I did it. I read 10 popular books on writing. I had some thoughts.
Here they are.
Back to Creative Writing School by Bridget Whelan reminds me a little bit of a book I used to own (and might still have, buried somewhere in my childhood closet in my parents’ house) called Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg. Room to Write is a book of writing exercises that was given to me as a gift when I was a teenager. At one point, I was determined to complete every exercise in the book.
It turns out I am terrible at writing exercises. Despite that, I still bought another book a few years ago called 642 Things to Write About. It is currently collecting dust on a shelf in my office. I think I did three of the exercises. Same with Start Where You Are.
So you might think that my past record with writing exercises might color my thoughts on Back to Creative Writing School. I thought it might, too, but luckily my purpose in reading it wasn’t to complete any of the exercises. It was to learn whether the author might have anything to say about the role of research in the writing process.
Back to Creative Writing School was number 9 on the list of the top 10 most popular writing books on Goodreads (as of June 2018). Below are my thoughts, some related to my research, some not.
So I’ve mentioned before that in my quest to read and analyze 10 popular books on creative writing to see how/whether they talk about the role of research in the creative process, not every book is a good candidate, but I’m being a completist about it anyway because you never know.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King is the ninth book on the list. Below are some thoughts.
So if I’m being honest, I had never heard of Zen in the Art of Writing or any of the essays in it before encountering it on the list I’m using for my project. It wasn’t the only book on the list I wasn’t familiar with but it was the only one by Ray freakin’ Bradbury.
I tend to think of Ray Bradbury’s work as Required Reading, like the kind of thing that’s liable to show up on a high school summer reading list or maybe a college course syllabus. Which is ironic, considering how in at least one of the essays here Bradbury goes on and on about how teachers and librarians don’t appreciate the value of genre fiction like the stuff he writes.
Anyway, in reading this book, I had a couple of takeaways, some of which are related to my research project and some aren’t.
So when I saw The Elements of Style on the list of most popular writing books, I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to have anything in it about research since it’s more of a reference book about punctuation and grammar but I decided to be a completist and include it in my study anyway. I was right that there wasn’t really anything about research, but I’m glad I read it mostly because almost every other book on this list either makes mention of it or actively recommends it.
When it comes to books about grammar and punctuation, I’m more of an Eats, Shoots and Leaves person than a Strunk & White person (as The Elements of Style seems to be more commonly known), so some of my thoughts on The Elements of Style are mixed up with more general thoughts about this topic and ES&L specifically.
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway (with Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Ned Stuckey-French) was number six on the list of Goodreads’ popular creative writing books.
Because Writing Fiction is more of a textbook by nature (see below), it has more editions than other books on this list. For this project, I was able to get a hold of the eighth edition, which is not the most recent one. I make note of it only because there might be some content differences between the various editions that I’m unaware of since I only read the one. If you’re familiar with the book and you do spot some differences, I’d be interested to hear about them.
Below are some more detailed thoughts.
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler was a book I hadn’t heard of before finding it on this list, but I had heard of (and read) The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, which the ideas in this book are largely based on/adapted from.
This is where things with this series of posts are going to get a little timey wimey because even though I’m posting my entries on these books in the order they appeared on the original list, I didn’t read them that way. So even though The Writer’s Journey is near the top of the list, it was actually the last one I read. And if I’m being really honest, I was feeling a bit burned out on writing advice and wasn’t expecting this book to be as long as it was. But there were aspects of this book I ended up really appreciating, even though it didn’t have much/anything to say about research. Below are some thoughts.