Several months ago, I read a post called “Confessions of a Craft Book Junkie.” I had no choice but to comment, because reading books on the craft of writing is an addiction for me. I’m always buying more!
I have no idea what brought this issue up for me again, but having thought of it, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite craft books with you, and may you reap their myriad benefits! I don’t care if you get them as ebooks, or from a used book shop. Just get ‘em 🙂
In the beginning …
There was Natalie Goldberg. Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind were the first two books I read about writing, and they’ve stuck with me through the years. Goldberg espouses a philosophy of “first thoughts.” Writing in your journal first thing when you wake up. Sound like morning pages to you?
Goldberg introduced me to free-writing, and weaves in wonderful exercises for journal writing with Buddhist philosophy. Monkey mind and wild mind is a concept I come back to again and again. Monkey mind is the nattering, distracted place in our heads we occupy most of the time.
Wild mind … well, draw as big a circle as you can on a piece of paper. Put a wee speck of a dot in the middle of it. The dot is monkey mind. The rest of the circle—you guessed it—that’s wild mind, the cosmic consciousness that will endow your writing with greatness.
The key is to let go. Don’t worry. Don’t pin all your hopes on the greatness you might achieve. Just be in the moment and do it.
Word after word
Heather Sellers two books: Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter really changed my writing game. It was time for some tough love, and Sellers delivered. She was the first author I read who asked the question: do you want to be a writer, or are you a writer? She made the distinction very clear.
Wanting to be a writer means that you’re letting things get in the way, making excuses, because the phrase is always followed by the word “but.”
If you are a writer, you write. You write every day. You’re dedicated to your craft and you don’t let excuses get in the way.
Sellers also writes about her struggles, how the disapproval of peers and professors affected her, how relationships, good and bad, can influence your work, and how serious life incidents like car crashes and disease can change things forever.
In the end, you can only keep writing, word after word, page after page, and chapter after chapter 🙂
The Maass Oeuvre
Donald Maass is an industry expert and he turned his expertise into several wonderful books.
His first, The Career Novelist, delved into the changing face of the publishing industry. No longer the land of monster advances, runaway auctions, and multi-book contracts, Maass discussed the kinds of writers, the kinds of agents, the kinds of editors, and publishers that were emerging, how they might survive the new era, and he offered a lot of practical advice about the mathematics of publishing (what do the numbers mean and why should I care?).
In the current market, this book has lost some of its relevance, but I would argue that it is still an important read. Understanding the changes that led to the current state of publishing offers the reading writer insight. Learning from history, we hope not to repeat it.
Writing the Breakout Novel gets more into the mechanics of how to write a damn good novel. Using his personal experience and that of some of his well-known clients, Maass explains what agents and publishers are looking for, and gives the reader tools to achieve their goals.
The Fire in Fiction is more of the same, but deeper. Maass really asks the writer to dig deep in this one and offers exercises to deepen your understanding of exactly what it is you’re doing. Analysis. Critical thinking. If you’re willing to work for it, Maass tells you how to write a novel that will WOW.
Finally, The Breakout Novelist, Maass’s most recent publication, is more of a workbook and reference than some of his other books. It combines the best of Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction with extra exercises. If you’re having trouble with a particular aspect of your novel, flip to that section and start working through the exercises.
Obviously, I’m a fan.
I’ll have more of these coming in future months. I just thought I’d start with what I think are the best of the best 🙂
What are some of the craft books that you value and why? How did they speak to you? And as always, like, comment, share, subscribe!