If your personal learning style lends itself to in-class interaction, then by all means, go for it. I definitely enjoy taking classes and attending workshops whenever I can. It’s good to have immediate access to an instructor or panel to get responses to questions and to get deeper into the various things that writers might want to discuss (e.g. theme, world building, character development, etc.).
Then there’s good ol’ book learnin’, which is what we’re here to talk about today. In-person instruction is great, but you generally don’t end up with a document that can be referenced later. Additionally, you might not end up getting any real value out of a class or workshop. It may be that you weren’t ready for the way in which the material was presented for some reason (mood, focus – damn this hotel ballroom is cold!, etc.). Of course, it could also be due to bad presentation. So what can you do about it? Well, you can pick up a book on writing and read it front to back. You’ve now got a document that you can reference at any time and, if you don’t get anything out of a particular section, you can always visit it again at a later time.
I wanted to drop a list of books on writing that I have read over the years and found particularly useful. This doesn’t mean that every word in each volume resonated with me and became a part of my personal truth. That said, I’ve learned quite a bit from these books and revisit them periodically to see if there’s anything else I can glean from the pages that didn’t stand out to me before.
These books all resonated with me in one way or another, and continue to do so. Your milage may vary.
- “On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft”, Stephen King. I can’t say enough good about this book. Although, I will admit that some of the hard lines that Kings takes don’t always work for me. He addresses his stance against plotting with a heavy hand.
- “Writers Workshop of Horror”, Michael Knost. Really good stuff from a Bram Stoker Award winner. I’ve had a few conversations with Michael and he’s a wonderful person who truly cares about helping writers, regardless of where they may be in their publication journey.
- “Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy”, Michael Knost. More good stuff.
- “Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction”, edited by Michael Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller. I picked this up at a conference a few years ago and I keep it close by in my home office.