The craft of writing – my top picks

horses - the craft of writing

Horses are like ideas. They need to be guided by a sure hand.

I’m on vacation in Spain. Near Cartagena, to be precise. The weather is fine, and the sea pleasantly refreshing.

A couple of hours ago I finished lunch. I had gazpacho, fried cheese, bread, salad, and lomo. I concluded my meal with a couple of ripe and tasty plums. And washed everything with genereous amounts of sangria.

Then I wrote a short story. It is more or less 900 words long. And I think I’m going to post it sometime during the next week. You know, I need to let it rest a bit, to clean it adequately.

Instead, today I’m going to give you a list of books about the craft of writing I read over the last few months and found damn interesting.

Of course, as it is usual with every rule about writing and storytelling, don’t take my word as gospel. A book could be an eyeopener for me, and yet come as a complete disappontement for you.

After all with writing, like with everything else in life, no one ever stops learning. And we are all moving on parallel but different learning paths.

Ok. Enough warnings for today. I have to get back to that glass of sangria project I’m working on since I was fifteen…

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass

This book is written in a very enjoyable style. And is packed with many interesting suggestions.

However if there is a concept you really want to grasp reading this book, it’s the one about microtension and how it works.

If you first understand and then master this single concept you can improve the quality of your fiction beyond description.

This book is also useful because you can go and read the many novels the author refers to. Together they make up an impressive reading list.

And given that reading strong fiction is a hell of a way to learn how to write compelling prose, this is certainly a nice bonus.

Story trumps Structure by Steven James

Simply put, I believe this is a gem of a book. In fact, it brims with suggestions, techniques, and questions all designed to heighten your awareness about what you write and the way you write it.

Indeed, this book is so densely packed with advice you’d better keep it handy to reread it as many times as you need to master all the ideas it presents.

I found it to be also a liberating book. In fact, reading it I discovered that many of the problems beleaguering my prose beleaguer just as often the prose of other writers.

And this is so not because we are all incapable writers. But because being a writer goes hand in hand with having first drafts that need to be tamed, even if they behave like dragons on amphetamines.

The Language of Fiction by Brian Shawver

This book has just one glaring problem. It needs a second volume.

I’m saying this because even if the author brillantly sheds light on many grammar technicalities and conventions of the publishing world, it doesn’t really cover everything.

Of course, no book can really cover any aspect of grammar usage and publishing conventions in a book that is handy and yet conversational in tone. But Brian Shawver wrote such a great book I can’t help but hope he expands on what he has already written.

In any case, the book as it is is already a gem.

Quality above quantity

I could go on offering you a list of many other books. But given I feel these are the best you can crack and study, I see no reason to offer you a list of what would be just “more of the same but of a lower degree of usefulness.”

Who knows, maybe my judgement is impaired by my being on vacation, or by my having just eaten and drunk liberally.

But given I still manage to type without experiencing any side effects (the letters don’t double before my eyes) and that the best ideas are often the ones that come when you’re relaxed and just toying with your thoughts, I’m going to stick with my initial choice.

Here it is, my short list of the best books I’ve ever read about the craft of writing. I hope you too can find them as useful as I did.

Enjoy, and write on!


Pictures: Bergadder

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