In 2019, one of my goals was to learn more about writing, and one of the ways I did that was by reading! The books below are those that I recommend. Hope you find something useful in the list!
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower Writer’s Digest Books
A writer's main job is to notice, and Kenower goes meta with that idea in his book about what happens in our minds when we write.
Why this is on my bookshelf: I loved that so many writing struggles I have, including horrible feelings about writing (my "monsters") become clear and understandable in this book. Kenower takes on many monsters in this book: self-doubt about talent/skill/intelligence, issues with procrastination, and even challenges with marketing. I especially liked his chapters on intentional arcs and creative discomfort. Each chapter ends with a practical, optional exercise to help you process and use the information presented.
Method and Madness: The Making of a Story By Alice LaPlante W.W. Norton & Company
This was the textbook for my creative writing class, focusing on literary short story writing.
Why this is on my bookshelf: Although this is not a genre I write, using a basic creative writing text filled in a lot of holes in my craft and creativity knowledge and processes. Especially helpful were chapters about avoiding sentimentality, the process of writing without knowing, and the importance of using concrete details. The format of this book is easy to follow, and it includes many well-known short stories.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print, Second Edition By Renni Browne and Dave King, Illustrations by George Booth William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
A great basic overview of style with short chapters that address common writing mistakes and how to fix them.
Why this is on my bookshelf: I liked that the authors present their advice as style options rather than rules, and let the reader see how well something works though examples. The exercises at the end of each chapter were the best checks for comprehension that I have used.
Motivation for Dreamer’s and Doers: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” by Kathryn & Ross Petras Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Quotes from people who have been there, succeeded at that! Some days, before I start writing, I flip through this book.
Why this is on my bookshelf: It's very inspiring!
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life By Anne Lamott Originally published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
I read this one years ago, but re-read the chapter "Shitty First Drafts" this past year and was reminded again of Lamott's wry humor and grounded advice.
Why this is on my bookshelf: Besides the fascinating and helpful window into Lamott's process, this is book a reality check for both the grandiose-thinking days and the my-book-is-the-worst-thing-ever-written days. It's also just fun to read even from a non-writer viewpoint.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld Random House
This is a novel, not a book about writing--it's a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
Why this is on my bookshelf: Curtis is so good at dialogue, I have been using it as my go-to master class for character conversations. Also, since the chapters are so short (sometimes just a page or less) and because I'm so familiar with the story, it's also been great for studying concrete details, scene setting, and characterization.
Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron Ten Speed Press
A great book about the WHY of the necessity of character-driven writing through understanding the character's internal and external motivations. Cron details what readers' minds are searching for when reading and how a writer can use that to effect when creating a story.
Why this is on my bookshelf: I cringe at plot-driven stories, so this book is my new go-to for making sure my plot stays CHARACTER-driven!
What It Is by Lynda Barry Drawn and Quarterly I've never read a book about writing like this one! Every page is packed with scraps of words and drawings that represent the sort of random thought process that Lynda Barry (and all of us) experience without noticing. Barry leapfrogs musings about writing with her own journey to writing/drawing, and the end of the book provides structured writing exercises.
Why I've included this book: I've done exercises similar to these before (in a memoir class) and can see how they would be helpful for memoir or if you are staring at a blank wall with no idea what to write. Barry also provides material for you to make your own idea generator. Also, Barry's story is inspirational, her musings are fascinating and worth reading even if you don't do any of the exercises at the end of the book, and the art is a trip!
This Won't Take But Minute, Honey by Steve Almond Espresso Print Machine-Print On Demand
It's mini, but it's mighty! This pocket-sized book is half short stories and half short essays about writing.
Why this book is on my bookshelf: I was lucky enough to attend a writing class taught by Steve Almond, and was charmed by his passion for writing, his mix of humor, kindness, and frankness, and his inspiring writing advice--all of which comes through in the essays in this book.
Jumpstart Your Writing in 30 Days by Heather Kelly Pocket Moon Press
This book has practical, easy-to-do exercises to engage the reader in topics that offer an overview of the writing life and process. Themes include reasons for writing, fears, goals, resources for community, self-care, rewards, creating energy, brand, social media, fans, strengths and weaknesses, time, money, writing habits, and core values.
Why this book is on my bookshelf: I tried this book when I needed a big jumpstart for my writing--and it was so helpful! The writer's voice is encouraging and she nudged me back into writing and into creating a regular writing habit. The book is now a kind of toolbox of resources and ideas to turn to if I get off track. And there are fun bonus activities: TED talks, YouTube videos, podcasts, and useful websites.