Books About Writing

Good morning fire writers! I hope you all are gearing up towards a lovely and exciting day. I haven’t gotten much writing done this week and, as inspiration is lacking, I have turned to the words of others to find something to fill the void.

I don’t know about you but I enjoy reading words written about writing. I love author blogs and learning about other writers’ practices/processes. There are a lot of books about writing out there and I thought I would take some time today and summarize a few I have come across and tell you how helpful I’ve found them.

THE KICK-ASS WRITER by Chuck Wendig. Aimed at fiction writers but can be applied to all the poets out there. Wendig provides fantastic insight into the life of a writer, more specifically, how he immerses himself in his characters and stories. He covers everything from the basic fundamentals of writing to the intricacies of dialogue and editing. And he presents his thoughts on writing in an extremely human, humorous, and irreverent tone. This book also has a section about publishing, which is, needless to say, very useful. I haven’t actually read this book cover to cover but it is on my “Keep This Book No Matter What” list.

THE PORTABLE MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING by The New York Writers Workshop. I bought this book before I applied to join an MFA program. I figured, why should I go into more debt if there is a book I can read that will tell me everything I need to know about taking my writing to the next level. Silly me. Here’s the thing, this book is a good writing resource, it covers fiction, personal essay and memoir, magazine writing, poetry, and playwriting. I enjoyed reading the poetry section very much and it gave me a basic foundation for what some of my graduate work looked like. But this book is not a substitute for an MFA program. Mainly because the book can’t network with other students and doesn’t give your manuscript constructive feedback. One of the downsides of this book is that I would classify it as an intermediate level book, in that it expects you to know what a sonnet is and what memoir is. If you are a new/beginning writer, or a writer looking to tackle a different genre, you might want to try some other resources before you read this book. This book is that it encourages you to “improve your craft with the core essentials taught to MFA students” (from the front cover). The problem with this is every MFA program is different. Some are more similar than others but when I was applying for and looking at programs back in 2009 I found that the only core essential that all the programs share to be writing. This does not mean that the core essentials in this book are wrong or bad; it just means that this is one set of core essentials in the vast spectrum of the MFA structure. I found the structure of this book very academically rigorous, which is good because some MFAs don’t require you to do a lot of literary research/analysis. I think the longest paper I wrote for graduate school (not including my thesis manuscript) was 34 pages, which is 8 pages short of my undergraduate thesis.

THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron. I have a love/hate relationship with this book. Let me follow that by saying: it’s not a bad book. Cameron has helpful and interesting tips and insights into why creative people lose the ability to express themselves and how to reclaim the act of expression but there are a few elements of her work that don’t resonate well with me. You might find/have found this book really, really helpful and I will be/am very happy for you if you’ve read it and it’s helped you out. I tried her program three times in the last 2 years and couldn’t get past Week 3. So if it works for you, great! The book details a 12 week course with writing and thought exercises geared towards creative recovery, along with the exercises within each week, the participants are encouraged to write daily, stream of consciousness, “Morning Pages” (Cameron) and treat themselves to weekly “Artist Dates” (Cameron). Awesome! Writing every day is very important and I’ve found the free writing/stream of consciousness style to be very helpful for getting all the crap I’m worried about out of my head so I can think about writing poetry. And taking time out every week to do something fun and creative for yourself is wonderful. But the actual writing exercises and readings in the book are too spiritually oriented for me. Let me also say here that Cameron is very non-denominational and very respectful of the fact that there is more than one religion in the world and people call the “creator” different names. But there are some places where I felt she was relying too much on divine/cosmic assistance to unblock the creativity. As a Buddhist, I believe in interbeing and that everything is connected in this wonderful web of cosmic energy/divinity. But I felt, in some places, that there was a little bit too much reliance on divinity and not enough self-reliance.

And lastly: GRAMMAR SNOBS ARE GREAT BIG MEANIES: A GUIDE TO LANGUAGE FOR FUN & SPITE by June Casagrande. Everyone should have a grammar guide to maintain some level of sanity, but here’s why I like this one the best: within these pages exists the best description of what a semi-colon does that I have ever read! Casagrande makes it so simple; I can’t believe I ever had trouble understanding their purpose before. Part of the reason grammar is fun to read about in this book is that the author interjects personal stories to illustrate grammatical function.

What are your favorite writing books? Is there a writing book that you think gives horrible advice and we should all keep away from it? Share your thoughts with us!

Reminders:

Check out Week Two’s contest guidelines here, you have until Sunday, August 16, 11:45 p.m. EDT to submit your masterpiece.

Voting polls are still open for Week One’s contest. Go vote for your favorite here! Polls close tomorrow, Thursday, August 13, 11:45 p.m. EDT.

If you haven’t already, go check out this amazing time lining practice and an exposition on poetical prose.

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About 409writinglife

Jessica Halsey was born in Arkansas and has lived most of her life in the United States and Panama. She earned a BA in Sociology from Randolph-Macon Woman's College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Would you like to know more?
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3 Responses to Books About Writing

  1. Nine Gates by Jane Hrshfield

    Liked by 2 people

  2. t.s.wright says:

    That last book sounds like something I would enjoy reading.

    I’m glad you made this post. I’m always looking for writing guidance, but I worry that the people making the books have nothing new to share. I follow Chuck Wendig’s blog. I think I even have one of his How-To ebooks. He’s larger than life.

    I have an advice reference to share. I thought of it the first time I read this today and now I can’t remember what it was…

    I’ll come back when I remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • skyllairae says:

      I’m going to do more posts like this in the future, I originally had 6 books I wanted to write about but then my post reached over 1000 words and I didn’t want to bore anyone. I’m looking forward to your recommendation, upon your memory. And yes, Chuck Wendig is amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

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