(Everybody sing now!)
ebooks and websites, some poems and a cool Nook.
music, In the Heights, and Yeats, Joyce, a good book.
Sondheim and Shakespeare, slow jazz and porch swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
If the plot fails,
miss your deadline,
and you’re feeling blue
Just fire up your laptop and type ’til it’s fine
And then you will feel brand new!
With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, of course! Seriously, as writers we need all the help and encouragement we can get. Sometimes this comes in the form of reading what other writers have to say about the craft. So here they are, my fab five short list of consistent favorites that withstand the test of time. Feel free to share your favorites, too!
All Around Favorite Writing Books–The Fab Five Short List
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
Ueland first published this book in 1938. She was way ahead of her time, and had a wonderful sense of humor. She believed, and I agree, that “everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.” If you need a pep talk to help undo the damage of folks who’ve tried to rain on your word parade, this is the book for you.
bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
O.K. I just like Anne Lamott. She has more guts, style, and quirky humor than ought to be legal in any one person. Beyond that, she speaks with an honest voice. and offers some true gems of advice and observation.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
If you read only book on writing this year and have not had the pleasure of reading King’s memoir, then by all means lay hands on a copy or download it to your e-reader or mobile device. However, whenever, and wherever you can–just get it and devour it. There’s a reason King is a successful writer (however one chooses to define that term); he can weave a fine story, clearly loves what he does, and is honest about the craft. You’ll find the advice practical and unflinching, the prose lively and witty, and the overall effect satisfying and inspiring. Enough said. Read it or reread it and then read it again.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Whenever I want a lyrical shot in the arm to remind me why I do what I do, I revisit Dillard’s slim, elegant reflection. I’ve read the book many times over the years and taught it in many advanced high school English classes; each time is a different experience because I bring my current context and experiences to the encounter. The common thread is that each reading is rewarding and makes me glad I am called to write.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
This classic volume is a must read for anyone who writes, be it for school, work, pleasure, or vocation. It will do more for your writing style than almost anything else I can think of besides relentless practice. My very favorite gem from this book is found on page 35 of the third edition and involves my hometown newspapers and the unintended result of a poor hyphen choice. Check it out, you’re sure to have a chuckle (and if you think I need a semicolon to separate the two previous clauses see pages 6-7).
Photo by Bright Meadow used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!