Thursday, December 1, 2016

5 Books Every Aspiring Writer Should Read

CTTO: Grammarly

When it comes to giving aspiring writers advice, famous authors have suggested everything from imagining you’re dying (Anne Enright) to abstaining from alcohol, sex, and drugs (Colm Tóibín). The one pointer that nearly every personality seems to agree on, though, is that anyone dreaming of penning the next great novel should read, read, read.

And while the rule seems to be the more books the merrier, here are a few top recommendations for those counting on being the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou, or Bret Easton Ellis.

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Recommended by some of the best in the biz, including Man Booker Prize–winning author Hilary Mantel, Dorothea Brande’s 1930s meditation on the process of creative writing delves into what it takes to become a writer from the inside out. Neither a technical manual nor a reference book, Becoming a Writer is more aptly a friendly but blunt guide, alongside which beginners can explore the art of authorship, the discipline necessary to achieve a finished work, and the false belief that writers are born and not made.

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Though widely lauded as the inventor of the modern detective story, Edgar Allan Poe is also credited as being the first great American literary critic. This long-celebrated anthology offers up evidence of both, presenting aspiring writers with the opportunity to dissect the master craftsman’s essays on good writing and the “unity of effect” before devouring the very tales that brought his theories to life and bricked in (“Cask of Amontillado” anyone?) his place in literary history forever.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

If you’re an aspiring writer looking for an inspiring success story, some sort of experiential solidarity with one of the most bestselling authors of all time, and a handy textbook full of useful advice, Stephen King’s part-master-class, part- memoir is it. Readers not only get insight into how the famous storyteller became a writer and hurdled massive life challenges; they get a handy collection of tried-and-tested tips, from philosophical musings (The magic is in you) to grammatical lessons (Don’t use passive voice) to plot pointers (Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings).

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

One of the most important things to keep in mind as an aspiring writer is that, in fact, there’s no right way to write a story. A point that’s wonderfully illustrated by the great William Faulkner and his seminal work, As I Lay Dying . The celebrated novelist broke with convention to tell the tale of a poor Southern family’s quest to bury their matriarch, Addie Bundren, in the town of Jefferson through not one, not two, but fifteen different narrators. Faulkner brazenly pairs this technique with what was at the time a seldom-used narrative device called stream of consciousness writing. The result was a risky, out-on-a-limb work that, along with his other publications, would eventually earn him the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

As one character so wisely tells another in Japanese sensation Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84,

"When you introduce things that most readers have never seen before into a piece of fiction, you have to describe them with as much precision and in as much detail as possible. What you can eliminate from fiction is the description of things that most readers have seen."

Nowhere is this more vital than in speculative or science fiction, and arguably, few do it consistently better than Canadian author Margaret Atwood. While her Man Booker Prize–winning The Blind Assassin and Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning The Handmaid’s Tale are classics as much as primers in the art of constructing convincing settings, aspiring writers will find a formidable and incredibly inventive blueprint in the post-apocalyptic world of Oryx and Crake.