Would you buy a book from this writer?

So there I was, innocently reading the comments in a blog (which will remain nameless for reasons which will become obvious in a moment) and was totally blindsided and gobsmacked by one would-be writer’s remark. The topic on this professional blog was books about writing fiction.

The would-be writer stated that she had never read a book on writing.

Excuse me? I promise you, I went back and read it twice to be sure I wasn’t imagining things.

I do not usually predict people’s futures. I predict, however, that if this wannabe never reads a book on the craft and art (it’s both) of writing, she will never find much success.

Writing is not like walking or speaking a language, both of which you pretty much learn by imitation and trial and error. You cannot learn to write well just from observing and copying. Would you really want to eat a meal cooked by someone who never studied cooking at all? Or even have your living room painted by someone who never learned the basics of painting?

I doubt it.

Writing is much the same. No one really does it well by operating entirely on instinct. Do I have two or seven or more recommendations for good craft books? Oh, you know I do.

In no particular order:

Page After Page by Heather Sellers

Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers

How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II by James N. Frey

Write Great Fiction — Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

Writing Fiction For All You’re Worth by James Scott Bell (Kindle Edition)

On Writing by Stephen King

Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey by Chuck Wendig (Kindle Edition)

The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer

Now, is this a comprehensive list? Of course not. It’s not even a list of all the “how to write” books I have in my library. It’s just a list of the ones I can think of at the moment. Off the top of my head. I’m too lazy to get up and go into the other room and look. So I just thought of these. You cannot go wrong with any of them. Or all of them.

Moral of this story? To write well, you have to learn how. You can’t learn how unless you study.

4 Responses to “Would you buy a book from this writer?”

  1. demilo19 says:

    Moral of this story? To write well, you have to learn how. You can’t learn how unless you study.
    While I think that the best way to learn how to write is to READ whatever it is you want to write (e.g. you want to write horror, read HORROR! you want to write sappy romances? Read sappy romances. Read it all!), I also agree that books on HOW to write are also helpful. Why? Because it can help you examine and think about all the other stuff you are reading. Do you need to read it all? Probably not but on the other hand, can’t hurt.

  2. MAPC says:

    Yes, you can learn a lot from reading. You can’t learn how to structure a novel unless you not only read, but you study the novels you read. I really believe a lot of the dreck out there could be a lot less dreckish if the writers had spent a little quality time with some of the how-to books I listed. (Or others I didn’t.)

    There is a craft to writing and people who don’t take the time to learn it are seldom worth reading.

  3. While I’ve read a few books on writing in the distant past, I must confess that I’m still a complete newbie adrift in a vast and seemingly endless sea of how-to and what-not-to-do. That sea of confusion, in itself, can be enough to make any newbie make a desperate swim back to the safe comfort zone of the shore rivaling the speeds of an Olympic gold medalist.

    Therefore, I’m more than grateful for this list of recommendations on the craft, Mary Ann. Considering the aforementioned sea of confusion out there, it’s as though I’ve had a life preserver tossed out to me by finding the recommendations of someone I trust and have such a great respect for. Thank you, Mary Ann. You are a gift.

    • MAPC says:

      Hey! I love books on the craft of writing. I freely admit to being a craft-fiend. These are just a few of the ones I have read. I never agree with everything. Sometimes I have to be dragged, fighting all the way, into a new way of thought. But I am still utterly sure that a writer who never studies the craft will never improve.

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