BY JON PILL
Part 1 – Books on Being Writerly
There are as many approaches to writing as there are writers, but it can be tough working out how you work without some sort of scaffold to guide you along. These books detail the various authors personal approaches – for the most part, they all go into generalities in places, but most of them are personal manifestoes.
Dig in read as many as possible and harvest their systems for parts that work for you.
Part 2 – Books on the Craft
1. Everyone’s top pick: On Writing by Stephen King
Probably Stephen King’s best book in general, and one of the most read books on writing. King advocates for a high-speed writing schedule and, in contrast to Kennedy, a total lack of planning. It works for him, and is the method I would probably recommend to first timers as it gets you into writing quickly and teaches you how to finish.
2. Personal Top Pick: On Writing by A L Kennedy
Collected from her Guardian columns, these essays are an extremely unsystematic look at the writing process at various points. The book does also cover various topics from all five of the arbitray splits, and is well worth a read.
3. Isherwood On Writing by Christopher Isherwood
Based on a lecture series on writing Isherwood gave, this like most of these titles gives you an excellent sense of how he writes. This collection also contain several lectures on film writing for the interested.
4. Aspects of the Novel by E M Forster
One of Jim’s favourite authors, and one of his recommendations. I can’t tell you much about this one. Blame him if it’s rubbish.
5. Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
This came recommended by Interior Dasein. Ditto re blaming her.
6. Story by Robert McKee
For anyone vaguely interested in screenwriting, this is the go to source for almost every course I’ve seen the reading list for. Whether it is as good as the cult that’s grown up around it suggests is a question I will leave up to you.
7. Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker
Another course favourite, Christopher Booker breaks down all plots into seven basic ideas, While it sounds super reductive, the book is extremely long and the seven plots serve as jumping off point to look at the variations and structures in detail. Worth having on your desk as a reference.
A few other recommendations which give the authors’ views on how writing works, and which come recommended are:
8. The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer
9. How Plays Work by David Edgars (for playwrights primarily)
and 10. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (especially for short story writers).
There are probably hundreds of others I’ve missed. But these should serve as a jumping off point. Let me know your favourites in the comments.
Part 3 – Books on the Lives of Writers
Part 4 – Books on Reading Like a Writer
Part 5 – Books on Art and Arting in General