Fellow author and blogger Jamie Todd Rubin recently posted with his advice on what writing manuals to read to improve your writing. In his post Best Books on Writing he offers works by three writers, Asimov, King and Red Smith. I thought I’d add my thoughts.
On Writing by Stephen King is likely known by most aspiring or established writers. It is the go to manual for fiction authors. It provides insights in a couple ways. First by presenting a short biography of the author, showing how he struggled to make it in the business and the second half of the book is a technical manual, covering many of the basic skills writers need in order to be successful both technically and habitually. On Writing is a must read for any aspiring fiction writer, though it does lean more towards novel writing rather than shorter forms.
Beyond the semi-biographical works of successful authors like King, there are the actual writing manuals to consider. King suggests The Elements of Style by Strunk. I have a copy, though I use it more as a reference than anything else. When I was studying writing in college, the book that we used was Making Shapely Fiction by Stern. This book is very simple, essentially an extended glossary of important terms and concepts in fiction. It also includes two short essays in the middle of the book, one of which is “A Short Guide to What Not to Do.”
Beyond fiction manuals, though, the most important thing for short story authors to read is short stories. One of the collections I read while studying short story writing was The Art of the Story, edited by Daniel Halpern. It includes some of the best literary stories from around the world. But if you’re like me, a genre author, you’ll also want to read anthologies from your genre of choice. For science fiction and fantasy, Writer’s of the Future and Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine are good places to start.
Do you have any suggestions of writing books I should add to my reading list? I am always eager for suggestions.