I’ve written all my life, but I only seriously started writing a handful of years ago, and I didn’t know nearly as much about writing or what it takes to get published as I thought I did.
In part, that might be a good thing. Sometimes being naive when starting a journey can be helpful. After all, when you don’t know how difficult something is, it can be easier to begin.
While there’s no substitute for putting your butt in the chair and actually writing, there are a lot of books out there that can help point you in the right direction. These are some of the ones I’ve found most helpful.
On Writing, by Stephen King
Part how-to, part encouragement, there’s so much great advice in this book. Whether or not you actually like Stephen King, this book should be on every writer’s shelf.
Story Engineering: Mastering the Core Competencies of Successful Writing, by Larry Brooks
This book is my writing bible. No, seriously, it really is. It’s highlighted with tons of post-its stuck to the pages. It lays the structure of a story out in a concrete, simple way that works for my literal brain.
Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, by Nancy Kress
My writing critique group told me that my characters needed more agency until I was ready to explode. They also told me that my main characters were “wishy-washy” and “gray.” It’s not that I didn’t agree with them; it’s just that I had no idea how to fix the issue. This is the first book that actually made sense to me as to how to build good characters and sustain them through an entire book.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert
As much as I love writing, sometimes I just get burned out from doing it. I do it because I love it, but sometimes keeping all the balls in the air of juggling plot, character, conflict, etc drives me a little crazy. I read this book at exactly the time in my life that I needed to, and it helped me remember why I fell in love with stories.
Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, by Laura Vanderkam
This isn’t technically a book on writing, but if there’s one thing I hear from most people who write, it’s “I wish I had more time to write!” This book has an excellent practical and philosophical take on how to get more done and make the most use of the time we have.
If you write, are there any books you’ve found especially helpful?
My list also contains the King and Big Magic. To my own list, I would add The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr and Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott.
You know, I wasn’t a fan of Bird by Bird. I read it, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I love how different books speak to different people.
Hey, I don’t have to read! I already know anything I’ll ever need to! (Now, doesn’t that sound like a certain president?)
I would say, “And look how far that got him,” except… hmm…
Not a writer myself, but a great list 🙂 I’ll definitely share it so my writer friends can see.
Thanks! Big Magic is great for any creative person.
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