Lots of folks put down books about writing and say that they aren’t helpful to anybody. I collected a lot of them before I took writing classes. They didn’t help me as much as I would have liked but what I’ve found is that some of them do touch a nerve with me now. It’s almost as if you have to reach a certain level of knowledge before you understand what they’re about. From time to time, I’ll tell you about some writing books I’ve read and you can decide on your own if they are worthwhile!
One of my favorite books about writing isn’t something for beginners. I’ve had this book probably since 2000 or so. I shelved it away with the rest and forgot all about it. One of my routines that I use if I’m having trouble getting into my writing is that I read a little bit from one of my writing books. Last year, when I was struggling with a particular passage from a literary novel I was working on (and also will have critiqued at Sewanee next week!) I picked up Creating Fiction edited by Julie Checkoway.
I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t opened the book for almost ten years. It’s actually a series of articles by 23 teachers at writing programs. When I read Stephen Dixon’s article on publishing, I suddenly understood why he’d looked at me so strangely when I asked him when a story was done! I particularly liked Lan Samantha Chang’s article about how stories shape a pattern in time. So if you’re into this sort of thing, you might want to take a look. You can buy a reasonably priced copy at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.