Writers’ Resources

Books on Creative Writing, copyright Ellen Wilson

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.

From Natalie:

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.

From Steve:

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.

From Scott:

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

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16 thoughts on “Writers’ Resources”

  1. Ellen,

    I own a copy of On Writing in two different editions, as well as on audiobook. I bought it for my wife a little over a year ago (with no intention of ever becoming a writer myself).

    As with most things we get for each other, they soon become common property. I started reading the book, finished, and immediately began the short story that would become my first novel (of which I am now on my third draft).

    When I was finished with the first draft, I sent Mr. King an e-mail thanking him for his wonderful, wonderful book. My favorite, from all the wisdom found inside, was talking about how stories are just artifacts we find, and dust off. The stories are already there, we just have to look.

    I admit, when I first read this, as much as I love Stephen King (he was my first favorite author; I read the Talisman when I was eight after covertly removing it from my parent’s night stand), I thought it was hogwash. Now I know what a startling truth it really is.

    If someone were to hand me the book I am now finishing, and they told me that I had written, I would have laughed, shaken my head, and gone home and told my wife about the fool I’d just met.

    If you ever want to know yourself, write a book. Since I read “On Writing,” I have become a full time writer. I don’t know how many books I’ll write before I expire, but I know I won’t have enough digits to count them.

  2. OK, I admit it: I do not own a single book on writing.

    I write my posts quickly, and publish them without editing them first.

    It’s not that I don’t take my blog seriously. You know that I do! But I don’t necessarily see it as an outlet for writing. To me, it is an outlet for my need to share my thoughts and to interact with a large audience. I’m not passionate about writing: I am passionate about interacting.

    Vered’s last blog post..Oops. Outed.

  3. @Writer Dad – Hey, I remember the artifact analogy. That was great – the whole unearthing bit. I’m so happy you are on your third draft. That is even greater! Keep it up. Maybe someday I can read it.

    It’s true. If you want to know thyself. Write something.

    @Vered – You are one of those people that are a natural writer, with a natural outlet. I love the way you express yourself. You say you never know what I will write next, well, I feel the same way about you. Natural thoughts with natural flow. You ARE the I AM about writing!

  4. Great quote you pulled from Natalie. Often new writers fear copycatting by reading other writers. Like art, you can try as hard as you want to copycat someone, but you will not be able to achieve it, you will always come out with your own voice; so fear not to learn and improve by reading!

    I didn’t know about that Stephen King book, I have to get that!

    Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood’s last blog post..Sunday Picture Post 22 / Murder Makes the Genre

  5. Hi Jaden,

    I hope your screenplay is going well. Excellent advice by Jaden. Very good point. I liked the way you expounded upon Natalie but it came out as Jaden.

    The King book is great. It was really hard for him to write that book too, because he is so used to writing fiction. I can totally understand that, since I came to nonfiction from a fiction writer’s perspective and it just seems weird. I used to feel quite naked writing without a character’s voice in front of me.

  6. My brother gave me Writing Down The Bones. I love it! I too devoured Stephen King at an early age. Gave up once I had kids, because I find I can’t do horror novels anymore. However, my copy of The Stand is completely worn because I read it once a year. I will check out his writing book!

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..Yep, tastes good

  7. Urban Panther,

    Yes, having kids makes you all the more vulnerable. I don’t do horror novels anymore, either. Steve says in his book The Stand was his best novel. You know, maybe I will read it. I always liked The Shining. I thought that was his best novel.

  8. Hi Nathalie,

    Oh that can be a problem, yes. I suppose the trick is to learn from all that you read and than apply it to your own writing. I like the writing books because they specifically address issues that writer’s have.

    I remember hearing about Anne Lammott’s book, Bird by Bird. I will have to pick it up. Thanks for that tip.

  9. Hi Ellen,

    Writing Down the Bones has never quite made it to my bookshelf, as it is always on my desk! I recently read On Writing and count it as one of my favorites too. I don’t have 100 Things, so must get that one now. Great recommendations!

  10. @Karen – 100 Things has great tips. You’ll like it. One can never have to many great writing books – it’s like having a writing coach at your side.

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