Although the editors of the publishing houses are invaded daily by manuscripts and editorial proposals, few Englishs are also dedicated to buying books. So much so that it becomes very difficult to find a market even for those novels that actually would be good, but are not lucky enough to “break through”.
For this reason, one probably does not feel the need for other manuals and other courses that teach aspiring writers how to write. Rather, there would be more need for courses to train new readers, to instill in them the pleasure of reading.
The publishers, however, who have just been overwhelmed by this unwanted material, must try to survive, and so in recent years they have tried to take advantage of the situation. Publishing dozens and dozens of creative writing manuals.
On the other hand, where there is a market there must also be an offer that covers that sector and satisfies that request. Each publisher therefore has a guide to writing in the catalog. Sometimes they are signed by famous authors, sometimes by emeritus strangers who swear, however, to have the keys to break through.
In some cases they are translations of American works, in others they are actually collages of articles and letters that writers long dead have left to posterity, not thinking that they would have gone to form books of this type.
However, the aspiring writer is spoiled for choice. And not all manuals are always well made or useful. We decided to give you a hand and save you some money by examining those currently on the market. Here are the five that seem most interesting to us and could be useful to you.
Stephen King – On Writing
The advice (and life) of the master of horror
Let’s start with an atypical book, as atypical will be various volumes of our five. On Writing by Stephen King is not in fact the classic manual that a student would expect. There are no lessons or exercises, and for the most part it is more similar to a work of fiction than to an essay.
Yes, because Stephen King’s book can be divided into two, almost as if they were two different writings. On the one hand there is the autobiography, on the other a real act of love for the profession of writer. As for personal history, we learn about King’s difficult past, who, before becoming the most widely read and sold author in the world, was an attendant and threw his literary attempts into the trash.
His life thus becomes the first piece of advice for an aspiring writer. But not the only one. Then comes the so-called “toolbox” of King, with advice on the characters, on the plots, on the readings, on the tasks and the rhythms that must be given. In addition to a series of literary references that constitute the background of the writing of the king of the thrill, from H.P. Lovecraft to Elmore Leonard.
Stefano Brugnolo and Giulio Mozzi – Creative writing recipe book
Examples and strategies to write well
Instead, the setting of Stefano Brugnolo and Giulio Mozzi’s Creative Writing Recipe Book is more traditional. Moreover, the same publishing house that proposes it is the Zanichelli, in an institution in the field of education. But traditional, mind you, only up to a certain point. The decision to call it a “cookbook” and not a manual one derives precisely from the choice to provide not a series of lessons, but mostly examples and exercises that can be useful to those who want to compete with writing.
Organized in voices, which in the end turn out to be more than 500 and which are in any case linked together, the volume is a collection of solutions to concrete problems and expedients that can be useful to all. Ample space is left to the various techniques, from description to dialogue, from parodies to variations on the theme. And we are not dealing only with novels and fiction: Mozzi and Brugnolo also touch the levers of poetry and other forms of writing. All in just under 500 dense pages.
Robert McKee – Story
The American master of screenwriting
Internationally, Robert McKee is an institution in the field of creative writing. After having taught for years at the University of Southern California, in fact, the former professor is spending his retirement years touring the world with his seminars, in which he distils all his knowledge about writing. Knowledge that has fueled generations of screenwriters, especially for TV and cinema.
The content of those seminars has recently become available also in EU through the translation of his main best-seller, Story. The book, published by Omero Editore, received the endorsement of stars of the caliber of Lawrence Kasdan, writer of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hot Thrill and The Great Cold. But on the other hand it is enough to scroll through the first pages to realize how useful it can be.
Story is not, in fact, a classic manual, it does not give a series of cold and fleeting indications. McKee is an enthusiast, one who has dedicated his life to what he teaches.
For this reason, his essay becomes a way to rediscover what is at the base of the art of storytelling. That is, to use his words, the guiding principles that free talent. Ranging from Aristotle to Casablanca, from the Stanislavsky Method to films like Chinatown, it leads us to the true and profound rediscovery of what it means to write a book and more.
Bianca Pitzorno – The manual of the young creative writer
A children’s book that can be useful to adults
As we said, we decided in this our five to not be too obvious. In other words, not to offer you the usual manuals that are too often repeated and recall one another, but to vary. Because fiction and the ability to invent stories often arise obliquely, and oblique must, we believe, also be learning the techniques of the sector. This is why our fourth book in the fifth is The manual of the young creative writer of the good Bianca Pitzorno.
The Sardinian writer is one of the most important authors of books for children and young people of our already important tradition. A few years ago he decided to write a handbook of writing, but he remained true to his story. Therefore he wrote it for the very young, trying in a certain sense to stimulate in them the love for writing, which is often seen as a purely scholastic activity and therefore boring.
The book that came out of it, this small manual, is a sort of Grammar of Rodari’s fantasy turned to fiction. In which Pitzorno shows how you can play with words and how you can build exciting and varied stories from them. Leading the children – and why not, us too – on this journey is one of his most successful characters, the Prisca Puntoni, a young budding writer and already the protagonist of one of his novels.
William Strunk Jr. – Elements of style in writing
The Anglo-Saxon Bible
Writing a book is not an easy task, not only for technical difficulties. Even writing in and of itself is challenging. We need to find our own voice, show a certain style, avoid the mistakes that newcomers, who are constantly around the corner, always run into. In short, we must also raise the general level of our prose.
In 1918 William Strunk Jr., a professor of English at the prestigious Cornell University, wrote a simple and very brief guide which he called The Elements of Style. Published two years later, the manual was a resounding success in the Anglo-Saxon world, influencing entire generations of writers, whether they set to work on novels, or simply wanted to improve their writing. The book consists of elementary rules, principles of composition and lists of abused words and common mistakes.
Now that book, which Time has included in the list of the 100 most influential volumes of the ‘900, is translated and adapted to the English language. The credit goes to the types of Audino, which presents, among other things, an interesting series that attempts to deepen the various aspects of creative writing, both literary and theatrical.