I’ve acquired quite an impressive collection of writing books since deciding I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. What follows is a list of thirteen writing books I’ve read that have earned keeper status on my research shelf. Trust me when I say this is only a sampling!
1. The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
This one’s a classic and I think everyone should try to work though the program at least once. I learned so much about myself as a writer when I followed the weekly lessons.
2. Goal, Motivation and Conflict, Debra Dixon
Another must read. I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop taught by Debra Dixon at Toronto Romance Writers years ago and I just learned that she’s coming back and will be doing another workshop here in September. (Details here.)
3. Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
4. Scene and Structure, Jack M. Bickham
Part of Writer’s Digest “Elements of Fiction Writing” series.
5. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King
6. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogler
This one builds upon Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking work on myth and the hero’s journey. If you don’t read this particular book, you should definitely familiarize yourself with Campbell’s work.
7. On Writing, Stephen King
8. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
9. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
This book has made it onto many “best writing books” lists and it deserves those spots. I read this book many years ago, but one technique that she describes still resonates with me today for dealing with those times when you are feeling overwhelmed by the task before you – the concept of the one-inch picture frame. I remember reading it and thinking, “That is brilliant!” (pp. 17-18)
… and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments.
It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being. All I am going to do right now, for example, is write that one paragraph that sets the story in my hometown, in the late fifties, when the trains were still running. I am going to paint a picture of it, in words, on my word processor. Or all I am going to do is to describe the main character the very first time we meet her, when she first walks out the front door and onto the porch. I am not even going to describe the expression on her face when she first notices the blind dog sitting behind the wheel of her car–just what I can see through the one-inch picture frame, just one paragraph describing this woman, in the town where I grew up, the first time we encounter her.
10. Fearless Creating, Eric Maisel
11. On Writer’s Block, Victoria Nelson
12. Writing from the Heart, Lesléa Newman
This one is great for providing you with ideas when you want to freewrite or just work on an exercise to practice your craft.
13. Guide to Fiction Writing, Phyllis A. Whitney
This was my first writing book. The one that started the obsession. Whitney talks about her writing binders, and I’ll admit that I have a few of my own lying around.
I do, of course, have more writing books that I somehow never got around to reading. Are there any writing books you would recommend? Leafing through these books while coming up with this list has made me nostalgic for a good writing how-to book.