Books about Writing

Long ago I took one English course at University. At the time, I was so intent on medicine and my science courses that I failed to take advantage of an opportunity. The teacher was Tom Marshall, Canadian poet. He was working on his MA that year and I think we were one of the first classes he had to teach. What an ordeal that must have been— bored medical students and engineers, most of us.

I remember being terrified most of that first year, felt unprepared and well out of my depth. I produced nothing good enough even for a B. I’d closed my mind to writing.

Now, I’m trying to catch up, to learn what I should have then, and so, I read books about writing.

Sol Stein: On Writing, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York.

I didn’t know his name when I found him on a list of writing teachers. He has written several books including On Writing, How to Grow a Novel, and Sol Stein’s Reference Book for Writers. He worked as an editor and publisher and playwright and successful novelist.

He also has developed a computer programme to teach the writers craft: the new Write Pro.

I haven’t bought the programme, but I have read the books, and tried to use his techniques in my writing. His lessons about revision, what he calls his triage method, focus on plot and character, major areas that always need work. When he does get to the front to back revision, he suggests scene by scene decision. Does it work? If not, out it goes.

Nancy Kress: Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint, Writer’s Digest Books.

I took a brief on-line course at Writer’s Digest some years ago, on character development and recently read the book that accompanied it again. Or rather, am  reading it, because I’m in the process of revision and need to understand characterization more than I do. Nancy Kress taught the course and the characters I developed with her and their conflict form the nucleus of the book that I’m revising.

Theses are just two of the books on my shelf. Useful additions to any writer’s library.

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