Writing is Like Yoga: Books for Improving Craft and Career

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!

Blessings, Cindy

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. 

 

 

 

Ginger’s Reckoning – About This Book

Of all the writing projects I’ve done, Ginger’s Reckoning is my all-time favorite.  This book recalls the early days of my marriage, when we had the time and the money to travel, enjoy life, and look forward to a bright future.  Things didn’t turn out quite the way we imagined.  The investment bank my husband worked for went under, leaving us with an income of exactly zero at one point.  We faced the heartbreak of infertility.  I hated my job practicing law.  Eventually I left the practice of law to do what I always wanted to do – write novels.  Ginger’s Reckoning was written during that time.

I’m often asked of my fiction, “is this a true story?” This book is really and truly fictitious.  There are, of course, similarities between my life in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. But as the novel developed, my fictional characters eventually found their own lives. Portions of this novel are set in the Fort Sanders neighborhood, where I lived while a student at the University of Tennessee. The characters who lived in my fictional Fort Sanders started out based on real people I knew or observed back in the early 1980’s, but they also became their own people.  (My husband thinks one of these characters deserves his own novel. I’m mulling that over.)

The portions of the novel set in Berlin, immediately after the Wall came down, are absolutely sights and circumstances I personally experienced in the late summer of 1990.  It was a great time to be an American in Berlin.  Berliners greatly appreciated what Americans had done to keep them in the Western Bloc since the last days of World War II and throughout the Cold War.  Cab drivers really did turn the meter off when they heard us speaking American English.  The hotel where we stayed insisted on giving us a free upgrade to Berlin Philharmonic conductor Herbert von Karajan’s suite.  East Germans, “Osties” lined up to gawk at the live eels, the wall of mustards, and over-the-top bounty of the food gallery of the KaDeWe department store.

The scenes set in Moscow are, oddly enough, realistic as well.  I originally wrote these scenes based on an old tourist guide to Russia I found in a used book store.  I had, at that time, never visited Russia.  When we eventually visited Moscow in 2005, I was astonished to find that the scenes and circumstances described in Ginger’s Reckoning were actually fairly true to life.  The hotel where we stayed was actually much worse than the hotel described in my novel.  We felt relieved to get out of there, much like Ginger and Steve so many years before us.

I hope you enjoy reading Ginger’s Reckoning as much as I enjoyed writing it and then re-reading and polishing it for publication.  It’s available in both print and Kindle editions at http://amzn.to/2hwtxTi .

Blessings, Cindy

 

 

 

 

The Spirituality of Writing – Favorite Books & Authors

Many of my spiritual friends are also writers, and that’s no coincidence.  Writing and spirituality – at least on good days – are both active practices of contemporary mysticism. Like meditation, centering prayer, or lectio divina, the process of writing in your journal, crafting a story, or drafting a nonfiction essay gets in touch with deep truths, essential facts of life, and brutal honesty.

Like many spiritual practices, writing takes place larger in silence and by yourself.  Like spirituality, writing often involves confronting your inner demons, bad past relationships, where you’ve been, and where you think or hope you’re going.  Though writing may sound like a breezy, romantic occupation, it’s actually a lot of soul-baring, emotionally draining work.

Many of my favorite authors have written on this wonderful and mysterious process of writing.  Here are some of my favorites, holding places on my bookshelves like old friends watching me work and get in that mystical state where the best writing happens.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

I’ve read many, many books on the process, craft, and spirituality of writing, but there are my all-time favorites.  What are yours?

Happy Writing, Cindy