I have quite a hefty bookshelf full of writing books and every once in awhile I’ll pull out a few and share them with you. These books are the creme de la creme – outstanding books that have helped me grow as a writer.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
It is not possible for me to gush enough about Natalie Goldberg. She has always been my good friend from far away, and although I have never met her, all I have to do is pull out one of her books and I am instantly comforted. If someone can make me laugh and cry; and often on the same page – I know they are on to something. And Natalie is one of those people.
Quite simply, she gives the best writing advice by use of examples in her own life. She patterned the layout of this book after a book of Zen teachings called Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. Each chapter is elegant in its simplicity (around a page and a half per chapter) and vividly springs to life under Natalie’s deft pen.
Writers are great lovers. They fall in love with other writers. That’s how they learn to write. They take on a writer, read everything by him or her, read it over again until they understand how the writer moves, pauses, and sees. That’s what being a lover is: stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else’s skin. Your ability to love another’s writing means those capabilities are awakened in you. It will only make you bigger; it won’t make you a copy cat. The parts of another’s writing that are natural to you will become you, and you will use some of those moves when you write.
Look to the right before you write. I have this book listed in my sidebar.
On Writing by Stephen King
This book is half memoir and half writing advice. The memoir part is worth the entire price of the book. It is fall on your ass funny. Steve takes us through every imaginative row we must hoe as writers, from simple grammar rules a writer must know (and some of us often forget!) to finding an agent.
I have to admit I read everything I wanted to read of Stephen King by the time I was in fourth grade. Yes, I was rather precoscious. Alright, I did read Different Seasons when was I urged to by my former fiction teacher. But this book is one of my favorites of his. A must read. Again and again. The man definitely knows a thing or two.
Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
100 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Scott Edelstein
Yes, Scott has quite literally listed, and expounded upon, 100 things that writers need to know. Maybe not every writer, maybe not if you’re Stephen King and get paid zillions of bucks every time you plunk out a book. But alas, you aren’t Stephen King, and perhaps these 100 things could come in handy someday. Like now.
Scott lists and describes everything from # 38 “Become Familiar with Some Basic Writing Terms,” to # 47 “Get Feedback on Your Writing from People You Trust.” This is a book that comes in handy time and time again at any stage of your writing career. I turned to this book when I began to market my fiction, and I can again turn to it for non-fiction writing advice and marketing techniques.
No industry is 100 percent sane and reasonable, of course. But some are more sane and reasonable than others. In my experience, on a scale of one to ten – with ten being total insanity and chaos – the film and TV industries rank a consistent nine, and the worlds of publishing and theater earn an equally consistent eight. None of this is likely to improve anytime soon.
So there you have it – the beginning list. What kind of books do you turn to for writing and market advice?
Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson