Recommended Books on Writing

While there is no required reading for this course, I highly recommended the following books for excellent advice on narrative craft and insights into the writing life:

On Writing:A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

By the time I got around to reading this modern classic by one of the most prolific writers of our time, I'd already published three novels. I wish I'd found it sooner! While King's smart, down-to-earth memoir/writing lesson is a must-read for beginning novelists, fiction writers at any stage of their careers will find much to admire and be inspired by. Consider it a crash course in how to write fiction that people want to read.

Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and Other Dilemmas in The Writer's Life, by Bonnie Friedman

According to Friedman, "Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences, they are the ones who keep writing." While the other books on this list focus on narrative craft, Writing Past Dark is the book you'll turn to when you feel gobsmacked by your novel, and you're not sure how (or why) to continue.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Listen to this audiobook whenever you think, "Why am I doing this? Can I really do this?" It's truly inspiring!

First You Write a Sentence, by Joe Moran

This isn't just a book about what makes a wonderful sentence (although it is that). It's also a book about how sentences lead us into our writing, how sentences guide us to discovery and help an idea become a story. This book is an inspiration for those of us who geek out on language and a primer for anyone who wants to know how a great sentence is made, and why it matters.

The Apprentice Writer: Essays, by Julian Green

A refreshing, wide-ranging collection of essays by a French-American writer. While the essays cover various subjects such as translation and Paris neighborhoods, the book is worth reading for the essays "How a Novelist Begins," "Where do Novels Come From?", and "Lectures on Writing." This one isn't that easy to find, but if you do find it, buy it.

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, by Patricia Highsmith

You don't have to be a writer of crime fiction or thrillers to learn a great deal from this slim, to-the-point guide on creating suspense in fiction. Highsmith's advice on everything from plotting to getting past "snags" is invaluable to novelists in any genre. As a writer of literary fiction, I found that it provided me with a much-needed kick in the pants.

Letters to a Young Writer, by Colum McCann

This wide-ranging book by Pulitzer Prize winning author and long-time teacher McCann is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read on writing. McCann talks about how to focus on the work instead of the ego, how to get past envy, how to work with an agent, and why exhaustion is an essential part of the writing process. If you're in a slump, this brilliant little book will pull you out of it.

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