So there was a post about novels about writing
, but not about non-fiction writing books so far as I can see. Personally I love writing books and writing advice. What are your favorite books in this area? These are my top three:Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
I'm not even particularly interested in screenwriting, yet I believe this is a book that anyone interested in story and fiction should read. It has theoretically sound analysis and highly practical advice on every aspect of writing a story. It was the first book that helped me understand the concept of theme, after going through an entire education and dozens of books that were vague and unhelpful on the subject. Story
also finally made it click for me why I shouldn't micromanage descriptions, explained the difference between complexity and complication, broke down the relative strengths of different media, and so much other good stuff. I still go back to reread random passages from time to time and always learn something new.Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
A solid book, though I didn't get as much of a big-picture view as I got out of Story.
It helped me further pare down my writing, though it did give me a case of adverb avoidance that I still haven't completely recovered from. Some of the explanations were less clear than they could have been: For instance, I think Stein meant about the same thing with his concept of the "envelope" as McKee said with his admonishment to let actors act. Yet it was the latter that clicked for me even though Stein was talking about the novel form and McKee was not. I only had to make the conceptual leap from "actor" to "reader," while the envelope metaphor is still unclear to me. The part I liked best about Stein
was the concept of the "secret snapshots," the need for total vulnerability and honesty in order to get the best possible story.Honorable mention: Story Maker by Otsuka Eiji
I don't believe this one is available in English. Japanese comic book and light-novel writer Otsuka believes that anyone can construct a story if they follow a certain structure. At the back of the book he presents 30 questions designed to plug story ideas into the "there and back again" monomyth structure studied by Campbell and Vogler among others. The usefulness of the device will vary from person to person, but I found it one way to get a basic and workable structure in place.