Writing is like practicing yoga: it’s truly a practice. You work at it all the time, and you re-visit the basics of your craft on a daily basis. You might have your off days. You have other days when you’re hitting on all cylinders. Hopefully, you improve over time.
If you’re like me and work mostly alone, you need an occasional class, conference, or book to perk you up, force you to work on improving your craft, or help you figure out some way to pay the bills from your writing. Many of us have read the classics on writing: Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. All of them are wonderful and have encouraged thousands of writers.
If you’re into writing for the long haul, you might need something new to help you muddle through that first draft, reach your readers in meaningful ways, and get the reader’s attention and eyes on your book in the first place. Here are several books I’ve found helpful recently. If you have some to add to this list, I’d love to get your suggestions!
Hooked: write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, by Les Edgerton (This is a great little book on the basic craft of fiction. While the emphasis is on first scenes and first chapters, there’s also lots of good guidelines on stuff like backstory, foreshadowing, and structure.)
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, by Lisa Cron. (This book goes into the role of story in human culture and what goes on in the reader’s head when she reads fiction. Very readable and helpful in looking at the big picture of fiction.)
Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone In Between, by James Scott Bell. (This book, quite frankly, pulled me out of a ditch on my current novel. I was hopelessly stuck as to where to go with the story, and this little book helped me get on track and get going. It’s only 85 pages, but it’s a small gem of a book that can make you sit back and think.)
Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, by Lauren Sapala (Many writers are content to work holed-up in a room, all by themselves, talking only to their cats. Marketing and publicity don’t come easily to those of us who are practically hermits. Lauren Sapala will gently convince you to crawl out of your hole and –gasp– engage with the rest of humanity for fun and profit. An excellent book.)
If you have other writer-ish books to recommend, please feel free to comment!
Cynthia Coe is the author of “Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony with the Everyday World Around Us,” along with two novels and two resource books on leading young people to take care of the earth.