Friday, June 22, 2007

One great thing about teaching

is that it forces you to look at what the heck you're doing, and to think about the basics. You think about what helped you to understand those basics.

I don't know how long I would have floundered without Lawrence Block's books on writing. For my money, they're still hard to beat. I wrote a letter to him when Goodnight, Irene was sold, thanking him for helping me to understand what went into writing a novel. I'm far from the only writer who read and reread his books before setting out on this adventure, nor am I the only author who goes back to them every now and then.

There are other fine books on writing — Oakley Hall's Art & Craft of Novel Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird come to mind. But Block's straightforward and insightful explanations of the essentials show that this four-time Edgar-winner and MWA Grand Master also has a gift for teaching. His writing books should be in every new writer's library.

The ones that helped me to get started:
Spider, Spin Me A Web
Writing the Novel From Plot to Print
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit


Anonymous said...

Hey Professor Burke
I've read a lot of books on writing, and love "Bird by Bird." I also love Stephen King's "On Writing."

My new favorite, though, is Sara Paretsky's "Writing in an Age of Silence."

Jan Burke said...

Haven't see that one yet. Thanks for letting me know about it!