Books on writing fiction

Ernest Hemingway, I’ll bet, was not a fan of books on writing—or things like MFA programs. His advice to novelists was famously pithy: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” But many of us find solace in the advice of others, and need inspiration when we get stuck. There is no shortage of inspiring books on the craft of writing, but sometimes you need more specific guidance. A colleague at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto recently asked for suggestions on books about writing fiction; here are some of the favorite titles that came back: Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, by John Truby This guide is geared towards script writing (Truby is a Hollywood screenwriter and creative consultant), but offers storytelling advice that any writer may find useful. The Architecture of Story: A Technical Guide for the Dramatic Writer, by Will Dunne Dunne provides insight to playwrights at all stages in the writing process. The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot, by Charles Baxter Part of The Art Of series from Graywolf Press (along with The Art of Time in Memoir below), Baxter describes how writers create subtext and illustrates his points with examples of from a range of authors. The Art of the Novel, by Milan Kundera Kundera analyzes the work of several influential novelists and discusses the views that shape his own work. This is writer Rachel Howard’s favorite book on novel writing. Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life, edited by Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi A collection of essays and lectures on the fiction writing process by teachers from the Warren Wilson MFA program. Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway Twenty-three Associated Writing Program teachers share practical advice on the craft in this book of essays. Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers, by Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren A textbook for more advanced writers that features writing exercises and highlights the revision process. The Dramatic Writer’s Companion: Tools to Develop Characters, Cause Scenes, and Build Stories, by Will Dunne This book is geared towards playwriting, but any fiction writer could benefit from its exercises on developing character, scene, and plot. Finding Your Writers Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction, by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall A detailed guide that helps writers tap into their unique voices to enrich their writing. Frank and Wall’s book has been compared to If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Greatby Donald Maass Whether you're developing your characters or deepening your plot, this book aims to help you infuse your story with deep conviction and fiery passion. Many writers have found the techniques in this book helpful during the revision process. The Hidden Machinery, by Margot Livesey A collection of essays that explore and clarify the mechanics at work in great works of fiction. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, by Janet Burroway An introductory guide with exercises for writers in the genres fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction. A Kite in the Wind, edited by Andrea Barrett and Peter Turchi Like Bringing the Devil to His Knees, this is a collection of essays and lectures covering various aspects of crafting fiction. All contributors are master teachers from the Warren Wilson MFA program. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King First published in 2000, On Writing has become a new classic. Half memoir and half advice for the writer, King’s book gives an honest look at what lead him to become such a prolific author. He shares his wisdom on what it takes to be successful but also offers irreverent wit on everything from intransitive verbs to passive voice. The Secret Miracle (The Novelist’s Handbook), edited by Daniel Alarcón Alarcón poses questions about writing to prominent writers, including Amy Tan, Haruki Murakami, Michael Chabon, and more. Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies, by Sol Stein Stein offers “usable solutions” to common writing problems in this book. Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee McKee—known for his seminars on storytelling—provides instruction on the elements of screenwriting. 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley A mix of literary history and criticism, analyses of novels, and advice for the writer. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway Ideal for novice writers, Burroway gives an overview of the elements of storytelling and provides guidance for every step of the writing process. {Many of these suggestions came from members of the San Francisco Grotto and were compiled by Grottonian Beth Winegarner.}


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  1. Books to Inspire | Sin and Syntax - November 22, 2017

    […] Constance Hale on September 19, 2016 in Cool Tools Since compiling this list, I’ve created another list of books focused on fiction writing. (Some “how to” books that actually help) My books are […]

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