Writers in Various Stages of Christmas Shopping (2021)

As part of the Writers in Various Stages of Development interview series, I ask writers to recommend their favourite books.

Since it’s getting dangerously close to Christmas – here’s a handy list to help you with your letter to Santa. Because as all writers know, getting a new book about writing kinda counts as actually writing.

Get ready to find out which was the most recommended book! #clickbait

This list contains suggestions from writers featured in series 2 and 3. You can find more recommendations from series 1 here. I also wrote a blog about some of my favourite books back in 2019, that still holds up.

Film Crit Hulk’s Screenwriting 101 (Recommended by Tasha Dhanraj)

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (Recommended by Cameron Loxdale)

“Probably the best book I’ve read about writing generally. It’s not remotely related to comedy writing but I really enjoyed it.”

Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction (Recommended by Henrik Persson)

Screenplay by Syd Field (Recommended by Ben Ellis)

“A great book, especially for anyone just starting out.”

The Writer’s Chapbook by George Plimpton (Recommended by Salim Allybokus)

Dave Cohen’s books (Recommended by Steve Blair)

“They’re inspiring but pull no punches and give a real insight into what it’s like being a comedy writer in the wider sense.”

Creating Character Arcs by K.M Weiland (Recommended by Omari McCarthy)

Adventures In The Screen Trade by William Goldman (Recommended by Lucy Dwyer)

The Hidden Tools of Comedy by Steve Kaplan (Recommended by Henrik Persson)

William Trevor’s Last Stories (Recommended by Salim Allybokus)

Pirate Robot Ninja by Will Hines and Billy Merrit (Recommended by Rebecca Bain and Alex Garrick-Wright)

“The theory is, in improv, there are two natural kinds of performers. One of them is a pirate who just bursts onto the stage and immediately creates a world, sets everything up, and has an idea. They make that world for everyone to play in but they’re not so hot at setting up the rules and the mechanics of how that world works, how the funny works, and where the game is. Then you have robots, who aren’t great at initiating. They aren’t great at setting things up but if you give them a world, you give them a setting; they make it work. They make it funny. They make the game happen.”

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (Recommended by Jen Ives)

“An inspiring and wise look into the work ethic of comedy writing/performing.”

The Golden Theme by Brian McDonald (Recommended by Omari McCarthy)

Story by Robert McKee (Recommended by Lucy Dwyer)

Koestler’s The Act of Creation (Recommended by Henrik Persson)

Kafka’s Letters to Milena (Recommended by Salim Allybokus)

Comics (Recommended by Phil Davies)

“I have been an immense comic book geek for years and years. I would suggest to anyone looking at making headway in the scriptwriting side of things to pick up a few. If the explosion of Marvel Studios (and to an extent DC) has shown us anything, it’s that there is a real appetite for them, but there are plenty more out there besides the capes and spandex of superheroes. I properly started reading comics when I discovered Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman it was then I found a great literary medium. However, comics were always seen as something for children.

“Comics work as storyboards and scriptwriting is of course another visual medium/ literary exercise- we are trying to describe what we see in our heads.  I see comics are the link between screenplay and TV/films. The same things we are trying to do (build worlds, build stories, create tension) are all there. The practicalities are the same (transitions, visual elements).  The ideas can be immense as the only limits are skill of the artists, colourists, letterers and writers themselves.

“There is an immense range of styles, genres, visuals. People think comics and think Batman, Spiderman, Superman et al, whereas it should be seen in the same light as music, films, TV.  If someone tells us they like music, we ask what styles, what artist/ performers they enjoy.  It should be the same with these.

“A comic/ graphic novel won’t spell out your craft to you, by telling you about plotting, dialogue what works and what doesn’t. Whether we should be saving the cat or how to create a mood board. But it will show you.”

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Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (Recommended by Ben Ellis, Lucy Dwyer, and Adam Redfern)

“An essential read for any writer – whatever stage of their career they’re at.” Ben Ellis

“A great book on movie screenplays with great advice on how to approach writing them.” Adam Redfern

Into The Woods by John Yorke (Christopher Stanners, Clare Plested, Lucy Dwyer, and Omari McCarthy)

“I think everybody has to try things and find out what works for them. For longer, narrative stuff like sitcom scripts, what works for me is John Yorke’s five-act structure, which is laid out in his book Into The Woods. Breaking down a story in such a systematic way really unlocked something for me. Once that structure’s down, you can concentrate on making it funny.” Christopher Stanners

On Writing by Stephen King (Recommended by Ben Ellis, Lucy Dwyer, Nadia Fenty and Clare Plested)

More shopping lists

Check out this blog from Christmas 2019 for my top picks.

And see last years writers in various stages of Christmas shopping list

Let’s help to inspire the next generation of writers.

If you enjoyed this blog, please consider being awesome and donating to BookTrust.

The BookTrust Christmas appeal raises money to send surprise festive book parcels to children who are vulnerable or in care.

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