So what books about writing do you recommend to other writers? Our writing group recently pooled titles they found useful. A book that was mentioned by more than one writer was The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Many beginner writers follow her recommendations to get started.
Establishing a Writerly Routine
I must admit that the advice to establish a routine, to find your best time and always write in it, to always write 500 words a day and so forth does not fit the life of an ordinary mortal. Nor is it necessarily good advice. Sometimes routine is just what you don’t want. However, I have adapted Morning Pages, but it’s the only bit of routine I have. I wrote about it here.
Virginia Woolf noted that she used her writing diary to loosen the ligaments.
‘… the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and stumbles … I believe that during the past year I can trace some increase of ease in my professional writing which I attribute to my causal half hours after tea.’ (A Writer’s Diary, April 20th 1919)
More After Tea Pages than Morning Pages. Many writers benefit from writing to get into the zone and to work out their glitches and never show it to anyone.
Reading for Writers
The most succinct advice to writers of all levels of experience, and perhaps most frequently quoted advice too, comes from Stephen King:
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way round these two things that I am aware of, no short cut. (On Writing)
Specific advice on how to read productively for writers comes in Reading for Writers by Francine Prose. Putting the advice into practice was the subject of an earlier post on this blog called Reading for Writers.
Some specific recommendations
For help with story structure I was advised (by a published author) to read Into the Woods by John Yorke. It was excellent advice, and Yorke’s book has helped me with the revision of the first draft of my novel.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is an excellent and realistic book for many aspects of writing, especially about going on going on. The title refers to her father’s advice about completing some homework. You just tackle it bird by bird.
A few months ago I recommended Ursula Le Guin’s collection of essays Words are my Matter: writings about life and books 2000-2016. We have much to learn from our most experienced writers. I especially warmed to her thoughts on imagination and how you must learn to develop it.
Currently I am dipping into Philip Pullman’s Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling, full of interesting observations from a craftsman.
Resources for publishing
The Writers & Artists Year Book.
And Mslexia’s Indie Press Guide, now out in a second edition.
The poets amongst in our writing group recommended these:
Writing Poetry by Peter Samson
An Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry
Of course you could just follow this:
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