Your Own Shelf Of Writing Advice

By now, you know the story: blah blah blah, CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY is out, it’s now available in Kindle and Nook and PDF and, should you choose not to procure it, it will be available as a manuscript duct-taped through a brick and thrown through your front window.

I kid, I kid.

Seriously, though, it gets me thinking about other books of writing advice. I never understood writers who shirk writing advice because I’ve always found it so useful. I also don’t really grok those who absorb so much advice but then never actually… ohh, I dunno, put pen to paper because whenever I read great writing advice, all it makes me want to do is take what I learned and put it into play. Like reading the Kama Sutra for the first time. “Sun-Burned Donkey On Ravenna’s Porch? Upward Tilting Samsara With A Side Of Bhel Puri? Monkey Steal The Plums? I want to do all of these right now!”

Here’s the writing advice that lives on my shelf:

Ray Bradbury, ZEN AND THE ART OF WRITING.

Lawrence Block, both WRITING THE NOVEL and TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT.

Stephen King’s ON WRITING.

Robert McKee, STORY.

Elements of Fiction Writing: CONFLICT, ACTION & SUSPENSE.

Alex Epstein, CRAFTY SCREENWRITING.

Alex Epstein, CRAFTY TV WRITING.

Blake Snyder, SAVE THE CAT!

Syd Field, SCREENPLAY.

I’ve got other stuff, too — some stuff about writing horror (DARK THOUGHTS: ON WRITING), lots of grammar books (GRAMMAR GIRL, EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES).

Bradbury’s book is cool — lots of personal tales, very bite-sized stuff, a book of wildly-roving advice. I like the way he wrote many of his original stories: he penned a list of cool titles, then one by one wrote stories to go with ’em. King’s book is pretty standard, and a truly great book — it was one of those books though that got me on some good habits and some bad ones. McKee’s story is nice enough, and there’s some valuable information, but the book is way too long for what it’s trying to tell you, and at times feels soulless. Epstein and Snyder show you the formulas that persist in film and television, and add new twists to those formulas.

I love what other authors have to say about the writing process. I lean toward advice that’s equal parts philosophical and practical and that lists into “hard-ass” territory, but then again, you already knew that: it’s ideally what you read here at terribleminds. I find it motivating. Thought-provoking. Never enervating.

How about you? What books of advice do you have on your shelves? Why are they there? Any books you didn’t like? Feel free to extend this out to blogs, too. I’m curious: where do you get your advice, and why?