Sunday, January 2, 2011

Three Essential Books for Writers

As a public service to all writers out there, I recommend these three books.  Lamott's and King's are popular and no-brainers, but the Heinlein book may surprise you.  It's dated, yet oddly useful and occasionally fascinating.

Bird by Bird--Annie Lamott

Brilliant writer. Can't get enough of her, from her days at to anything recent. A must for anyone who even thinks about becoming a writer. I re-read it every now and then if I am stuck, or just for a kick in the butt.  Also a great exercise in Voice, for those who struggle with that, and for those who don't know what it is.  Her voice is unmistakable.  You'd know it was hers just from the writing alone.  Indispensable.  Take a look at her archived pieces on, too.  A writer's writer, severely underappreciated by everyone else.

Grumbles from the Grave--Robert Heinlein

Some dated (and kinda sexist) stuff, but a great little book for aspiring writers in terms of dealing with editors, agents, contracts--and, most importantly, writing. Not a How-To, like On Writing or Bird by Bird, nor a memoir, but a collection of letters between Heinlen and others, published by his widow. Best piece of advice: produce copy, produce copy, produce copy.  Also an interesting look at the writer himself.  His widow lets it be what it is.  He doesn't come across as an aesthete, and he makes no bones at all about how he wrote mostly for the money, but you don't have to be fascinated by the guy to learn something from him.

On Writing--Stephen King

Indispensable, on par with Bird by Bird and John Gardner's book (which I also recommend). Brilliant. I've seen this used high schools and in colleges.  This book started the recent appreciation of King outside of his actual fanbase.  Other writers and writing organizations started taking him seriously as a writer after the publication of this book.

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