Last week, I talked about my path to becoming a writer. This week, I thought I’d share some of my favorite craft resources. I am a craft book addict. I read writing blogs, listen to podcasts, and read writing books constantly. I’m always seeking to learn and improve my craft in any way I can.
Once, when I was having a particularly discouraging writing day, I looked around my home office at the craft books lining the walls and realized that I’d never actually be able to quit writing. It’s just too ingrained in me now.
So, without further ado, here are my top ten writing book recommendations.
These first three books are pretty standard creativity recommendations. I’ve read all three multiple times. I can’t recommend them highly enough and often turn to them over and over again.
1) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and on Life by Anne Lamott.
Wise, witty, and wry take on the writing life. Great to read when you’re stuck on your WIP or get a savage critique. I love it so much I own the audiobook too.
2) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
Part autobiography and part direct, straight shooting advice about living a writer’s life, King does an amazing job in On Writing. His metaphor for writing as digging for fossils is how I still think about drafting today. And the clearest explanation of a writer’s mind I ever read is the one he gives about driving along and bouncing between radio stations. I re-read this every few years and mine new gems out of it all the time.
3) The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Cameron lays out a 12 week course for recovering creatives. She insists on two tools, Morning Pages, and Artist’s Dates. In later books, she adds a twenty minute solo walk. I’ve never been able to fit Artist’s Dates (a one weekly creative excursion) into my life but I have done morning pages before. Except I never wrote them in the morning 🙂 Some people find Cameron a bit airy-fairy but I can’t deny that the tools work. I think every writer should try a twelve week stint of morning pages, at least once.
The rest of my recommendations tend toward pragmatic writing advice. Even in school, I was never great at theoretical teachings and I think this list reflects that. These are in no particular order.
4) Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.
Actually, any of his writing books are fabulous. I’ve read them all but Plot and Structure is the one I’ve read over and over again. I’m still working through his analyze six books exercise.
5) Much like James Scott Bell, you can’t go wrong reading anything by Chuck Wendig. His blog, Terrible Minds, is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve read all his writing books and they are all great. The Kick Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience is probably his best. Warning: Chuck isn’t your guy if you’re easily offended by profanity. But he’s hilarious and fun and smart. So there’s that.
6) If you’re like me and struggle with putting emotions into your writing without saying “She was mad!” the Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is the book for you. It lives on my desk. I use it nearly daily. Fabulous resource!
7) Anything by Holly Lisle but especially her Create a Character Clinic. It contains my all-time favorite exercise, the Shadow Room. You can also find that exercise by subscribing to her fabulous website. When I first read the exercise, I was skeptical and then I tried it. Now, it’s the first character exercise I do, every time.
8) All writers struggle to learn point of view (POV). The best, clearest explanation I have ever read is Alicia Rasley’s The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come to Life. Buy this book, read it five times, you’ll be a POV master in no time!
9) Let’s round out the top ten with two writing business books. Any writer needs to master social media in order to thrive but it’s especially critical for self-published writers. Kristen Lamb runs the My WANA sites. Her Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World gives step-by-step advice for setting up your social media presence. If you’re planning on publishing, you need this book. Probably yesterday.
10) For a very thoughtful, direct take on the state of self-publishing today, read The Indie Author’s Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn. (NOTE: Be sure to get the second edition as the first edition is outdated in this ever-changing new publishing landscape). She’s got a sequel coming out soon, called For Love or Money. I’ll be snapping that up too. Great actionable advice in here.
And that’s it for the first top ten. I’ll be back next week with ten MORE recommended writing books.