MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guest Post: Ten Books I'd Recommend

By Christine Cook

Because I'm a writer, I love books. Borders cannot point to me and say I am the reason their bricks and mortar stores are having problems. I cannot keep my house stocked with enough bookshelves to house all the books I own. And I have passed this love on to at least one of my children as well.

One category of books where I own more than my fair share is that of How-to writing books. It goes with the territory, I suppose. These are the books I can write off on my taxes as a business expense, right? But I can tell you unequivocally, there are some very good books in this category, and some books that I probably shouldn't have wasted my money on.

In keeping with my "no criticism" mantra, I will not go into the books it's not worth buying. Instead, I here present my list of ten books I think every writer would want to own. They are in no particular order in this listing. But I think they're worth every penny of your hard-earned cash:

1) WRITING DOWN THE BONES, by Natalie Goldberg. I bought this book shortly after I graduated from college and settled down into marriage, during a writer's block time for me. By the time I finished reading the preface, I'd put the book down and picked up a pen. I use it with my writing classes.

2) THE ARTIST'S WAY, by Julia Cameron. I've mentioned this book several times in my blog. Every writer should go through this program at least once in their careers.

3) A WRITER'S TIME, by Kenneth Atchity. An organizing book for writers. This book is another one of my oldy-moldies, but I still go back to it from time to time. Most valuable for me is the section about balancing more than one writing project at a time.

4) THE WELL-FED WRITER, by Peter Bowerman. Mark Terry mentioned this one in his blog recently, which made me go back and reread it. It's an empowering book about making a go of things freelance, but his methods are not for the faint of heart.

5) PLOT, a Writer's Digest book, and sadly, I don't remember the author's name. This is a great book outlining how to create story arcs. It's indispensable, not just for those who are new to the craft.

6) SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder. This is actually a screenwriting book, but his plot devices can be modified to create gripping, winning plots for novels, too.

7) THE THIRTY MINUTE WRITER. Again, I can't remember the author's name, but she explains how to make money writing during little periods of time you can carve out during your day. This is another empowering book, a little like Bowerman's book for people who just want to get their feet wet.

8) HOW TO WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL, by Michael Larson. This book has a step-by-step plan for creating non-fiction book proposals, and includes a good section on how to write query letters.

9) WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, by Donald Maass. This book I hesitated to put on the list. It's a great book that outlines what goes into making breakout fiction that will sell. The biggest problem is that I feel overwhelmed when I try to put all his ideas into implementation.

10) Actually, I lied. I'm just going to give nine books today, because, frankly, I'm running out of time before I post. But this opens up a slot in case anyone wants to get in on the conversation. Is your favorite BIRD BY BIRD? Or A WRITER'S BOOK OF HOPE? Or John Gardner's THE ART OF WRITING FICTION? You tell me...

And the 10th Book Is...

Sorry that I had to exit so abruptly last time, mid-list. My tenth book I think every writer should have a copy of is THE WEEKEND NOVELIST, by Robert J. Ray. My first copy of this is so dog-eared that I have had to reassemble it with scotch tape twice, and it's due for another renovation.

I have used this book to successfully complete three books so far. I use it to teach my writing students how to create a novel as painlessly as possible. The original version of this book has it all, from how to create realistic characters to how to shape an Aristotelian plot, and how to revise several times to create a polished product.

Since my copy was so abused, and since he just recently updated and revised this book for publication, I bought the new version, as well. This is also a good book, but it is VERY different from the original. If you can find the old one, buy both.

He also has THE WEEKEND NOVELIST WRITES A MYSTERY, and while it didn't make my top ten, I would say this book has some great advice, too, especially for fellow mystery writers.

Christine Cook's Blog

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