Thursday, July 26, 2007

program of study

I have always felt that the answer to every question I have ever had lies within the pages of a book somewhere, and that it is just a matter of finding the right book to have all my questions answered. With that thought in mind, I headed to my local public library to learn "how to write good". Here is the first armload of books I brought home:

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore

An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise De Salvo

Writing to Change to World by Mary Pipher

If you have any recommendations of books that have helped/inspired you to become a better writer, please pass them along to me. I thank you.

(I should perhaps mention that I already own copies of On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.)


Ben said...

You know, reading your first sentence, I was sure you were quoting some famous writer. Nicely said.

I found the following bit of cleverness on the Internets whilst searching for a copy of Michael O'Donahue's classic piece, "How To Write Good". Stay with it, some are at least groan-worthy:

Writing Tips
1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. Be more or less specific.
15. Understatement is always best.
16. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
17. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
18. The passive voice is to be avoided.
19. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
20. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
21. Who needs rhetorical questions?
22. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

anne mancine said...

Hm-m-m... Perhaps if I avoid all those "tips" I'll be O.K.

tom said...

Librarything also informs me that you have a copy of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, which should prove useful. :)

In all seriousness, writing short pieces regularly is probably the best thing you can do to improve your writing, although it can take a surprising amount of effort. Remember Mark Twain: I apologize for the length of this letter, but I didn't have time to make it shorter.

Julie said...

okay, i have to admit, some of those writing tips were pretty well done--i almost laughed (and that's saying something for me)!

Kristy said...

There are tons and TONS of material on writing on the interpipes/tubes/nets including podcasts of writing classes from ivy league universities and online writers workshops.

As for books, although i've never read it I've always wanted to, don't forget, Negotiating with the dead by Margaret Atwood.

Bryan said...

One of my problems is rambling wordiness, so I find The Copywriter's Handbook helpful. Although it's geared toward "copy that sells," it still helps me learn how to be concise and trim the excess, by explaining how much information is enough or too much.

anne mancine said...

Thanks for your recommendation, Bryan! It has been just like a treasure hunt finding all your comments on my blog today.

Bryan said...

Haha yes, as I said to Tom, "Your mom sure has a comment-able blog. I just posted like 4 comments in a row."