The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner – First off, let me say that John Gardner is an opinionated guy who doesn’t mind ruffling a few rhinestones (anyone who calls a Pulitzer Prize winning novel like The Grapes of Wrath a “disappointing melodrama” is a man of some audacity). He also likes to refer to classical mythology that many people will not know. Overall, these are minor problems easily offset by the quality of information he supplies. My theory is that if I read an instructional book and learn ONE significant thing then it was worth the trouble. This book is filled with epiphanies both big and small. Of course, it’s not a breezy, easy read, and if you’re looking for a blog style, connect-the-dots kind of bullet point plan you’d best look elsewhere. This is a wordy, essay-like book filled with detailed information about writing fiction, from the basics to sophisticated nuances. It requires a certain amount of patience, but I think everyone can benefit from reading it.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass – Don is a big-time literary agent who has written many novels under other names. I don’t think any of them have ever “broken out,” but I won’t hold that against him because this book is really good. It’s simple and straightforward and contains clear and logical advice. He covers the basics and then goes beyond them in a way that’s easy to understand. His example novels tend to be contemporary and formulaic, but hey, he’s talking about commercial success in the current marketplace, and he knows what works. If you don’t have the patience for Gardner, this is a great choice.
Jim Butcher’s blog – Jim has a rarely updated blog at http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/ where he wrote quite a bit about the craft of writing. His style is entertaining and his information is easy to grasp. He’s really talking about genre fiction here—but I’m okay with that because I like genre style plotting in a book. I like a hero, and a villain, and a protagonist with a clear goal, and that’s what Jim likes, too.
The downside here is that his Obi Wan-like lessons seem incomplete—but I suspect this is because he got too busy selling millions of books. Check out what’s there.
Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Brue Lee – This is not a book about writing, but I like Bruce’s basic concept, “the way of no way.” You don’t need to read the book, you just need to get one of the main ideas—and the idea says that while it’s good to learn from others, don’t get stuck on an inflexible path. Don’t stick to anyone’s teaching like some kind of law. Learn from everyone, but do what works for you. Be like water and adapt. I’ve found this to be the best advice of all.
Joe Canzano is a writer and musician from New Jersey, U.S.A. His short stories have appeared in a half-dozen printed literary journals, as well as in the Akashic Books online series, "Mondays are Murder." He recently published his debut novel, "Magno Girl." It’s a comic urban fantasy that tells the story of a female superhero. The book combines a noir voice with absurd humor.
Praise for Magno Girl:
“The writing is quick and the wit is sharp... This is a genuinely fun book to read”
--The Hungry Monster Book Review
“We need more big-name female superheroes, and we have a great one here.”
--I’m With Geek
For more information, please visit Joe’s web site at www.happyjoe.net.