Monday, 26 October 2009

Books On Writing – If You’ve Read One You’ve Read Them All!

Before anyone shoots me down, this was an opinion expressed by A.N. Other author.

But it got me thinking. So I took it upon myself to procrastinate, er, research.

After a lot of Googling, browsing and general time-wasting, I’m beginning to find this to be true. One after the other, all these how-to writers were saying the same thing:

Writing is the only way you can learn to, well, write.

Now any writer who’s serious about their craft has read at least ONE book. I myself have read two (yeah, that's how serious I am, LOL). But I know a few unpublished writers who have read several and are thinking of buying or borrowing even more. Now I’m thinking in the beginning things like pacing, pov, GMC and HEA may seem like Greek to the uninitiated, but once you learn these things, when do you draw the line, say enough and use the knowledge you’ve acquired? How many “Most Common Mistakes” books can you read before you learn your “mistake”?

So, what book on writing has changed your (writing) life? How many have you read and many do you intend to read? I’d love to know.

Happy reading and writing.



  1. I had a textbook on the subject in college...I took creative writing in college and I've applied none of what I've learned there, except what not to do and how not to be a pretentious pansy artist, to what I write now.

    Honestly the majority of what I've learned has come through my writing group, author blogs, Harlequin's message boards and reading current releases of the books I want to write for.

    Oh yeah, and submitting. And getting revision letters. That is an education.

    But buying books about writing books? Haven't gotten around to it yet. Of course I had Elements of Style hanging around here somewhere collecting dust...a gift from my dad.

  2. Romance Writing for Dummies is fun to thumb through at the book store - but I didn't find much in there I hadn't already gotten from my CPs.
    Stephen King's On Writing is A1- fabuloso, no matter what genre you want to write. He's funny and smart (if his marketing/submission tips are a bit dated). Well worth the time, it's just like he's talking directly to ya.
    There's one by Francine Prose (no I'm not making up her name) a dear friend bought me as a gift. Avoid it like the clap! Suckorama.

  3. Maisey, like you I wrote my first ms (or second if you discount the one I wrote at 13) blind, without so much as sniff at a how-to book! Result? A rejection from HP of course. But then that book was so much fun to write because it was unencumbered with figuring out things like pov, worrying about hooks, deep third, character arcs (still have no clue what that is), backstory or even GMC! All I wanted was an HEA for my characters and when they found it I was in heaven with them. Of course, then came the shock! But honestly, I don't think you're missing anything. I'd even go as far as saying you're probably better off just reading the books you love rather than how-to books. But that's just my opinion :).


  4. LOL Piper! Francine Prose eh? I can almost picture the wine-fuelled booze up where someone said to dear old Francine "Cor, wi' your name, bet you can write a smashing book, show 'em how it's done!" She goes, "Yeah, you know, I reckon I should do just that!" Heh.
    When I was searching for a pen name, DH came up with, get this...Paige Turner! He then spent half an hour belly-laughing at his own joke!
    I've heard good things about Stephen King's book, but for now, I think my CPs have my back, :)


  5. Haha. Writing blind about describes it. I remember my writing group talking about how they approached writing and someone said 'you don't just sit down and write a book' and I was like 'YOU DON'T?"

    I think there's a fine line between knowing too little and knowing too much.

  6. Paige Turner.
    *holds belly from mini bust-up*

    Cute. A man with a sense of humor is always a good thing.

    And I agree with Maisey - sometimes knowing too much simply gums up our works. Sure takes the fun out, too!

  7. There are rules to this writing thing? I think the number one rule should be to get CPs first. Then and only then should you be allowed to submit your work to a publisher.

  8. Hi Maya,
    There are so many how to write books out there it gets confusing. But that said, it is worthwhile reading several of these books when you are starting out, just to get a grip on the basic protocols of writng, after that, I think it is safe to dip your toe in the water and start writing. CP are a great help too, but only if you find the right ones for you and your work.


  9. Maisey – totally agree about the fine line. I had to train myself the same way with pantsing and plotting. I found pantsing so much fun, but I had to rein myself in a bit after writing a run-away novel! Still haven't finished that one but hoping NaNo will help with it.

    Jasmine – good advice, I wish more people would follow it.

    Margaret – my point exactly. I think reading is fine, but once you learn the craft you need to USE it rather than keep reading more and more books about writing.

    Thanks for stopping by ladies.


  10. Yep. My first was totally pantsed and revising it was a process, and I ended up having to go back and plot what I had already pantsed to get all the irrelevant out.

    In that sense, experience was the best teacher. And my crit groups!! And revision letters, which are like gold, even if it can be hard to tear your work to shreds!