Image by Brenda Clarke via Creative Commons
I've been reading about writing a lot latey. Some writers joke that this is their favorite procrastination technique and I can't say I'm always entirely innocent of that.
But also I am the kind of learner who reads everything I can get my hands on when I want to know about something. I want to know about writing.
I've found a lot of great books, and a few ho hum ones. The most useful ones are the ones that give me a little information and then encourage me to go write. Because that's the best way to be a better writer - just write. A lot.
Here are my 10 favorite writing books I've found so far. I hope there are some that you will enjoy, too!
Naked, Drunk and Writing, by Adair Lara
One of my writing teachers, Laura Davis, recommended this book to me recently. She said she assigned it to her From Memory to Memoir workshop students. Lara writes about the importance of building a writing practice (and you already know how I feel about that), how to face down fear and "apply butt to chair," and also offers a lot of tips on craft (ie, not just writing, but writing well). Throughout, she is friendly, warm and funny. If you want to write personal essays, memoir, or a deep and compelling blog, read this book.
Anything by Natalie Goldberg
I can't pick just one book by this author, because she has written so much and so much of it is amazing. Check out Writing Down The Bones for building your skill as a writer, Wild Mind for finding time and your voice, and Old Friend From Far Away for writing memoir and personal stories. Throughout her books, Goldberg advocates cultivation of a writing practice - writing by hand from a evocative prompt for a timed period. I have been using this method off and on for a while and I know it to be the very best way to get to the root of a scene, a memory, or an emotion. It takes bravery and commitment, but is absolutely worth the effort.
As I've said, I believe in having a writing practice. And I've listed books above that advocate it also. If you are searching for what to write about, this book will keep you going for a long, long time. There are 100 exercises, and each of them pairs a variable (you pick 1-10 and then flip the page to find out which one to use) with a set-up or a basic scenario. Most of the promts would work equally well for fiction or non fiction. The idea is to be quick - just write for 10 minutes. Get your brain going and your creative juices flowing!
Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E. B. White
If you want to write better, read this book. It is a classic for good reason. It is also kind of funny.
Writing Motherhood, by Lisa Garrigues
I have a few books in the category of writing instruction specifically for mothers, but this is the one I come back to most often. Like Goldberg, Garrigues encourages writers to keep a longhand notebook and to to freewrite daily if possible. Her book is ful of evocative prompts and starters, examples by other writers who are mothers, and is organized into
Crafting the Personal Essay, Dinty W. Moore
Moore teaches writing at the Universiy of Ohio, and his book is closer to a textbook than other books in this list. And like a textbook, chockablock full of information. But unlike most textbooks I've read it is not at all dry. I found myself wishing I could sit in his classes and soak up his lectures live. I also found myself putting down the book every couple of pages to jot down notes to myself about ideas for pieces to write. And that, really, is the best recommendation for a writing book right there.
This ebook was by someone who manages to publish articles on food, wine, home and gardens for top national magazines and do marketing development and copywriting for companies like Lowe's and Costco - all while only working 20 hours a week and raising three young kids. I think there are a few things she can teach us! It is short (67 pages) and a quick read. The author focuses on management - of your time, your money, and your clients - as the method to get more done, more efficiently, and make more money doing it.
The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli
The idea behind this book is that you should question the "rules" of marketing, writing, and interacting with publishers. The format of the book is a list of the presumed rules (like "you should always send an SASE") and then discusses why you should break the rule and when you should follow it. What I like about the book, beyond the useful tips, is that it advocates freelancers to take responsibility for their business. Stop following the rules, question the status quo, and figure out what works best for you, with your clients and your business. Good advice, no matter what business you are in.
The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman
This book is based on the premise that the basis of a thriving freelance business is not writing articles for magazines but instead writing copy for businesses. My experience so far tells me this premise is exactly right. Althought the author comes from a background in marketing and sales, he breaks down the process of marketing and selling yourself to write marketing and sales copy (among other things) to a level that even me, with my liberal arts, decidedly not marketing-savvy background, can manage. If you want to make real money as a freelance, or even just build a stable base of steady clients to allow you to do the writing you are passionate about, you need this book. The author also offers supporting tools and coaching packages via his web page.
Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success, by Kelly James-Enger
One of my frustrations with other "How-To Freelance" books I've seen is that I come away from them feeling like I have to be anexperienced freelancer to get work as a freelancer. Sample queries all list years of publishing experience over hundrends of publications, and sections on networking seem to assume you already have a network of editors at your fingertips. I'm not an editor leaving a print publication and striking out on my own - I'm starting from scratch.
This book addresses that. I have to be honest here - I've only read the first chapter so far, but that's enough to put this book in my top 10 list. I have already implemented several of the suggestions from that chapter and I'm eager to start on the next batch. I'm sure that if I implement only half of the actions suggested by James-Enger, I will be seeing a rapid growth in my business. Even if you aren't a rank beginner like me, there are good tips in here for presenting yourself professionally, time management, and organization that will hep you push your business to the next level.
What books are you reading about writing? I'd love to hear your reccomendations!