Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: A recent post on Writer Unboxed asked the question, “Should You Read About Writing?” It’s an interesting topic for discussion, so we thought we’d pose the question here. Do you read books about the craft of writing? What kinds? How many? What sorts of things do you hope to learn? Do you think reading these books has helped or hindered your development as a writer?
P.S. – If you’re interested to know which writing books we’ve previously touted as our faves, visit this Friday Fun post from the archives on writing books that make a difference.
Jamie Wallace: Guilty. I think. Here’s the thing, I definitly BUY books about writing, but I don’t always actually READ them. Apart from the favorites I mentioned in the post noted above, most of my Writing Books Collection consists of partially-read or never-read books that seemed like a good idea/lifesaver/font of wisdom … at the time. I don’t have any particular prejudice against these books, nor do I believe they contain the secret formula for success. As the author of the Writer Unboxed post pointed out, if reading books about writing was all it took to be a great writer … well, you get the idea.
Diane MacKinnon: I love reading books about writing. I love reading magazines about writing (wasn’t that last week’s question?) My favorites are the ones like Bird by Bird and Writing Down the Bones, the ones that just say, “get your butt in the chair and write!” But I also enjoy books on craft and process, and even grammar books. I love grammar books: Sin and Syntax and everyone’s old favorite, The Elements of Style. Also, I love a gem I found in the UConn bookstore when my stepson was there: A Troubleshooting Guide for Writers: Strategies and Process. I don’t read writing books but I usually take one or two of them when I go on vacation.
Deborah Lee Luskin: First of all, I don’t think it’s helpful to “should all over yourself.” I do, however, read writing books when I need the inspiration such books offer. I’ve reviewed a few on this blog: Bird by Bird, Writing to Change the World, Unless it Moves the Human Heart. I’ve also enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing, John McPhee’s essays about craft that have been running in The New Yorker lately, and Michel de Montaigne’s Essays (not strictly about writing, but inspirational). My caveat: the books on writing have to be well written themselves.
Julie Hennrikus: Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Lamont’s Bird by Bird are both favorites of mine. For mystery writing, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, Hallie Ephron’s Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, and Chris Roerdon’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery are all great. I don’t read them as much now (though I will be looking at the editing chapters again soon), but I found them very, very helpful. Just remember that there isn’t a right way to write. There’s your way.
Wendy Thomas: This one is easy, the answer is YES. Absolutely. And not only should you be reading books (and magazines) on the craft of writing but you should also be applying what you learn to what you read (which will eventually allow you to apply it to what you write.) Honestly, because of my craft reading, I can no longer read a book without seeing how it was constructed. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen.
Not only should you read books about writing, but you should find a co-writer confidant with whom you can discuss what you’ve discovered. My writing has gotten so much stronger because I have a friend who loves to dissect writing as much as I do and we share ideas and articles with each other.
Some of my favorite resources? Anything Larry Brooks writes (Storyfix.com) He’s currently offering a free ebook that breaks down his last published novel. Invaluable information on the mechanics of story construction. He also write Story Engineering and Story Physics which are two of my writing bibles.
I also like Blueprint your Best Seller – it’s a very mechanical book that describes exactly how to design a story and the technical writer in me loves the approach.
And of course the monthly writing magazines, I still pick up a tip or two from each issue.
Susan Nye: At this point, I’m so busy writing, reading fiction and memoir and living that I don’t have time to read about writing. Or at least, I don’t make time to read about writing. Perhaps it’s the rebel in me, if it’s a should – it’s not for me.