About Writing

Recommended & essential books about writing.


The seven basic plots; why we tell stories, by Christopher Booker.
Continuum, 2004. ISBN 0826452094
A masterwork of more than thirty year’s research into why people tell stories. Booker breaks down stories into seven archetypal themes which occur in all types of stories. Not everyone will agree with Booker, but everyone can learn from him, about reading, writing and understanding.

Thirteen ways of looking at the novel, by Jane Smiley.
Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1400040590
Smiley classifies and defines the novel, and also provides a primer of supportive instructions to the struggling writer. She explores why some novels succeed, and some don’t. She finishes off with a list of 100 books she had recently read, from thousand-year old texts to recent best-sellers, offering her own insights and assessments. She provides a glimpse into the creative process, and gives writers and readers new ways to be aware of what goes on between the pages.

Reading like a writer; a guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them, by Francine Prose.
Harper Collins, 2006. ISBN 0060777044
Unique among books on writing in that Prose devotes a chapter each to eight critical elements of writing: words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialog, details, and gesture. She thinks about things like first sentences and their impact on the narrative. Prose suggests “close reading” is the key to understanding and learning about literature, for the reader and writer. One of the most important books on writing I have ever read.

Writing fiction; a guide to narrative craft, by Janet Burroway.
Pearson Longman, 2007 (7th ed.). ISBN 0321277368.
This is for committed writers only. Expensive, and hard to find on library shelves. A highly valuable textbook on the writing process, covering story form, plot, structure, building character, place and setting, and a detailed look at point of view. Each section comes with examples of how things do and do not work. A graduate course all by itself.