Thursday, May 20, 2010

Books on Writing

Here's the thing about books on writing: You buy them, then you read them, and it's a great excuse not to write. Books on writing (BOW) are for the evil self-editor in us all. We turn to BOW when our mind says, "What are you thinking? You aren't a writer, you'd better read about the craft some more before you decide you really want to do this." Our mind is doing its best to give us the excuse to not write. "Well, at least if I'm reading books about writing, I'm doing something to learn about my craft."

This is all well and good, but seriously, how many books to we actually need? Oh, god I can hear it now from the writers who make a living on our insecurities. If I was to be perfectly honest with myself, I'd say that I only need 4, maybe 5 of the BOW I have. Am I going to tell you how many I actually have? Hell, no!!! Not because I don't want you to know, but because I don't feel like tracking them all down and counting it up for you.

I have books at the restaurant to read in my down time, books next to my bed, on the bookshelves in both my office and our library, and of course I have more next to my chair in the living room. Have I read all of them? No, not all. But then there are those I've read over and over. And those are the 4-5 that I should have stuck with. But they weren't the first books I purchased, so it's like boyfriends, and dates, you try them and if they don't fit you get another. Come to think of it, I dated a lot!

I could (and will) name the books I feel I can't live without, but mine will be different from yours. And I'm certainly not trying to sell you on the books, so I won't give the Amazon links to them (though I should, so I can make money if you buy them from my link). Over the last few months I've come to realize that I buy a book or two every time I have grave self-doubts about my writing. So needless to say, I'm book poor. In truth, other than my few staples, I should only have 1 book for every full manuscript or screenplay I've written. And I probably have at least 7 per or more.

Once again, I realize that the books are my excuse for not writing. "I should write. But I really don't know what I'm doing, so I should read this book first." Then half way through the book, "Seriously, I know this stuff, I should just write. Why is this so hard? I love writing." And so it goes...

You've heard the saying, "Walk much, or just read about it?" And that's my point. Reading about writing won't make us better writers, writing will. Want to play golf? You read a few magazines, take some lessons, maybe read a book about technique and rules, then you get out on the course and hit some balls!

So instead of buying that next book on writing, hit some balls, and by that I mean WRITE! Write, write, and then write some more. Don't think you can do it? Your inner critic laughing at you? You cringe when you hear the word shank? Then go out and get some practice. Reading about writing is not practice. Writing is practice.

So my "go to" books...Save the Cat, Rewrite, Dialogue, Screenplay and  Conflict, Action & Suspense. Sure I have a few books on the business of writing, but those are only good after I've written something. And don't get me wrong, I've written a few things, but I always find an excuse not to finish, and that excuse comes in the form of another book to read.

Okay, I'm going to close my copy of Rewrite and work on my screenplay now. What are your go to books?


  1. Stephen King's 'On Writing.' Head and shoulders above anything else. If books had heads and shoulders, that is. I rather enjoyed Janet Evanovich's 'How I Write,' too; very simple, basic advice, simply presented.

    Love you, sug. xoxo

  2. Absolutely, I completely forgot about Stephen King's book. A MUST have. I have it on audio and a paperback book. I must have listened to it at least 10 times. Always when I'm making beads. lol
    I and really liked Janet's book too.
    Thank you for your input.
    I'm so bummed I'm not going to see you in July!

  3. I LOVE Stephen King's On Writing. Another great one is Dara Mark's Inside Story. Fantastic! But I'm with you, Jamie, I have TONS of writing books that I thought I "needed" yet have never read. They're there... waiting and taunting me.

  4. And here I am, almost buying a few more books. Donald Maass ones.

    I think there's much truth in what you say. Reading about writing is an excellent way to procrastinate. It's not practice. It's prepractice.

    It's time to get to the practice part. And that means writing.

    Thanks for this post.