About a week ago, I reblogged (yecch … are we brutalizing the language or just being creative?) — I reblogged a list of books on writing from Carly Watters. I noticed one I wasn’t familiar with, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Renni Browne and Dave King). It promised to speak to the challenge just ahead for my second novel: Rewrite. I ordered the book.
I’m pretty familiar with Rewrite. I’m on the seventh pass through my first novel. I think I’m getting better at it — at least, I know that I’d do the first two or three rewrites of novel #1 differently.
If you’re reading this because you’re a writer, get this book. It’s short, practical and is almost sure to give you insight on what makes writing work, regardless of your level of sophistication.
For me, the two-by-four upside the head is B&K’s margin note R.U.E. (“Resist the Urge to Elaborate”). So I guess the discussion of Hans Prohoffer’s improbably success in sabre fencing inserted in the middle of a fight scene in which he uses a parry two (that goes, too) when Le Pic lunges is out. I do like to elaborate.
Anyway, I consumed the book in a day. Consumed is like a dog consumes a beefsteak. Big bites, not chewing much. But, like that dog and that steak, I loved the process. Now, to read it carefully. Then rewrite.
In a prior post, I said, “my toe-dip into the enormous corpus of literature on writing seems to indicate that most of it is not very helpful.” What a small and curmudgeonly thing to say! (I was possibly affected by one in which the author expressed her opinion that her title is TOTALLY AWESOME.) But that got me thinking: I bet some of you have read some good books on writing. I’d love to hear your favorite titles.
I have a few resources I really like (besides, of course the TOTALLY AWESOME search capability of Google). I started long ago with Elements of Style (Strunk and White), an early lifesaver. Today I use The Chicago Manual of Style online. Possibly the best fifteen bucks I spent last year in pursuit of writing. It’s more than encyclopedic and very interactive. Stephen King’s On Writing exposes the fact that King is a great writer, a great mechanic of words. Yes, I know, King writes Genre Fiction (you need to be looking down your nose while you say that), but then, so do I. Then there are the many books on the business side of writing. The best I’ve run into is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (Eckstut and Sterry), which is comprehensive, readable and funny.
There are probably lots of good writing books out there, and I felt a little bad about being snarky about the whole field. What are your favorites?