Tag Archives: Jackie Collins

The SCOTT TOPICS™ Mail Bag: Writing Advice, VIBE, & What I’m reading these days…

{I get a lot of email from readers—of VIBE, of HUNG, of the blog—and many of the questions I get in them overlap. I do try to get back to everyone who writes, but sometimes things, as you kn0w, get crazy—doesn’t help that I’m a full-time grad student now! So I decided to just answer a bunch of the questions I’ve gotten right here at SCOTT TOPICS™, that way I answer my mail, but also provide answers to questions others might have but haven’t gotten around to writing. Hope these answer some of your questions…!}

“Can you recommend a really good book on learning to write?” ~ T.K., Seattle

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever read any “how-to write” books! I used to love to read Writer’s Digest magazine, but that was mainly to read the interviews with writers and the invaluable business-y stuff that they publish. Oh, I did really like Stephen King’s On Writing, but that might be because I was his biggest fan from around 1979 til about 1993. He makes some good points about style and the writer’s life, but I don’t know what “lessons” I got from it per se.

That said, if I was forced to name the books that “taught” me how to write, I’d probably say these:

Anything by Joan Didion or James Baldwin or Truman Capote (for both journalistic and creative style and clarity)

Anything by Judy Blume or John Irving (for emotional truth)

Anything by Jackie Collins or Stephen King or Ross McDonald (for ace plotting and storytelling acumen)

Anything by Toni Morrison or Charles Chesnutt (for ambition)

In other words, I guess what I’m saying is, to be a good writer, I had to be a good reader. I had to pay close attention to the things that made me want to re-read them, to the books and writers who made me want to put them down and go straight to the pen or typewriter or computer. I also learned to listen to the written voice of writers,  to the rhythm of their prose, and how that rhythm informed the language to create something wonderful on the page.

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