Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Books about writing—a baker’s dozen

Posted by metaphorical on 5 November 2010

I’m teaching creative writing this term at The College of New Rochelle. It’s a monster 6-credit course, 18 sessions, 4 hours each. And I’m loving it. I’m an experienced enough teacher to know, even though this is my first time for creative writing, that this is a once-in-a-lifetime great group of students. But that aside, the course is helping me put together a whole bunch of thoughts about writing, some of which have appeared on this blog, in a more coherent (dare I say, systematic?) way.

So, naturally, in my obsessive way, I’ve been angling to teach more creative writing, and this week learned the fruits of those labors. Next term I’ll be teaching Creative Writing 101, a 6-week course at Gotham Writer’s Workshop, and Creative Writing 220 at The College of New Rochelle, a 3-credit scaled-down version of the class I’m currently giving.

In anticipation of the two new classes, I’ve put together a short (at least, as short as possible!) list of books about writing. This is about as far from being a definitive list as Sarah Palin is from the presidency, but I can certify this as a list of excellent books that I’ve found exceptionally helpful.

One disclaimer: I took classes from both Francine Prose and Susan Bell for my M.F.A., which was in creative nonfiction (at The New School, 2005-2007). Prose had just published her book and was constantly flying back from in from her book tour, which she hated, for our classes; Bell was still working on her book, and, reading the book I later came to realize, we were her guinea pigs for several of the more ambitious ideas of the book. It’s to her I owe the Berg and Ondaatje choices as well. By the way, Lopate also teaches at the New School, but only in the spring, so I had one chance to take his class and didn’t, more’s the pity.

Bell, Susan. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. Norton; 2008.

Berg, Scott. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. Riverhead; 1997.

Burroway, Janet, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. 8th ed. Longman; 2010.

Flaherty, Francis. The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing. Harper; 2009.

Franklin, Jon. Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction. Plume; 1994.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. 2nd. ed. Shambhala; 2010.

Hall, Oakley. How Fiction Works: Proven Secrets to Writing Successful Stories That Hook Readers and Sell. Story Press/F+W Publications; 2001.

(added) Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Pantheon, 1994.

Lopate, Philip (ed). The Art of the Personal Essay. Anchor; 1995.

McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting. It; 1997.

Ondaatje, Michael. The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film. Knopf; 2004.

Prose, Francine. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Harper; 2007.

Snyder, Blake. Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. Michael Wiese; 2005.

Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style (Illustrated). Penguin; 2005.

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