Overcome the Fear of Writing by using these Books as Guideposts for your Work
Developing yourself as a writer, any type of writer, is a journey, an adventure that can soon become daunting. The realisation that to write a story, a novel or an article worth reading isn’t a breeze, nor is it something to just turn your hand to as a relaxing hobby at retirement.
No wonder that many writers need help and reflection on how to write a good story. So, they turn to other writers and seek help by doing a writer’s course or reading a good book that will open up new ideas about how to look at the problems involved in writing a damned good story.
I’ve written short stories, some self-published, many still sitting on the hard drive of my crashed desktop computer. I’ve purchased and read so many books on writing that I don’t remember all of their titles.
Here, I’ve made a list of a few of the really helpful writing books that I’ve read and cherish as my go to resources when I’m feeling stuck or demotivated.
- John Gardener, “On Writing and Writers”, also “The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers”.
Both of these books are highly recommended. They have elicited the sort of comments from some readers that would mean they don’t want to get deep into the nuts and bolts of the craft. Why on earth not, I don’t understand.
John Gardner was a serious novelist. He loved to speak about and write about the craft of story telling, and had something of the classicist about his thinking. He shows us how to write great sentences, he goes beyond the normal banter about how to force yourself to finish 2000 words. If you want something that will inspire you and fire up your soul for challenging work that you have set yourself, then this will be a book for you.
2. “Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them!” John Yorke
Into the Woods, a well known book on writing that offers an insight into why we tell stories and how we construct them. Great insights for writers and the sort of book you can dip in and out of over time.
From this book you can expect to gain a deeper insight into why stories are important in our society, their structures and how they relate to modern life.
3. “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” Stephen King.
Classic stuff from the master of horror. It doesn’t matter what your genre is, you will reap something good from this wonderfully written book. The first half is only about Stephen King’s experiences in life — and it’s interesting, the things that have happened in his life.
The second part is how he goes about writing his novels. The main message is that he sits down each morning and writes, and he won’t stop until he has written a certain amount of words. He talks of habit more than discipline, his storytelling style shines through and keeps you engaged all the way through. You’ll come across those little gems of insight that will inspire you and inform you about how to be a writer who produces stories, and then more stories.
4. “Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction” Patricia Highsmith.
This one is a bit odd. Patricia Highsmith, famous for “ The Talented Mr Ripley”, amongst others, wrote a book on suspense fiction writing at the request of her editor. She said that she felt there wasn’t much to tell, and it shows in reading the first part of this book that she only write what others have written about fiction writing. Then she gets down to how she dealt with problems in certain novels that she wrote, and that’s where it gets interesting. Overcoming passages of writing that seem contrived or boring, how to expand on an idea so it begins to offer up more than at first thought.
It’s not one of the best writing craft books, but maybe worth a look if you get your hands on it.
5. “Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life” Anne Lamott
Great book, and fun to read. Anne Lamott has a wonderful sense of humour, something that she tells us is her way of dealing with the unpleasant things in life. Laugh, why not? It’s great medicine.
Her advice is more related to combining life and writing, seeing the two as one thing. You are a writer and you live and see as a writer does. To practice these and to make it a part of daily experience helps us to stop fretting about when a piece will be finished or whether we are up to the task at hand. A good book for writers and non-writers.
Sol Stein’s book shows us what great writing is made of, here, he goes into detail about the structure of creating a story and how we can make our stories more engaging and readable. There is a part on non-fiction storytelling techniques and how it relates to fiction techniques being used in journalism,(making news story-like, not fake). A book to cherish and reread, to keep close as reference when the brain stops working and won’t deliver answers.
These 6 writing books are just a snippet of what’s on my book shelf.
There are so many, good ones, bad ones and some real old classics that deserve every bit of attention. Remember that writing stories only changes slightly with how social values change, modern thoughts require subject matter that matches the needs of modern people. Yet, we all read books that were written aeons ago, fairy tales and sagas that have been handed down. The advice of mid-twentieth century authors is good to ponder and learn from, each writer is an individual with a unique story. Books help us but don’t tell us what to write about, they just help us gather our own thoughts about what we are writing.