Books for authors

On one of the panels at Arisia 2020, we discussed what books new authors can turn to to master the craft.

Here are some of my suggestions:

Must read books

A Farewell to Arms ( how to break the reader’s heart with as few words as possible)
The Sun also Rises (complex and deep characters in as few words as possible)
Lolita (how to make someone who is revolting compelling)
Ada or Ardor (how to write an idea – relativity)
Pride and Prejudice (how to be critical of your society and make them love it)
Our Mutual Friend (how to reinvent your story in the middle (he needed an editor, but he published as a serial)
The Crying of Lot 49 (how to get the reader to turn the page)
The Tropic of Cancer (how to write ecstatically)
Henry and June (how to write people you know so compellingly they become legends)
Kafka on the Shore (excellent surreal narrative)
19Q4 (there are chapters where nothing happens and you care deeply about that nothing)
Beloved (how to write about regret, grief, and love)
The Maltese Falcon (an actual mystery in a detective story and some of the tightest prose ever with brilliant first person narrative)
Frankenstein (launched a genre or two)

Narrative poems still worth reading

Orlando Furioso
The Dream of the Red Chamber

II. Genera specific books

Lord of the Rings
Foundation (all the books)
Left Hand of Darkness
Wizard of Earth Sea
The Compleate Complete Enchanter (all the stories in all the books)
Book of Atrix Wolfe
Forgotten Beasts of Eld
The Bridge of Birds
Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser (all the stories in all the books)

World building
A writer’s guide to weapons

III. Poetry books
Books on writing poetry

A poet’s guide to poetry, Mary Kinzie
The making of a poem, Mark Strand & Eavan Boland
Types of Poetry, Howard Hall
An Introduction to Poetry, X.J. Kennedy
Rhyme’s Reason, Joh Hollander
What is Poetry, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Narrative Poems, C.S. Lewis
Poetic Meter & Poetic Form, Paul Fussell
The Ode Less Travelled, Stephen Fry

IV. Plot books
Books which mainly focus on plot

Meander, Spiral, Explode, Jane Alison
Beginnings, Middles, & Ends, Nancy Kress

V. Character books
Books that mostly focus on character creation or development.

Take your characters to dinner, Laurel Yourke
Writing the Other, Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward

V. Grammar books
Books which mainly focus on grammar and punctuation

The New Well-Tempered Sentence, Karen Gordon
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, Karen Gordon

VI. Revision books
Books that focus mainly on drafting and editing

Steering the Craft, Ursula Le Guin (make certain you get the Eighth Mountain Press edition)
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Mass

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