As promised, I’m back this week with another Best of 2013 post.
This week I’ll explore the best in 2013 non-fiction creative-writing books. Note: these are not books that were written in 2013 but rather books that I read in 2013 and loved.
- The Constant Art of Being a Writer by N.M Kelby
- On Writing by Stephen King
- On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
The Constant Art of Being a Writer was a gift from my brother. When I first took a look at it, I didn’t have high hopes for it as it was not on my long wish list. It should have been.
The book is divided into the three aspects of the writer’s life: the life, the work and the business. The life refers of course to the writer’s creative life and well-being. The work refers to the project the writer takes upon herself, though here Kelby only discusses the novel, I found this pertinent to me, but it may be less relevant for one who is writing a screenplay. The business discusses exactly that – agents, sales, publicity and even self-publishing. I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, but when I do, I’m sure Kelby’s insights will be most helpful.
On Writing. Whether you like his writing or not, Stephen King is king. In this book, Stephen King provides an insider’s view into his life and his humble beginnings as a writer. Some people don’t need books to tell them how to… they just do. Coming from the master of horror I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. But writing comes so naturally to him that I cannot help being in awe. The book however, is not only about him. King provides indispensable advice and discusses a concept I had never heard of before – “the writer’s toolbox.” King goes into some depth discussing these tools which have helped me strengthen my own writing in a significant way.
On Becoming a Novelist. A gem of a book that is both honest and straightforward provides delectable bits of information on the craft of writing. I’ll give you one tidbit that I found super-valuable.
I wanted to write a story about a woman who sits by the fire and mourns a child. Only at the end of the story do we find out that the child she is mourning is unborn.
In Gardner’s opinion it is the “foolish and inexperienced writer” that hides relationships from the reader and then at the last minute “he jumps out and yells: “Surprise!”” If a writer chooses to withhold information and has to play tricks on the reader he is not a “storyteller but a fictitious narrator, a character that we must watch and learn to distrust. If the story teller himself is unreliable, we avoid him as we would a mad sea captain or axe murderer.”
It took me a while to digest this point. But what Gardner is offering me – the foolish and inexperienced writer – is the opportunity to tell a more meaningful story. One in which my main character has the ability to accept or reject her own redemption. And one in which I, the author, can be empowered to create suspense as opposed to creating “false suspense” that “comes from the accidental and meaningless occurrence of one damned thing after another.”
On my journey as a writer there’s so much I still have to learn. But knowing there are fabulous writer’s who have paved the way with helpful books makes it that must more enjoyable.
I’m greatly looking forward to what 2014 has in store in the way of books and great writing.
What are your favourite books on creative writing?