Ten great writing books – Jules Moulin
By Jules Moulin
The smartest person I know in the world has been writing his first novel for thirteen years. We were chatting over coffee recently, and I asked him if he’d read the book Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark, a book I adore and reference as I write. He looked up from his espresso and said, “I don’t read writing books.” ♥
I paused, with my latte to my lips. “You don’t?” I said, surprised. “Ever?” Then I put my cup down, confused, wanting to know why.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
My blood ran cold. Here was a friend I’d always admired for his awe-inspiring intellect (high-school valedictorian, perfect SATs and APs, Ivy grad, tech guru). He wanted to be a writer, and yet he had no interest in reading what more accomplished writers had to share about the art and craft of writing.
I was astonished, and to be honest, a little saddened. First, because he’s a friend of mine, and I care about his wellbeing and success, but second, because I care deeply about the fate of this novel he’s been writing for over a decade…
On the other hand, who was I to judge? Maybe he doesn’t want his writing clouded or confused by someone else’s ideas about writing! Maybe his book will win a Pulitzer!
On the other, other hand, I wondered, if he truly wants to write (and eventually complete) a great novel, why wouldn’t he read every single book he could find on novel writing, story telling, screenwriting, playwriting — every possible how-to, written by great writers?
Of course not all great writers are equally great teachers. There’s a short story writer I greatly admire who has taught writing at a major university for decades. I’ve heard through the grapevine that although this woman is a wonderful and witty writer, she’s a chilly and withholding professor. A student once accused of her of not wanting to share her writing secrets with her class because she didn’t want the competition.
Who knows if it’s true? Maybe she’s someone who is a great writer and not a great teacher. I’ve never met her.
But if Stephen King, Anne Lamott, or Norman Mailer offered to sit down over coffee and chat about writing with me, I’d say yes in a heartbeat.
And that’s what they’ve done, by writing their books about writing.
All these authors are great teachers, too–generous, and effective at communicating the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as the more ephemeral and emotional parts of the writing process.
Why wouldn’t my friend – or any writer – take full advantage?
These books have influenced and changed my writing, and therefore, changed my life, too. If you haven’t read any writing books yet, here is a list of ten greats, written by brilliant and accomplished writers – writers who have taken the time to write down their secrets and share them with you. Enjoy!
On Moral Fiction by John Gardner
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey
Story Trumps Structure by Steven James
Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
Story by Robert McKee
On Writing by Stephen King
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
Writing Fiction edited by Alexander Steele
The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera
Jules Moulin has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She spent her twenties writing the Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning series Party of Five and The West Wing. She left Hollywood five years ago in order to work as a full-time mum and splits her time between New York City and Pasadena, California. Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes is her first novel.