If you love to write, I imagine you love to read. And reading about writing? Well that’s my cup of tea (along with an actual cup of tea, of course). Here are some of my favorite books about writing to help inspire your own projects.
Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott
Acclaimed bestselling author Ann Lamott offers some instructions on writing (and life) in this funny, touching, and useful guide. The title itself is even a tip. She tells the story of her brother close to tears, trying to finish a report about birds (which of course was due the next day). Her dad compassionately offered advice: ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
A favorite part for me is where she describes sitting down to write and suddenly all your dysfunctional friends and relatives draw up their chairs behind you and comment. She offers a great trick for silencing those naysayers.
On Writing by Stephen King
A memoir of King’s life as a writer, this book offers a fascinating glimpse into his life and immensely helpful insights for aspiring authors. One of my favorite parts: he says you should write the first draft with the door closed and the second draft with the doors open. And the second draft is where you find out what your story is about. I also love his take on attributions: stick with “he said” or “she said” rather than using too many others.
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
A classic for a reason: this is considered by many to be one of the best books ever written on how to be a writer. I find it so encouraging and helpful. The importance of idleness in the creative life as a writer spoke to me… sitting on a bridge dangling your legs going off into a day dream – it’s part of the hard work. Also, Ueland says writing is an act of generosity. This, I’ve found, helps get myself out of the way and focus on the reader…which is where all books should begin. Who are you writing for?
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
One of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. It’s a master class. I will read and re-read. Plus it’s the Russian masters—Chekov, Tolstoy, Gogol… and the exacting form of the short story—where everything has to count—every word.
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
This is a guide to screenwriting, but it really teaches the art of storytelling. Comprehensive, helpful, insightful, and funny. Plus it’s short!
Look! I Wrote a Book! By Sally Lloyd-Jones
First of all, it’s funny and will make you laugh. But all joking aside, it does in fact include the basics of writing a book. The hilarious step-by-step guide to writing a book is told by a spunky, know-it-all narrator who walks readers through the whole process, from deciding what to write about, to writing the story, and even getting people to buy your book. It’s wonderful and especially perfect, if I do say so myself.
So what are you writing? I’d love to see! Tag me on Instagram (@sallylloydjones) and #lookiwroteabook