'Write the best you can.' or 'Make sure your story works on the Macro level.'”
-Diana L. Driver, Ninth Lord of the Night
“It needs to spark a "aha" moment for whatever problem I'm having at the moment. Hopefully it will spark more than one.”
- Pauline B. Jones, The Key, The Men in Jeans series
- Susan Brassfield Cogan
“A good writing book is filled with clear examples that show what the author is trying to say. It also has exercises for the reader.”
Next I asked, "What is your favorite writing instruction book – and why?" There was a hands-down favorite, but I also learned about some interesting texts that are not yet in my library.
“Don't Sabotage Your Submission and Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. She gives a virtual checklist of mistakes that can kill your writing, if not caught.”
- Kathryn Lilley, The Fat City Mysteries
“Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins. It approaches characterization using the acting methods of Stanislavsky.”
- Cathy Bryant
"My favorite is "On Writing" by Stephen King. It is my Bible for writing style."
- Marvid D. Wilson, Owen Fiddler
“One of my favorite reference books is The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict. It really helped me write solid and meaningful love scenes.”
- Sean Harris
“My two favorites are Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury and On Writing by Stephen King. Both provide a personal view of writing and writing habits, as well as great advice on how to write.”
- J. M. Cornwell
“Playwriting: The Structure of Action - it does so much for me, I hardly know where to start. Even though this is a playwriting book, it helps me with character and action and also with how I "hear" my words when I write. It's a great book.”
- Rebecca Airies
“The book I always recommend to my students is Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. It's funny, eminently useful, and covers topics such as "the writing life" as well as the nuts and bolts of fiction.”
- Julia Spencer-Fleming
So there you have it – a fine list of favorite writing texts from published authors. Can you add to the list? Please use the comments link below to share your favorites.
Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, Publicity Director for The Final Twist Writers Society and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:
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