“Write brutal. Write without shame. Don’t worry about those silly grammar rules you learn in school. And ignore the need to construct a basic sentence. You don’t need any of that bullshit where we’re going”.
Every writer needs to read and part of that reading should be on the art of writing. Here are my pick of absolute favorite books to have if you want to take your writing seriously.
These are in order of importance to me, but then they take a decidedly “screenwriter” slant. I would read them whether you aspire for the lights of Hollywood or the front window at Barnes and Noble.
My favorite and one I reread every year is:
This will inspire you like no other writing book. It is not just about writing, but pure life advice taking the painstaking work and making it digestible in small doses. This book motivates and encourages.
It gives you the permission to be you and that first drafts do not have to be perfect (or even good) the point is to keep going.
A couple of gems:
* One-inch picture frames: big ideas can engulf you; write about a moment in time, one short scene, something that would fit into a one-inch picture frame.
* Writing is putting down one word after another (the best advice for a writer is to…write).
* You have to give your best stuff to your current project and not try to save it or hoard it; sort of a ‘use it or lose it’ attitude.
* The myth of publication: if you weren’t enough before publication, you’re not going to be enough after publication.
Buy it here: Bird By Bird
On Writing- a memoir of the craft, by Stephen King
On Writing is where the aspiring novelists will find inspiration. Mr. King gives short lessons in the mechanics of prose here and there. What he mostly offers to the aspiring writer is the inspiration, the cheerleading, and as some have already suggested, after reading it makes you want to sit and write something. He actually allows you into his writing routine, when and where he writes, how many months it takes to write the first draft, and even how he goes about editing the second draft.
Some very original thoughts I found quite interesting:
1. Story is a fossil you find on the ground, and you gradually dig it out slowly.
2. He doesn’t plot his stories. He puts “a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free.” In fact he even goes as far as to say, “Plot is shift, and best kept under house arrest.”
3. Write first draft with the “door” closed, and the second draft with it open.
Buy it here: On Writing
Story by Robert McKee
Story is the best book on the mechanics of narrative writing not screenwriting, but any kind of narrative writing I’ve ever read. It breaks the art of storytelling down into its most basic components: conflict, character, plot, climax, etc.; all of the things you’ll hear about in any writing workshop–but McKee explains them with unusual clarity and depth. Structure and Setting, Act Design, Scene Design, there’s no superfluous chapter, and the dictum’s delivered are widely applicable.
Story offers sound concepts that can save any storyteller hours of frustration. Story is simply first rate as a tool for diagnosing that horrible sinking feeling we all get when we know something isn’t quite right with our tale…but we just can’t figure out what. This book will cure that problem forever.
Buy it here:
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
By Natalie Goldberg
With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write. Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to.
Buy it here: Writing Down The Bones
The Elements of Style – William Strunk and E.B. White
It’s true that a lack of grammar and punctuation can be the specific style of your story. It’s also true that more than likely you’ll have an editor who can correct these types of things for you. But if not, then please, for the love of all that’s holy, stop using commas in place of periods. Remember that names should be capitalized. Unless you’re writing poetry, stop hitting the ‘enter’ key in the middle of a sentence. And I’m begging you to proofread.
Buy it here:
If it is making movies you want to do, you must read:
Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade
By William Goldman
From the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride (he also wrote the novel), and the bestselling author of Adventures in the Screen Trade comes a garrulous new book that is as much a screenwriting how-to (and how-not-to) manual as it is a feast of insider information.
If you want to know why a no name like Kathy Bates was cast in Misery-it’s in here. Why Clint Eastwood loves working with Gene Hackman and how MTV has changed movies for the worse-William Goldman, one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood today, tells all he knows. Devastatingly eye-opening and endlessly entertaining, Which Lie Did I Tell? is indispensable reading for anyone even slightly intrigued by the process of how a movie gets made.
Buy it here: Which Lie Did I Tell
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
By Blake Snyder
This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!
Buy it here:
Screenwriting From the Soul: Letters to an Aspiring Screenwriter
By Richard W. Krevolin
How often have you gone to the movies and come out of the theater thinking, “I could have written that!” Many of us believe we have what it takes to turn out a Hollywood blockbuster, if only we had the right tools to help us do it. Screenwriting from the Soul is that tool. It simplifies the process, and at the same time acknowledges that writing, especially screenwriting requires a great deal of patience, stamina, and faith.
There are many books on the art of screenwriting, but none approaches the subject from the unique perspective of a dialogue between expert and novice. Screenwriting from the Soul is geared to instruct the user in the practicalities, discipline, and emotional resources required to produce that winning screenplay.
Buy it here:
I will post a Fiction must-read reading list in the coming lessons.
Your exercise for the day:
Write your book jacket (or movie log line). Must be less than 200 words as this practice teaches you the art of brevity. Please send them to me, print them and post them on your writing space and then write your masterpiece!