Books for Writers About Writing

When you’re working on a deadline (even if it’s self-imposed!), suddenly all kinds of things that are related to writing… however remotely… become very, very attractive.  For example, on Sunday, instead of working on the plot outline for the mystery I’m currently working on, I went to see Julie & Julia.  (This counts as writing-related because I read the book and enjoyed it.  Also we own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s somewhere in the basement, down with all the smelly, mildewy books.)
This week, in lieu of writing, I sent query letters and sample pages to selected agents.  (And by the way, for anyone who may be paying attention, I got a very nice rejection from that reputable agent I blogged about last week… but got a request for 50 pages from another agent, so I’m still at bat.)
And today, I started pondering the concept of writing a thriller… this seems MUCH more interesting than working on the book I’m in the middle of. On my “writing” bookshelf, I have a book about writing thrillers, so I took it off the shelf.
As I looked for the book, I realized… I have a boatload of books about writing.  And they’re all really good ones, because if a book was awful, I donated it to the library book fair.   So here’s a list of books (authors included), in no particular order.
  1. The Writing Group Book (Lisa Rosenthal)
  2. Pen on Fire (Barbara deMarco Barrett)
  3. Spider, Spider, Spin me a Web (Lawrence Block)
  4. Before We Get Started (Bret Lott)
  5. Escaping into the Open (Elizabeth Berg)
  6. Making a Literary Life (Carolyn See)
  7. Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 (Lew Hunter)
  8. Stein on Writing (Sol Stein)
  9. Editors on Editing (Gerald Gross)
  10. The Workshop (Tom Grimes)
  11. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit (Lawrence Block)
  12. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing (Meg Leder et al)
  13. The Forest for the Trees (Betsy Lerner)
  14. Self-editing for Fiction Writers (Renni Browne and Dave King)
  15. The Criminal Mind (Katherine Ramsland)
  16. The Successful Novelist (David Morrell)
  17. Writing the Novel (Lawrence Block)
  18. Wild Mind Living the Writer’s Life (Natalie Goldberg)
  19. The Book: An Actor’s Guide to Chicago (Performink)
  20. Missing Persons A Writer’s guide to finding hte lost, teh abeducted, and the escaped (Fay Faron)
  21. Immediate Fiction (Jerry Cleaver)\
  22. The Writers’s Idea Book (Jack Heffron)
  23. How to Write a Selling Screenplay (Christopher Keane)
  24. The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (Noah Lukeman)
  25. Writing the Thriller (T. MacDonald Skillman)
  26. Writing the Breakout Novel (Donald Maass)
  27. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (Donald Maass)
  28. The First Time I got Paid for It- Writers’ Tales From the Hollywood Trenches (Peter Lefcourt and Laura Shapiro)
  29. See Jane Write (Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs)
  30. Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest)
  31. Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest)
  32. What Cops Know (Connie Fletcher)
  33. The Insider’s Guide to Getting an Agent (Lori Perkins)
  34. Armed and Dangerous (Gina Gallo)
  35. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (Syd Field)
  36. The Crime Scene:  How Forensic Science Works (W. Mark Dale and Wendy S. Becker)

You’ll notice that a number of these provide background information you’ll need if you’re writing mysteries or police procedurals… Gina Gallo’s book is fabulous if your setting is Chicago.  The two books by Don Maass provide a lot of insight and the workbook is particularly helpful if you learn best by doing.  The Actor’s Guide to Chicago is helpful to me because my protagonist is a former professional actress who’s getting back into the biz… so I need to know what she’d do to do that.  Lori Perkins’ book on getting an agent is awfully dog-eared and coffee-splashed, having gotten much use lately.  And I noticed I have three books by Lawrence Block… I think of him as the ultimate professional, love both his funny and his tough books, and saw him on a panel once for the Edgar Week conference.  So buy his books!   One book that’s missing from the list, because it wasn’t on the shelf, is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  (Did I lend this to someone or just set it down somewhere?)  Anne is warm, funny, and real about writing. If you’re just getting started or thinking about writing, this is the book to buy first!

Oh, and if you’re wondering … yes, blogging about writing is an acceptable substitute for writing.

One response to “Books for Writers About Writing

  1. That’s a great list. I’m a big believer in the fact that buying a book about writing is a substitute for actually writing.

    May I suggest “Impro” by Keith Johnstone. It’s not a book about writing at all, but about improvisational theater–apparently abbreviated in the U.K. as impro rather than improv.

    It’s intended for thinking on your feet, rather than putting words on the page. But since both activities are ultimately about Making Things Up, the skills apply equally to both.

    Plus, he’s a fun read.

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