Saturday, July 30, 2011

Writing Books

Although there are many books on the craft of writing, only a few have bridged the gap between writing for the printed page and writing for the Web. In this article I will write about some of the books that teach the basics of writing, how to craft an article, and how to come up with ideas for stories.

One of the books that can be of great help to any writer is the classic by Strunk and White called 'The Elements of Style'.

This slim volume can teach you how to become a master of the English language. If you follow its 7 rules of usage, its 11 principles of composition, and heed a few principles of style, you cannot help becoming a good writer.

It is a marvel of terse writing, setting aside long-winded explanations for simple, direct sentences that tell the reader what he needs to know. His exhortations to "Omit needless words!" have been observed throughout the book.

Another book that should be in every writer's library is 'On Writing Well' by William Zinsser. Subtitled 'The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction' it is a master class on how to write articles and essays.

Mr. Zinsser draws on his years of writing hundreds of articles for the major magazines to pinpoint the little mistakes that can jeopardize a good article.

He emphasizes that the lead is the most important part of the article because this is what will encourage the reader to either continue reading or to jump to another article.

Equally important is an article's ending because, if it is well written, the reader will be left with a feeling of having learned something and the desire to learn more. Mr. Zinnser uses excerpts from his past articles to show how he achieved the desired effects in his compositions.

Ray Bradbury'S 'Zen in the Art of Writing' is a book that can teach the writer how to be more creative and how to find his own voice. Mr. Bradbury is a legendary voice in science-fiction with scores of novels and short stories, as well as film scripts and poetry, to his credit.

Of particular interest to writers is his method of finding ideas to write about. His approach is to go deep down into one's childhood memories and remember the things that caused the most impression. You can use the images of your childhood fears and joys as building blocks to craft a short story or a longer piece.

Another book that can teach you the nuts and bolts of writing novels is 'The Weekend Novelist' by Robert Ray. His approach is to teach you how to write a novel in 52 weekends. Each weekend you will work on one aspect of your novel, beginning with a portrait of the protagonist and her back story. Other characters are then introduced who will continue with the story.

His method of dividing the novel into three acts and several major scenes is reassuring because writing a novel can be a daunting task. You can work on any scene at any time once you have written the major scenes. These will serve as beacons to guide you in your writing.

By dividing the task into 52 weekends, he decreases the anxiety that any writer faced with the blank page can experience. Another positive aspect is his use of Aristotle's Incline to keep the writer on track. You can use this tool at any time to see if you are heading in the right direction, especially if you begin to feel the symptoms of writer's block.

Another valuable book that every writer should have is Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Though not a writing manual per se, it is a mine of information, of anecdotes, and of those names and events that most of us are not familiar with. It is also an excellent recourse for the writer in need of ideas around which to weave a story or article.