Books for writers moved to the top of my summer TBR pile when I discovered several new books for writers on crafting nonfiction. Whether you write creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, essays or the old plain Jane non-fiction, these books should provide you with solid information as well as plenty to think about.
What about that old dictum we writers are fed about “show, don’t tell?” Is it all show? Is there any place for the art of telling? How about ethics? Are there real ethical concerns that need to be addressed or can writers skip all that stuff and write whatever they want in whatever way they want and still call it truth? All this and more is addressed in the books for writers below.
My top books for writers this summer
To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate
I confess, I’ve been waiting for Phillip Lopate to write his book on writing essays and nonfiction ever since I read his fascinating introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present many years ago. When it comes to books for writers, especially those who write creative or literary nonfiction, Lopate’s new book To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction tops my TBR pile. In fact, I’m already past the first fifty pages and am eager to read more.
The art of characterization comes down to establishing a pattern of habits and actions for the person you are writing about and introducing variations into the system. In this respect, building a character is a pedagogic model, because you are teaching the reader what to expect. – Phillip Lopate, To Show and To Tell
Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracey Kidder
Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction is among the good books for writers published this year on writing nonfiction by Tracey Kidder and Richard Todd. Kidder and Todd have been working together as writer and editor for many years. One of the interesting things Todd reveals is that early on he realized that at times when Kidder would give him unfinished drafts or read something to him over the phone, “he was being asked for reassurance, not criticism.”
Too often, I think, we jump the gun and offer a critique when a hearty “Good job!” is all that is required.
Like the act of remembering, the art of writing your own story inevitably distorts, if only by creating form where disorder reigns. To make sense of your life or a portion of it is to tell a story, and story often stands at odds with the ferment in which you have lived. That’s one point of a story: to replace confusion with sense. The impulse of memoir is itself a fictive impulse. – Tracey Kidder & Richard Todd, Good Prose
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind
When it comes to creative nonfiction, Lee Gutkind is definitely an expert. With a hefty title like You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between you might worry that the author might not be able to deliver, but Gutkind is one of the godfathers of the new creative nonfiction and knows his stuff inside-out. He’s been writing and teaching the art of nonfiction for decades. You might find the section The Creative Nonfiction Police interesting.
More than in any other literary genre, the creative nonfiction writer must rely on his or her conscience and sensitivity to others and display a higher moral authority and a healthy respect for fairness and justice. We may harbor resentments, hatreds, and prejudices; but being writers doesn’t give us a special dispensation to behave in a way unbecoming to ourselves and hurtful to others. – Lee Gutkind, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
Writing In Flow by Susan Perry
The whole concept of flow captured my attention when I first read the books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His books focused on the creative process rather than the craft of writing. Flow is definitely the state writers most hope to attain when they stare at a blank page or screen. Building on those works, Susan Perry takes up the writer’s creative process in Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity.
…entering flow easily and frequently should enable you to write more fluently and prolifically, and thus, potentially, to produce more distinguished and lasting fiction or poetry. – Susan Perry, Writing in Flow
The Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman
I’ve had Peter Bowman’s book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living standing on my shelf for quite some time. It’s time I gave it the attention it deserves. There are a lot of books for writers that focus on self-publishing but this one provides a successful and repeatable step-by-step program. Bowman’s primer on self-publishing is based on the process he used to become a successful self-published author who actually earns a living writing.
Understand this: Success as a self-publisher is far more than a function of a process than an aptitude. It’s far less about some way you have to be than it is about a bunch of things you have to do. And when we’re talking about actions, we’re talking about something you have total control over. — Peter Bowman, The Well-Fed Writer
Okay, that’s my top five books for writers this summer. Instead of ten books I decided to narrow my focus to one genre this week and to five books for writers. We’ll see what happens next week. Do you write nonfiction? What would you like to see? Leave your comments below.