Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Seven Books

I've read a lot of books on writing, but only a few have really impacted the way I think. 

Here are seven books that changed my perspective on writing:

Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That ResonateInvisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate by Brian McDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is probably the best book on screenwriting I've read. I read it twice in a row the first time I picked it up, and I don't normally do that (especially with writing books). In clear, accessible terms, Brian McDonald explains the reasoning behind the choices that writers make - the "invisible ink" that holds the story together.

The Lively Art of WritingThe Lively Art of Writing by Lucile Vaughan Payne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the earliest books on writing that I read, and I really enjoyed it. It focuses on essays (the forms and how to craft arguments) and how to write descriptions, use active voice, and what to avoid when writing. It's one of my very favorite books.

The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction WritingThe Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing by Francis Flaherty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stayed up much too late reading this book. The length of the chapters made it easy to read just one more.

Francis Flaherty believes that every article, whether it's about finance or medicine or anything in between, is a story, with actors who feel things and do things, and the key to good writing is to identify and bring out the human elements.

The book, though aimed mostly at journalists, contains practical advice on crafting interesting stories that all writers can use. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone writing non-fiction.

Screen Teen Writers: How Young Screenwriters Can Find SuccessScreen Teen Writers: How Young Screenwriters Can Find Success by Christina Hamlett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very easy-to-read, informative book on screenwriting (geared toward teens). It inspired me to read more books on writing.

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young WritersThe Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I believe this was the first book on writing I ever read, and I still have fond memories of it. A good book on the "art" of fiction. He uses a metaphor that I wholeheartedly agree with - that a story should be like a "dream" for the reader, and that you want to do everything possible to keep them in the dream and not disturb them by putting yourself or anything unnecessary in the story.

77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected by Mike Nappa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent book on how to (as far as possible) avoid rejection. The author can sometimes be a little harsh (he even apologizes for it at the end of the book) but most of the time it's on topics that writers need to hear. I would highly, highly recommend this book for anyone who's serious about getting published.

The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your ScriptThe Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script by David Trottier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well-written, comprehensive book on screenwriting. It taught me a lot about writing dialogue and crafting tight narratives, as well as the terms, rules, and general observances of screenwriting. I would highly recommend it, right after Invisible Ink.

What are some books that changed your perspective on writing?


  1. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, had a tremendous impact on me, more than any other book. It actually got me off my butt, the impetus I guess I needed to stop whining and start writing.
    Other fabulous books include On Writing by Stephen King an Bird by Bird by Ann Somebody. (Because it made such an impact I forget her name and am too lazy to Google it1!!!!!)

  2. i use many of these books in my classroom. i especially like The Lively Art of Writing. it also works very well with those left-brained kids who like to have steps to writing.

  3. Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, Annie Lamott's Bird by Bird and Mark David Gerson's The Voice of the Muse. Great topic.

  4. Wow. I haven't read any of these! That's rare. Thanks for introducing me to them.

  5. I haven't read any of those. How sad is that? I think I might have to get that first one for sure!

  6. love the great recommendations! will have to check them out. :)

    look forward to reading your next post........


  7. Like the other commenters above, I haven't read these either - though I have read one screen writing book I loved, Save the Cat, and intend to read more because novel writers can a learn a lot from screen writing, too. I'm an A-Z blogger and new follower - I love the graphic for your blog title!

  8. Cathy - War of Art - haven't heard of it. Another book to add to my to-read list!

    Stephanie - yes, I like how The Lively Art of Writing has exercises at the end of each chapter. They really helped me!

    Karen - thanks! I'll have to check those out.

    Matt - You're welcome! :)

    Peggy - Yes, you definitely should! It's a shortish book, but worth it. :)

    MOV - glad you were intrigued! :)

    Margo - Almost everyone I know has recommended Save the Cat and I still haven't read it! Guess I need to remedy that situation ASAP. ;)

  9. I LOVE the Lively Art of Writing! I learned so much the year I read that in Comp 2 class.

    I haven't read any of the others, but they look really good. Thanks for the recommendations!

  10. Allie - I didn't know Veritas used it. It makes sense, though - it's a really good book. :)



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