Friday, January 13

(Writing) Books I Have Loved

I'm a writing book junkie, for sure. I have an entire bookcase devoted to books on writing, publishing, publicity, creativity -- you name it. Many I'm lucky enough to find at library sales (especially out-of-print books and even grammar and textbooks on writing --yes, I'm THAT obsessed), but my favorite ones were purchased by me or given as gifts. Here are a few of my top, top, top writing books (i.e. ones that I will never lend to anyone, because I need to know where they are at all times).

Ann Lamott's Bird by Bird -- This is the very first book I ever read on writing that wasn't assigned to me in a classroom. And I return to it again and again, for inspiration, for comfort, for new ways to look at this crazy thing that we all do called writing. The title of the book explains how to tackle the seemingly impossible task of writing a book. It came from some advice that Ann Lamott's younger brother received from their father when he was doing a book report on birds and it seemed overwhelming. He told her little brother to "just take it bird by bird." Read it. Today!

Stephen King's On Writing -- While my writing leans toward the scary, thriller genre, this was a no brainer for me to read. But I recommend this book to any writer of any genre. King not only gives a look into his own writing style (the when, the where and the how), but he also offers short, easy, do-able ways of getting your story out. He doesn't give lofty, convoluted exercises that only MFA graduates can handle. He gives you manageable tasks: for instance, he describes his way of plotting as putting "a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free." Plus, any insight into the master of the horror genre is guaranteed to be a thrilling read.

Julia Cameron's The Right to Write and The Sound of Paper -- Julia Cameron has been known as a kind of creativity guru for decades, helping all kinds of writers overcome writer's block. Her most famous and widely read book, The Artist's Way, was born out of those lectures and teachings. One of her main exercises is for writers to write 30 morning pages every day, no matter what. It doesn't have to be your work in progress (or WIP) or an article you are working on. Just get those 30 pages done and you will train yourself (like an athlete) to become accustomed to churning the work out every day. She also advocates taking yourself out on Artist Dates -- a time when you and your artistic sensibilities (or "muse") are treated to some time together. It could be a 20 minute walk or a trip to a museum. Anything to get those creative juices flowing.

Lawrence Block's The Liar's Bible -- Lawrence Block is known for his great success in the mystery genre (especially his Matthew Scudder novels), but his writing books are what really stand out for me in his impressive body of work. This book is only available for download on Kindle or e-book, but it's well worth it. Liar's Bible, along with his other writing books, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, The Liar's Companion, Spider, Spin Me a Web, and Writing the Novel, From Plot to Print, are indispensable in so many ways. Most of them are essays from a long-running column he did for Writer's Digest. I take a peek at any one of these books when I'm feeling down about writing. He takes away the "mystique" of writing. He is able to churn out a book in 60 days and he has a no-nonsense approach that makes anyone feel like if you just sit down and bite the bullet, you can finish that novel, that chapter, heck, even that page of writing that has been staring you in the face for weeks.

Cheryl Klein's Second Sight -- I started reading this after it was given to me as a Christmas present this year and I took it everywhere with me. It was amazing to get all of this insight from an editor of YA and children's books. It felt like a gift from the writing gods. Like I was getting information straight from the source. Almost like pulling away the curtain and getting insight into what editors are REALLY looking for. And then, I lost it. (Not my mind, the book!) For the life of me, I cannot find the book anywhere and it's driving me crazy. I've searched high and low in every reading spot in my house. Until I find it again, I will be one unhappy camper!

Other books that are near and dear to me on my beloved writer's shelf (or, I should say, bookcase) are The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.

 Happy 2012 and Happy Writing!!


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One of the books I have loved is the Harry Potter series.

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