WW: Books that Will Change Your (Writing) Life

Happy writing Wednesday, Friends! Today, I’m sharing with you the books that can change how you write (and read). I tagged some of my best writing friends in a Facebook post, and we did a whip-round* to share some of the books that profoundly impacted our writing life. I see a few I need to put on my bookshelf or in my kindle.

Want these books for your collection. Simply click on the cover of the book you want to be taken to its paperback version on Amazon (except Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I could only find the Kindle edition, and How to Write a Brilliant Romance, because the paperback cost was expensive). 

Here are the books that have impacted my writing the most thus far:

My original copy of this book doesn’t look like this. It has a cover that looks more like a piece of paper. I have no idea how I got this book, someone must have given it to me. I was so young when I read it the first time, I needed a dictionary with me to make sure I understood every word. This book is the foundation of what I know about writing fiction. I still return to the exercises in it.

I came across Anne Lamott on BookTV/C-Span in college, and immediately went out and got Bird by Bird. Anne’s illustrations and voice were so easy to follow, and she shared so much wisdom about writing and the writing life. There’s a reason this is a classic.

I read this book when I was creatively dry, and it helped revive my passion for the written word. I knew many of the things Liz shares, but I wasn’t acting on them. And what she says about how we (in Western culture especially) expect our creativity and art to support us made me stop and think about why I wrote and why I wanted to share what I wrote with the world in the first place. Writing for me is spiritual, and Liz taps into that idea. We agreed to disagree on just what and where that spirituality comes from (I edited every reference to the universe to match my personal beliefs and it was fine).

First of all, this book is fascinated for the glimpse it gives into one successful writer’s life–where his ideas come from, how he got his start, what his writing routine looks like, etc. But more importantly, in the middle section, King gives some invaluable advice for writers on mechanics and style that I found really helpful. It’s full of examples and is simple to grasp. Even if you’re not a fan of the horror genre or have never read any of his books, this one is an invaluable tool to a writer. There is a language warning. King is a little coarse. But the writing is accessible and you can learn a lot from him.

I also own but still need to finish:

Started it, loved it, even follow Dani Shapiro online, but I got sidetracked. I promise I’ll finish this and let you know what I gained from it.

I’ve started it but haven’t finished it. I’m not currently working on memoir (it’s something in the back of my mind, and I love the genre and want to know more about it anyway), so it’s keeps getting pushed to the backburner. I heard Mary Karr on Fresh Air, an NPR podcast, and I loved her.

Now, on to the books my author friends chose:

By far, the most recommended book was Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. Nearly all my author friends chose this book. Here’s how one described it:

As a Harlequin author, I can tell you that the editors rely heavily on this book, and they’re really big on making sure the GMC works for the story. -D. F

Another that multiple authors recommend is Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron:

[Finding Water] especially helped me…when I was feeling quite down about my writing prospects. It reminded me that I can – and need to – enjoy the creative process not just the end result. -DG

Finding water is the third of three books by Cameron on in The Artist’s Way series.

 Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias was recommended for its focus on storytelling:

It’s about storytelling and not about *writing*. It gives lots of really great examples on what techniques you can use to produce emotional response… For instance: before that book, I didn’t really understand what Dramatic Irony was, or that there were different kinds of dramatic irony, and that the different kinds were good for specific situations. It’s a master class in storytelling, even though it’s a book on screenwriting. – A.B.

 Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle was also chosen as one writer’s most impactful book:

It’s absolutely the most impactful book that I re-read often because it reminds me of the kind of writer I want to be…Every writer needs to read this, IMO.

Finally, some made recommendations that speak for themselves…at least, the authors who suggested them seem to think so. Also suggested was anything by Michael Hauge (including his weekend intensive) and The Prescription for Plotting Workbook by Carolyn White Greene.

Did we forget your favorite book on writing? Share it below in the comments. 



*I’m a fan of the late, great Harlequin Romance writer Betty Neels. I discovered this delightful word, whip-round, which seems to mean everyone contributing to a gift, in her novels. This post is absolutely a whip-round, a group of people putting in a little something into a burgeoning writer’s gift basket. I hope you enjoyed it!

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