Posted by: Katie B | March 9, 2018

Books on Writing – Batch #1

Text book has an un-fun connotation, so I’d never want to call this selection of reads “text books.” But they are books to read and study on the art of writing. However, different from textbooks, these were all a pleasure to read.  If you are looking for some guidance in the art of writing, or you are hoping to deepen your knowledge of craft, take a peek. All have their strengths and weakness, but all have something valuable to offer.


The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.  This book is fun!  How often do you get a glimpse into the creative process of one of the most talented creative minds of our century?  I didn’t find myself maniacally taking notes and highlighting key phrases.  For me, this was a purely enjoyable read, with phrases that resonated (I do that, too!), phrases that enlightened (ooh- I should try that!), and sections that I reread several times to make sure I had them set.


The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner. Well, this book is the bible on writing. It is dense, so don’t be dissuaded. I read this more like a reference book – hopping from place to place depending on what area of craft I’m researching – rather than reading it straight through. It’s a tough read it you plow through it in the traditional sense. But if you search out the sections that are meaningful to you at a specific moment, you will find some incredible insights.


Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway et. al. If Gardner’s book is the bible then this book is reference library, encyclopedia, dictionary and thesaurus all in one. I read this book in graduate school, but it became even more precious to me later. I use it to teach, to find insights into my own writing, and to generate new ideas, techniques and inspiration. There is a lot here, so take your time. You may find it easier to hop from section to section as needed (just like the Gardner book). But once you become comfortable with the format and content, you will find that you reach for this book often.


What’s Your Story by Marion Dane Bauer.  It was only after I read about 75% of this book did I realize it was a book on craft written for young adults – not a book for adults on the craft of young adult writing.  This goes to show how helpful even the simplest of resources can be.  I appreciated the broad brush strokes with which the author addressed all the major elements of story building.  You’re never too experienced (read – old!) for a solid overview, and I walked away with some great suggestions.


The Art of Fiction by David Lodge.  Pulling from literary examples over the last three centuries, this book is an interesting overview of all the different fictional styles with examples and discussion on what works / doesn’t work.  In format, the book is a compilation of weekly articles written by David Lodge on different storytelling mediums and the history behind them over the course of a year.  While I’m sure I would have enjoyed reading the articles as they were originally published, what really struck me was seeing the body of work as a whole.  I hadn’t considered the stylistic breadth of the collection until it was presented as such.  And I appreciated the ability to flip back and forth, reread, and see how the elements dovetail with one another.

There are so, so many more books on craft but that’s enough reading for now! I’ll follow up with another batch in the future. My shelves are full of craft books…full…and I’ve actually read most of them. Honestly, they aren’t for show!

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