Books About Writing That Shaped Me

There are books in my past that acted as guideposts. These books both encouraged and directed my writing. There are many books about writing and I am sure I have just scratched the surface.

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. John was a a prolific teacher and writer. While I don’t care much for some of his writing, his book about the craft is one that I’d recommend to any writer. Why? Because it is not a how to book. He defines levels of literature, discusses truth, basic skills, and writing as a dream. Meaning, writing should be a vivid dream, and so vivid that the reader does not want to wake up. I would purchase this book for the writing exercises alone.

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King. This book is part memoir part instruction. Listening to his struggles from poverty to a multimillion dollar best-selling author. It is not a book about getting rich, but more a book about giving everything to your craft. He did make millions, but he worked his fingers to the bone doing it. If you want to know how dedicated a professional writer is, read this book and do what it says.

Bird By Bird -Anne Lamott. This book is mostly memoir. However, the title was given based on a conversation Anne heard between her father and brother. Her brother was given an assignment for school. It was a study of birds and he had to report on several species. He’d waited weeks to complete it and now it was due the next day. His father told him not to think about the large looming task, but to take it bird by bird. Her father was a writer and knew that to write a novel you look for the next word, not the whole book.

What books to you like? What books put you in the writing mood?



4 thoughts on “Books About Writing That Shaped Me

  1. Awesome post Bob. I have read King’s “On Writing” twice now and it is excellent. Im still busy with Gardner’s “The Art of Fiction”. Another book I hold dear is Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit”. Also a prolific writer, Block has much to teach.

    A couple of years ago I bought Orson Scott Card’s “How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” and it is a good read. Again, the masters are the best to teach us, both from their mistakes and from their successes.

    Thanks again for the article.

    1. Excellent! Thank you for the reply.

      I will have to take a look at Orson’s book. The Art of Fiction changed my world. I named by book the Tale of Calelleth because of his description of what a Tale is. Let me know if you’ve gotten that far and if you like it.

      I have heard about Block’s book but have yet to pick it up. Now I have a reason. How’s the writing going?


      1. I’ll be honest, it didn’t ring a bell, so I checked my library and discovered that I have Gardner’s “On becoming a Novelist” and not his “The Art of Fiction”. I’m not sure how I made that error. Apologies for the misunderstanding. The good news is now I’m curious about it and will buy it this week.

        You won’t be sorry about Block’s book. It is partly responsible for my decision to start writing again.

        I have two novels that I’m busy with: one is an urban fantasy tale and the other, a fantasy. Both linked by the same mythology. Unfortunately, they’re far from finished. At least I’ve completed my primary research for them (which took me about six months) and I’ve written about thirty thousand words in total so far. I’ve a short story that I’m about to complete — I’m about 90% into the second draft. I’ve already made the rookie mistake of editing while writing, but luckily I realised it early enough and allowed the story to flow without interruptions. This is good because I haven’t finished a story in years. If all goes well, I will write two more shorts before I continue on the novels. We will see how it goes. it is definitely not easy and I have found that starting is the most difficult, but once you’re on a roll, it is relatively smooth sailing.

        How about you, you winning the battle?

      2. No apologies needed! On Becoming a Novelist is a good read but I would recommend The Art of Fiction over it.

        One the writing front things have been a bit slow. I have completed my third draft of a novel of 100,000+ words back in Feb but I needed to set it aside and evaluate the audience I was writing for, the tone I wanted, and many more mechanics before I give it the plot and grammar comb through. I think I am at the point that I know the answers to those questions and can now edit properly. I had been working on a new novel, a kids fantasy story where I have about 10,000 words written, which I have decided to lay aside for now. I need to focus on cleaning up and submitting my novel in the next month, though we’ll see.

        In regards to editing while writing I agree and don’t agree with it. You want it as polished as possible, but I don’t think I would have finished the first draft had I edited as I wrote. That would really bog me down.

        Keep me updated on your progress! I will be sure to keep you updated on mine.

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