Five Inspiring Books about Creative Writing
In order to become a good writer, you have to spend a lot of time and effort developing your skills. There are many ways to do this: writing a lot and reading even more are both essential, but you can also take courses, attend conferences, and of course explore the Chopping Blog. But sometimes, studying a good book about writing can provide you with both the necessary techniques you need to improve your style and the inspiration required to come up with uniquely engaging ideas.
Below we discuss what we think are some of the most important books aspiring writers should read this year.
1) Writing Down The Bones by Natalie GoldbergCrafting a story can be a deeply immersive experience; maximum use of your skills and focus can make your senses withdraw from the world around you. Author Natalie Goldberg finds this to be similar to what happens when people practice Zen meditation. Her book is filled with writing advice based on this belief, like learning how to listen, and how to overcome doubt and continue writing when it gets difficult.
2) Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life by Anne LamottOne of the things new writers struggle with the most is the feeling of being in front of an insurmountable task, like having to write hundreds of pages before a specific date. The main message of Anne Lamott’s beloved book is that writers should focus on small and simple projects, which will later inspire more complex endeavours. Furthermore, in addition to specific lessons, one of the reasons this book is so well regarded is that it tackles the emotional challenges of the writer’s journey with humour. Lamott offers actionable tips––like having a schedule for writing, as well as writing a story around the characters, and not the other way around. But she does so in a way that's frankly far more engaging and enjoyable than the average writing guide.
3) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher VoglerIn Joseph Campbell's influential book, The Hero's Journey, he explains how most ancient myths share specific characters and plots that now populate mainstream storytelling. The Writer's Journey takes the time to explain Campbell's complex ideas, and also how to make use of them when crafting a story. This is a great resource to help writers understand how archetypes influence the way we write characters, and how we can make our protagonists as compelling as possible.
4) Sin And Syntax: How To Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance HaleIn order to become an outstanding writer, it's not enough to understand the rules of the English language. In fact, Constance Hale suggests that there are innovative ways to combine techniques from formal and vernacular language. She approaches this idea by analyzing things like rhythm, melody, and even lyricism. This book will help you communicate effectively by taking advantage of conventional and unconventional techniques alike; you'll throw out the most formal notions of how to write and embrace some strategic risks, all without detracting from the craft.
5) On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King
King is one of the most prolific writers in the world. The King of Horror has published more than 63 novels and 200 short stories, and his style has become extraordinarily influential in popular media. On Writing––perhaps the best-known writing guide in the Western world––explains both the technical challenges of writing and the dedication required if one is to write a good book. It's full of invaluable advice to aspiring writers.
There’s nothing more exciting for a writer than coming up with a great idea for a story––and nothing more frustrating than not being able to put it into the right words. Luckily, you are not alone and these experienced writers have put their best pieces of advice, unique takes on the craft, and even personal experiences into books that will give you everything you need to evolve and thrive as a writer.
Giselle Alderson is a part-time writer and current MFA student based in North Carolina. Though the bulk of her focus is on freelance work and short stories, she is currently at work on her first novel. Once she completes her MFA, she hopes to start a dual career teaching a writer's workshop and publishing her own work.