I've always loved writing. When I was a kid, my mom bought me an electric typewriter at a yard sale. It was shiny and smooth and colorful - a bright teal with cherry red keys here and there. I used to plop it on the dining room table, feed through a piece of white paper, and write. I'd write a few lines or pages, and then, unhappy with my work, I'd crumple them up and toss them aside. It was all very tortured-artist. The good stuff I'd keep, slipping the pages into a plastic protector before returning to my favorite pastime: reading.
I continued to write through high school (though I do admit to borrowing and submitting my sister's work on a few occasions - sorry Mrs. Clark!). But the passion was still there. It was one of the only classes I could bare to sit through.
Fast forward to age 23: I became a mom, a small business owner, and scored my first blogging gig. All shifted the course of my life in significant ways. Obviously parenthood is MAJOR, but the other two were big in their own ways. More specifically, in terms of writing, I learned what the people who run blogs want. I learned to deliver the goods. And I learned that I really did love writing, especially when I created this little home for myself back in 2011.
Then one day I decided to write fiction, and quickly realized I knew nothing about writing. Well, that's not really fair. I knew what I liked and what I didn't like. I knew what held my attention and what put me to sleep. I understood writing in theory, but the actual practice was a whole new, mind-blowing, world.
When I began my first attempt at fiction, it fell flat. I was overwhelmed and frustrated, mostly because the project itself was historical fiction - a big undertaking. It wasn't until I decided to write something purely for my own eyes - something that I myself would want to read - that the process began to flow.
But that was only the beginning. Maybe you're one of the lucky folks who can just sit down and let a story flow, but I'm not. My brain doesn't work like that. I knew I needed to learn more (everything) about the craft, so I started picking up books. I read On Writing by Stephen King first, over the summer. And when I was in Nashville in October, I scored a copy of Strunk & White's classic The Elements of Style at a cute bookstore near the Vanderbuilt campus. Next, I began The Art of Character by David Corbett, a suggestion from my brother in law Eric. My confidence was building, but I was still too intimidated by the process to put anything into practice.
During National Novel Writing Month in November I reached out to my friend Jenny, who recommended K.M. Weiland's Structuring Your Novel as a good place to start. (You can buy Jenny's first book Karma Gone Bad here. You'll love it!) And this book was a game changer for me. Eye-opening on many levels. From this point, I was able to write a first draft.
Now I'm in the throes of the revision process - adding layers upon layers to my chapters. And I'm able to do so because I have a box of tools I can go back to for inspiration, guidance and motivation. Today I'm sharing my favorite books on writing that I keep nearby. I like a straight-shooter when it comes to books on craft, so if you're like me, you'll enjoy these too. And if you've ever dreamed about writing a novel, this list is a great place to start.
7 Books On Writing for the Newbie Novelist
Strunk & White - The Elements of Style
This is a must buy. It's a succinct reference book that you will go back to again and again.
David Corbett - The Art of Character
Creating characters who are not cliched is hard work. This is a must read if you want your characters to stand out from the pack. There are exercises at the end of each chapter that are thought-provoking and will have you digging deep into yourself.
K.M. Weiland - Structuring Your Novel
I love K.M. Weiland. She doesn't waste your time with unnecessary prose in her writing. She tells you what you need to know, shares multiple examples of others who have done it right, and prepares even the most unprepared for the exciting task of writing a novel.
Stephen King - On Writing
What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? I would quote it all if I could. I never understood the Stephen King love until I read this. He is the wisest guy around. Definitely number one on my list for books on the craft.
Carly Watters - Getting Published in the 21st Century
This book covers it all. Written by Literary Agent Carly Watters, I highly recommend for anyone new to the querying process and those preparing their manuscripts for submission. It's a very intimidating task the first time you do it! Again, no nonsense delivery.
Steven Pressfield - The War of Art
The subtitle of this book is, "Break Through The Creative Blocks & Win The Creative Battle" - and this book will help you do just that. It's perfect for all of the dreamers out there who want something so badly but face resistance. This book has a spiritual element to it as well, which I loved. (He pretty much tells you of his belief in a higher power right off the bat.)
James Scott Bell - Revision & Self -Editing for Publication
You've written your first draft. Now what? On Writing is a great for revision details, but for those requiring more details, this book is amazing. Learning how to revise your work is hard. Harder than writing. This is a great reference.
A couple notes here. The first: while reading these books, it's important to keep reading fiction! It's so easy to get caught up in the technical stuff. Keeping rich stories in your life will help keep that balance and remind you why you want to write in the first place.
I also wanted to suggest buying these in hard copy. Ebooks are great, but you'll likely find yourself referencing them often, and it's just easier to do with something tangible.
As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art,“The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preoccupation with the mystery. The professional shuts up. She doesn't talk about it. She does her work.”
Okay Steven. I'll shut up now.
I'd love to hear your favorites! Share below!