Some books on which I’ve relied:
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman. This book is not about the techniques of writing–it’s about the reasons for writing. Postman’s premise should frighten writers–indeed, it should frighten everyone. He suggests, like Marshall McLuhan before him, that “the medium is the message,” that the content of our thought is shaped by the means through which it is expressed, and that we are in danger because the most popular medium of our time–television–is not capable of encompassing the scope of thought–of discourse–necessary to seek truth, necessary for self-knowledge–and for self-governance. In Postman’s words:
Orwell feared the future of those who would deprive us of information, books would be banned and that truth would be concealed from us. [Aldous] Huxley feared that we would be reduced to passivity; he feared the truth would be drowned in sea of irrelevance and therefore no one would want to read a book. In 1984 people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World people are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, the book Amusing Ourselves to Death is based on the premise that Huxley, not Orwell, is correct.
–Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death.
Read this one to understand the importance–in a larger context–of being a writer. If you don’t read anything else on the list, read Amusing Ourselves to Death.
Writing a Novel, John Braine. Clear, concise, a step-by-step guide. An excellent roadmap for your first novel, and couldn’t hurt as a guide for subsequent ones.
The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist: A Book for Writers, Teachers, Publishers, Editors, and Anyone Else Devoted to Fiction, Thomas McCormack. A favorite. Can’t remember why, exactly–I just seemed somehow to have inhaled a breath of confidence after reading it.
On Becoming a Novelist, John Gardner. Rather than the exploring the question of how to write a novel, this excellent book examines what makes a novelist.
On Moral Fiction, John Gardner. “True art is, by its nature, moral.” No craft hints here, rather, a philosophical reflection on the moral responsibilities of fiction authors and of artists in general.
On Writing, Stephen King. A good read, and a worthwhile discussion of craft, too, following the autobiographical part.
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott. Source of one of the most helpful observations, ever, about writing: “You must give yourself permission to write a really [crappy] first draft.”
Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger. Aimed more at screenwriters than novelists or short story writers; nonetheless relevant for fiction writers of all genres.
Story, Robert McKee. Has value, but rather too much detail. To write according to the detailed diagrams here is to succumb to writing by formula. Give it a read, tuck a few points away in the back of your mind, then go your own way.
Screenplay, Syd Field. Though aimed at aspriring screenwriters, Field’s book has value for fiction writers of all genres. Screenplay provides basics of storyline construction.
The following are not specifically about writing fiction, but are useful tools that you may already be familiar with:
English Composition and Grammar: Complete Course, John E. Warriner
(If your participles are dangling, Warriner can help.)
The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
Roget’s Thesaurus, (ed. Robert L. Chapman)
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett, gen. ed., Justin Kaplan
The Complete Manual of Typography, James Felici. Essential for independent publishers who intend to design the interior of their book.
Welcome to the launch of author F.J. Dagg’s blog! Thanks for stopping by–I hope you’ll be a regular visitor.
My object here is twofold: to promote The Lowlands of Heaven–an inspirational story of an angel with unfinished business on earth–and to provide a place for fiction writers to explore the craft and share ideas and experiences. Click the link over there to the right to sign up to receive occasional email newsletters. I’ll notify you of newly posted excerpts from Lowlands, and let you know about new blog posts.