I’ve been working hard on the revision of The Next Novel, combing out tangles—only to have new tangles emerge. There’s something at the heart of this novel that eludes me, and the more I stare at it, the more mysterious it seems.

When I get to this desperate stage, I gobble up books on writing. I must have almost one hundred now, for when I hit this wall only a new book on writing will do.

My bibles now:


The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass.

I actually think this might well be the only book I’ll ever need, it’s so good. Maass, a NY agent, is extremely articulate on what makes a novel work. I usually ignore the writing exercises in books on writing, but these I like (and am using).

But of course, I had to get just one more book on writing, and it proved to be essential as well:

Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield (cover at the head of this post), is very short but powerful: a one-two punch on the creative process, a tremendously bracing Hang In There diatribe—just what I needed.

Someday I intend to put my short-list of fantastic books on writing on a spearate page on this blog.

But for now, I’d like to know which books you recommend.

(Other than From Where We Dream by Robert Olen Butler, which we all know is great.)