My 5 favorite books on writing craft:
1. On Writing, by Stephen King
An iconic, must-read for all people, everywhere, who have ever aspired to write anything more involved than an email. And they’ve just come out with a 10th anniversary edition!
This is one of the first real craft books I ever read and it is great. I have the old edition but I’ve skimmed the new one and it looks great, with sections of writing and publishing in a very media heavy industry.
3. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
This was a book assigned for one of my classes this semester and I’m so glad!! Betsy Lerner is an editor and agent, sharing her advice with would-be published writers. She has such grounded, applicable, encouraging things to say about writing, editing, publishing, etc. My favorite quote for now, and one that you’ll see in another post soon, “On more than one occasion, I’ve heard a “literary” writer (usually one who is stalled or struggling) announce that he’s thinking of writing something commercial…If any writer could toss off a “commercial” novel and cash in, why haven’t they? The reason may be obvious: it’s not as easy as it looks. On the contrary, these writers deploy the tools of their craft, a craft they have honed and studied and labored at for years…” (Yeah!! Ms. Lerner is my hero!)
4. Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
I come back to this book time and time again. If the old adage is true, “You can’t break the rules until you’ve mastered them,” (or something like that), then I’ll need this on hand for many years to come. I got the illustrated reprint last year because it’s darling.
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is my favorite book for many reasons. One of the reasons I love it, is because the craft elements are so strong from the very first sentence. It has one of the most famous, most finely honed, and well-written first lines ever:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Everything about this novel–the setting, the supporting characters, the internal voice, the narration, and Elizabeth Bennett herself, one of the finest Main Characters of all time–are perfectly crafted. Ever word is precise and well-suited. Every line is an addition to the story. As a bonus, the heroine has a ton of moxie in a time where that was quite avante garde. I read this in hope that it will rub off on me and I can one day have the insight and strength of style and voice that Jane Austen had. Also, it’s just a great story and fun to immerse myself in.