Writing is an art form, and a form that many have difficulty finding their footing in. There are so many worlds, characters, and plots to explore, and it’s so easy to get lost trying to tell a story. My advice is to go ahead and lose yourself, but here are seven books on writing to help guide the journey.
1. The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb
The best place to start is, naturally, at the beginning, and that’s exactly where Nancy Lamb takes you in The Art and Craft of Storytelling. She covers structure, genre, theme, characters, and even writer’s block in this simple, but thorough guide. Lamb has an easy teacher’s tone that covers a writer’s territory with both wit and grace, but is never condescending. If you have never picked up a pen before now, or even need some reminders on the basics, this book is for you.
2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
In my second creative writing class in college, the teacher’s assistant wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommended this book. Funny, self-deprecating, but surprisingly profound, Anne Lamott hits several truths about writing seemingly without effort. Lamott has described the book as “Some instructions on writing and life,” and this description is spot on.
3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
This book has, hands down, shaped my writing the most. Writing Down the Bones is self-explanatory in its title: while reading, you will be writing down your life and what you observe around you right away, in Zen-inspired bouts of writing practice. Goldberg is so encouraging and takes a conversational tone in the book, and it feels like she is teaching you in person while reading this book. I cannot recommend Writing Down the Bones enough to aspiring writers.
4. Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg
The sequel to Writing Down the Bones, released twenty years later, Natalie Goldberg continues her teachings about writing practice, and how to shape and build memoir in particular. Even writers who aren’t working on a memoir will get a lot out of this book, as it builds on the concepts Writing Down the Bones started.
5. Zen on the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Anyone who has read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 knows Bradbury’s passion for reading, and anyone who has read Zen on the Art of Writing knows his passion for writing. This book is less of an instructional manual, and more of a series of essays about the passion and vigor the author has for writing. He covers his inspiration, writing process, and editing of his short stories, plays, and novels with all of his characteristic enthusiasm. It is impossible to not feel fired up about writing after reading this gem of a book.
6. The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood
The Pocket Muse is difficult to describe because it has so many different functions. It contains beautifully shot photographs and very short prompts for writing, but it also offers insights on the difficulties of writing. Wood covers subjects from editing to jealousy in this little, pocket-sized book, (hence the name!) and it packs a lot of punch.
7. 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley
The 3 A.M. Epiphany is a book of writing exercises, but it’s far from ordinary. These exercises are meant to be short, but access traits of your writing that are most likely lacking or weak. At the very least, these exercises make you think. Their goal is to strengthen the subconscious mind, so that you carry these lessons in your writing wherever you go. I often use this book in between writing projects, to help inspire new ideas and so that I stay in practice.
What about you? What instructional books have shaped your writing?
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Featured image via Film Escape