There are a ton of books out there telling you how to write, what kind of writing you should be doing, how to write a novel in 30 days, etc. etc. I have read quite a few of these creative writing books. Some of them I read in undergrad when I was an English major at Kennesaw State University, some of them I read in grad school when I was getting my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans, and some of these I read just for my own enjoyment.
I’d like to talk about three of my absolute favorite creative writing books.
From Amazon: For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice —”it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind.”
This book is great because it is broken up into little sections. You can read them all in order or you can skip around. One of the best things for me about this book is that it introduced me to the idea of writing marathons and it made me really feel differently about journaling. I was in a writing group about eight years ago, and we would meet to have writing marathons based on the exercise Goldberg talks about in this book. We would also do exercises like seeing who could fill a notebook in a month. It was this book and this writing group that really helped me to take the frequency of my writing up to a new level, which really did a lot for my writing practice.
From Amazon: A how-to book on dramatic writing
This book was introduced to me by a playwriting mentor when I was a playwriting apprentice at the Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, and the selections he had us read were extremely helpful to me. I didn’t read the book in its entirety though until my playwriting workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as part of my MFA program at UNO. The way he talks about the premise of a play, how characters are constructed to create conflict, and exercises like The Bone Structure really changed the way I thought about writing. While this book is primarily talking about playwriting (and a little screenwriting/writing for television), the ideas that are presented in this book apply to fiction as well (as we saw in my last post about character where I discussed Egri’s Bone Structure.)
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
That quote above pretty much sums up why I love this book. This book was not introduced to me by a creative writing professor or a playwriting mentor, but rather, by my therapist. The book is filled with brilliant advice on writing, but there’s also a lot of great thoughts about life in general and the importance of being in the moment. The idea of being in the moment is a great practice, not only for living, but especially for writing. It’s important to appreciate each step in the writing process, whether you are scribbling notes for a first draft, revising, throwing away an entire draft and starting from scratch, getting a critique on your work, rethinking the way you are telling a story, or holding a copy of your published novel in your hand. I think this book expresses that idea very well.
So there you have it. Three of my favorite creative writing books!
What are your favorite books about writing or art instruction? What books have taught you the most about your craft?
- Creative Writing Prompts – Supercharge Your Creative Writing Today (testprep.answers.com)
- On Creative Writing (rosevoc2.wordpress.com)
- A Blog Post About The Creative Writing Process (nicecuppatae.com)
- Enhance Your Creative Writing Skills (homework.answers.com)