The Practice of Creativity

Writing Books: What Are You Reading?

Posted on: October 20, 2014

I never get tired of reading books about writing and/or creativity. Over the last two decades or so I have collected almost fifty books about writing. I enjoy reading how established writers solve the same challenges that I face. Some writing books are old friends that I return to again and again. One of my rewards for completing a particularly demanding set of writing goals is to acquire a new writing book (or two).

I hadn’t bought any writing books in awhile and I let anticipation build up. Below are the writing books on my desk, my new friends.

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Vivid and Continuous: Essays and Exercises for Writing Fiction by John McNally

A few weeks ago, a writing buddy handed me a story that was recently published in The Sun and said, “I think you’d like this. His work reminds me of yours.” Flattery indeed! The story was ‘The Magician’ and it was by John McNally. Although it was not at all speculative, the story had a completely mesmerizing and otherworldly feel to it. I fell in love with it. It was the kind of story that kept me up at night pondering both about the content (about a young girl’s disappearance) and how he made the story hang together (he used the ‘we’,  a plural narrator’s voice, which is unusual, e.g. We never forgot the way she looked). I had never heard of John McNally before, but after reading that one story, I believed I could learn something from him. Indeed, I wanted to learn a lot from him. So, when I saw that he had a book about writing (and he teaches writing at Wake Forest University), I grabbed it. He has published novels and short stories and another book about writing called The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist.

Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated by Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress is a major figure in speculative fiction. She’s best known for her book Beggars in Spain which garnered major acclaim. I have never read her fiction, but have read many of her articles about writing. I finished her book Beginnings, Middles and Ends recently which is one of the most useful books I have ever read about writing. Creating characters is one of my strengths, but I’m eager to learn new tricks.

Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint:  Top of Form: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress

As I said, I’m a fan of her work.

The next two books are considered classics in the field:

From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler

Butler makes a case that in order to write well, you must engage the unconscious and he offers some pretty unique exercises to do just that.

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Ned Stuckey-French

This book explores the crafting of literary fiction. It examines stories by contemporary authors and discusses different writing techniques.

The Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods and Goddesses by Judika Illes

This is not a writing book, but an amazing reference guide. I came across it in the public library two years ago and have periodically checked it out. I never want to return it once I have it in my possession.  A completely fascinating guide to the lore and legend of many magical creatures and supernatural entities. The book covers many cultures. Every time I read a few entries, I get ideas for stories.

So that’s on my shelf. What’s on yours? What writing books are you reading right now or hope to read in the near future?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Responses to "Writing Books: What Are You Reading?"

I’m reading ‘An Author’s guide to publishing’ by Michael Legat, to refresh my memory for my third book, though I have two already published. There is always room for improvement 🙂

Thank you so much for your comment and suggestion. I will check his book out and congrats on your other two books. Yes, we won’t ever give up the idea of improvement as writers until the very end.

Indeed and you are welcome. Thanks 🙂

Although “Story” by Robert McKee is about screenwriting, it has valuable information for fiction and nonfiction writers. It’s one of my favorite books about writing.

Hi Amanda,
Thanks for this comment! I have heard about this book, but haven’t read it yet. Excellent!

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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