"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reading for Craft

I wrote a post over at The Enchanted Inkpot the other day titled WISE OLD MAN—CHARACTERS AND CLICHÉ. For it, I dug out a couple of my books on craft, namely THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell and THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. Okay, I watched a couple Star Wars movies, too, but that was sheer good fortune of my kids asking yet again to watch them. Obi Wan and Yoda are definitely nice mentor figures.

Anyway, my point is that while writing the post I realized how long it's been since I sat down and read a book on craft through. Probably nearly a year. I've done a ton of reading but not a book on craft.

I read in someone's blog post the other day that the theory was out there that if you are reading then you are reading for craft and that craft books could be a bit superfluous. Do I think this is true? No way.

Just skimming through THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler made me realize how much I need to go back and read it again. Reading about his thoughts on mentors made me realize what I need to do with my mentors in my current WIP. I can do so much more with them. I can make them have a purpose beyond existing. (And for the record, my current WIP has two distinguishable mentors.)

Some of my favorite craft books just to pick a handful are:

What are your thoughts on craft books? Love them? Never read them? And how often do you re-read?

And Happy Thursday! I'm heading to a librarian event tomorrow, so I'm not sure there will be a Five on a Friday this week. Maybe. Maybe not.


MG Higgins said...

I absolutely need to read more books on craft, so thank you for the recommendations.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love reading books on craft. One of my favorites is actually written for teenagers, "Writing Magic" by Gail Carson Levine. The kids and I will pull it out and do an exercise together just for fun. It's great for sparking creativity.

Anonymous said...

I try. :) No, I've started reading more of them the past year or so--LOVE Writer's Journey. Also, Maass' Breakout Novel is great--I have Fire in Fiction on my shelf & need to pick it up. I also like Make a Scene, by Jorden Rosenfeld and Hooked by Les Edgerton.

I have a critique partner, Terri Thayer, who is brilliant at this. No matter what craft book she reads, it shows up (seamlessly) in her writing. Her brain seems to absorb it all, process it into what she needs, and deliver it back again into her story. Me, I feel like it's more of a struggle, but worth it!

PJ Hoover said...

You're welcome, MG! These are some fantastic ones.

Wow, Sherrie, how cool your kids will do it with you. And what a GREAT idea.

I has the Maass book here, Becky, but haven't read it yet. I need to!
I get more out of a craft book each time I read it.

Miriam S.Forster said...

Ooo!! I love reading craft books, and I've got some good ones, Stephan King, Terry Brooks, etc.

Unfortunate most of my nuts-and-bolts craft books are about the basics, (This is a plot, this is a character, etc.) so I needed to find some more advanced ones. Your recommendations are great!

lotusgirl said...

I think it's important to read them. I loved Stephen King's On Writing. I've read several others that have been really helpful to me like the Orson Scott Card one I reviewed last week: Characters and Viewpoint. There was another I read by Kurt Vonnegut that was really good. I can't remember the title.

Christina Farley said...

I think my comment disappeared but what I was saying is that I think I learn something new everytime I read a book on craft. And each time I pick it up I can apply it to something else. I like Maass book too and the workbook!

Anna said...

Thanks for the book suggestions! Some of them I've read, but others I'll need to check out.

I love reading craft books now, but it took me several years to warm up to them. I'd read them when I first started writing and then I'd put them away and forget about them. Only in the past couple of years have I realized that not only do I need to read craft books, I need to REREAD them too. I get something new from them every time, and very often it's something that helps me with whatever I'm having trouble with at the time. Who knew?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'm going on a week to a quiet beach town soon, and I plan to take Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel with me. I'm hoping I will read it through by being somewhere without the daily life distractions. I'm interested in Sherrie's mention of Writing Magic, sounds like a fun one.

PJ Hoover said...

Your'e welcome, Miriam! I love basic ones on one topic and those that cover a lot, too. I'll have to check out the TB book.

And that one, too, Lois! Orson Scott Card has been on my list for years!
I'm writing it down NOW!

I get so much more each time, Christine! It's such a wonderful feeling - like I'm actually learning something.

This is so right where I am, Anna. I think the craft books will hold the answer to my current WIP issues.

Sounds like a dream week, Tricia. Can I come?

Heather Zundel said...

Oooh, I have some cool new books to look at. (And I loved your post at the Enchanted Inkpot. I sent it to several friends).

Vivian said...

I have many books on craft but have yet to really sit down and dissect them, along with my writing.

Can't wait to hear about your event! Have fun.

Carrie Harris said...

I keep Fiction First Aid in my bathroom and read it while the girls are splashing around in the tub. Love that book.

Lynn Colt said...

I reread every time I'm between novels, to absorb a little more craft-wisdom before launching myself into another story. Actually, I should be doing that now, so thanks for the reminder! (and for the list; some of those I haven't read and will definitely check out)

Trisha Pearson said...

I love books on craft and think they are very important. It's easy to forget important things.

I got out my copy of The Writer's Journey last weekend and had it spiral bound for easier use. I'm reviewing all the archetypes and steps of the hero's journey before I re-plan the end of my book. I love The Writer's Journey! It's by far my favorite book on craft. I love the pictures too!

Have a great weekend!

Lenore said...

I've read On Writing and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

I also particularly enjoy Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose and Story by Robert McKee (even if it is about screenwriting).

Angela said...

Ohh, Fiction First Aid--I haven't seen this one yet! Must read it!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks for sending the link to some friends, Heather! I loved doing the EI post.

Thanks, Vivian! I'm feeling a real need to re-read some of the books. I think that's where I am in my WIP right now.

Carrie, you use your time so wisely! I used to keep mine in the car and read while waiting for stuff.

PJ Hoover said...

They are some of my favorites, Lynn. The ones I keep coming back to over and over again.

What a great idea on the spiral-binding, Trisha. That would make it easier to flip through.

I've read STORY, Lenore, but haven't read the READING LIKE A WRITER. I'll have to check it out!

FICTION FIRST AID is one of the best, Angela!

Rebecca said...

I'm not big on craft books. I do love Stephen King's On Writing, but more for the personal stories than the writing advice (good advice that it is). I also loved reading Roald Dahl's Boy. I love getting that glimpse into other writers' lives.

PJ Hoover said...

I haven't read BOY, Rebecca, but I'm thinking I should!