Sunday, 19 June 2011

Rhys Recommends... Creative Writing books!

Well I was going to call it Rhycommendations, so... you know. Could be worse.

Right, Creative Writing! I'll say right now, all these Rhycommendations (I will stop now) are of the non-academic variety, mostly.

So after academia, CW books usually fall into one of two camps: instruction and self help.

I'm not sure why it turns out that way, but it does seem to apply solely to this genre. If you were reading for a book about fishing, f'rinstance, they'd probably tell you about the kinds of fish, the bait, equipment, casting out, location, all that stuff. I doubt very much that they give you training in how to mentally prepare yourself to begin fishing, or how to keep on going, even if you've been sitting there for hours or how not to be jealous of your friend's catch. And there probably wouldn't be whole chapters on how best to deal with feelings of rejection. Some days, you just don't catch many fish, no big deal.

People with normal hobbies are probably just a little bit less emotional than your avergae writer, is what I'm trying to say. And if you tend to be a little sensitive, there are some books you should definitely read, and also some books that you shouldn't.

So I've mentioned it before but Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is great, with advice very specific to novel writing, rather than the more generic self help you can get from other CW books. She writes about the Shitty First Draft and professional jealousy and how seemingly endless the writing process can be (that's where the title comes from: take it all one step at a time, and try not to look at the bigger picture too much). And she writes with a very human and quite funny voice, so it's a pretty neat package. Probably less stuff in the way of actual writing advice, but if you're a writer, you probably need the moral support more than anything, right?

If you are a bit of a touchy bugger, I would maybe steer clear of John Gardner's The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, though it  does provide some very practical and pragmatic advice. It's just that that advice is often that you should probably give up writing because you're not serious enough about it. Maybe I was in a bad place when I read it, and it was certainly before my writing-morale-boosting masters course, but I remember feeling a bit like I should probably never write again afterwards... But real people like it, so feel free to ignore me on this.

It's entirely conjecture, but I wonder if this similarly-titled book would leave me feeling confident about my writing...

The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers

 I think probably not.

Another one, which I'm pained to dissuade anyone from reading is How Not To Write a Novel. It is a genuinely funny (actually LOL) book, probably made moreso if you are a writer, or know people who are writers. But after reading about all the stupid things you shouldn't do as a first-time writer, it's hard to remember what you should do as a first-time writer. As a consequence, this book gave me the closest I ever got to The Writer's Block. 

But I was laughing quite a lot, so I wasn't all bad.

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is an interesting writing book/memoir, even if you're not a huge King fan. Though I would say, some of his advice is a little prescriptive. For example, he thinks a writer should write 2000 words a day. Um... some people like to spend time thinking about what they're writing, Stephen! And then he says that we should cut out 10% of all the words when we're revising. Which I would recommend for writers like him (he is kind of verbose), but not everyone needs to cut back. Some people need to add, even. But these quite specific points aside, he does offer some really useful advice and it's always interesting to hear about the lives of other writers, isn't it?

So these have all been novel-related, but I quickly want to mention comic writing books that I have enjoyed, if not actually used to write comic books yet. Firstly, Peter David's Writing for Comics with Peter David (yeah, his name takes up most of the cover), is very entertaining and insightful. PAD (as the messageboard geeks like me call him) is one of the best current (and past) comic book writers and totally knows his stuff, which he delivers in his usual, sarcastic and grumpy way. He is charming. There's also Scott McCloud, who has written on the medium of comics and also about writing them, both in comic form. They are classics, and really go to show what can be achieved in the medium. They're also just good reads.

So I reckon that should be enough to get anyone started... but here are some others, I have read and found useful/enjoyed: Teach Yourself Creative Writing, The Writer's Idea Book, Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Vol. 1, The Art of Dramatic Writing.

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of ScreenwritingAlan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1The Five-Minute WriterThe Writer's Idea Book

I wonder if I read to many of these things...

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