Sunday, February 15, 2009

Craft Books

Not knitting, not macramé, and no glue guns involved. I'm on a mission to find great books about the craft of writing.

As previously noted, I am a sucker for just about any writing advice book. And I've read a lot of them—books about how to get your butt in the chair, books about how to keep it there, books of writing exercises, and books about how to trick yourself into writing without realizing it.

But now I want specifics. I'm taking a class right now and I learn more about craft. Last week I got some feedback on a work in progress that said I was splitting the tone and content in a way that worked well for the piece. And I thought, "Oh, riiiight . . . tone!" Not that I don't know what tone is, but I am not thinking about it explicitly when writing or revising. And I should be.

So I want to get more conversant with my craft. I believe this will make me a better writer and better able to manipulate the elements of my essays to do what I want them to do. And I think it will make me a better to the Legendary Cow Skulls.

Part of this is explained by my crabbed little engineer's soul, which believes that there's a mechanical explanation for absolutely everything—that it;s possible to say something like, "If you do X, it will have Y effect on your prose and on your reader." And while I know that overstates what's realistically possible, if you believe that writing can be taught (and I do) then it has at least some basis in truth.

There are not a ton of books about the craft of creative nonfiction, or at least I haven't found them. My favorite so far is Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola. Also, on my instructor's recommendation, I've picked up The Portable MFA, by The New York Writers Workshop.

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