Writing Inspiration

Here is a collection of books recommended by Book-in-a-Week members to encourage and inspire writing.

Page After Page by Heather Sellers, Kelly Nickell — “Ninety percent of beginning writers stop practicing their craft before they have a chance to discover their talents. This essential and encouraging guide: Helps readers build a writing life, one that will help them continue to write without giving up; approaches the writing life without using new age and self-help techniques, so writers from all walks of life will benefit from the advice and provides engaging exercises to help readers shape their writing life and achieve their goals. Written by an author with more than twenty years of teaching and writing experience, Page After Page helps writers keep writing, page after page, day after day.” Purchase Page After Page from Amazon.

Artist Way Book CoverThe Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron — “The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital today-or perhaps even more so-than it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work. In a new introduction to the book, Julia Cameron reflects upon the impact of The Artist’s Way and describes the work she has done during the last decade and the new insights into the creative process that she has gained. Updated and expanded, this anniversary edition reframes The Artist’s Way for a new century.” Purchase The Artist’s Way from Amazon.

Write from the Heart book coverWrite From the Heart by Hal Zina Bennett — “In his first edition of Write from the Heart, Hal Zina Bennett presented a spiritual approach to writing that showed both beginners and seasoned authors how to overcome blocks, unleash their creative voice, and see their books into print. In this edition, he gives readers an even more interactive experience by incorporating exercises he’s developed during his many years conducting workshops. An all-new chapter on supportive critiquing shows readers how to make contacts in the all-important community of writers and how to get help with the process of writing and refining.” Purchase Write from the Heart from Amazon.

Writing Down the Bones book coverWriting Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg — Wherein we discover that many of the “rules” for good writing and good sex are the same: Keep your hand moving, lose control, and don’t think. Goldberg brings a touch of both Zen and well… *eroticism* to her writing practice, the latter in exercises and anecdotes designed to ease you into your body, your whole spirit, while you create, the former in being where you are, working with what you have, and writing from the moment. Purchase Writing Down the Bones from Amazon.

On Writing book  coverOn Writing by Stephen King — “‘Long live the King’ hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.” Purchase On Writing from Amazon.

Sometimes the Magic book coverSometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks — “Writing is writing, whether one’s setting is a magical universe or a suburban backyard. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws upon his own experiences, hard lessons learned, and delightful discoveries made in creating the beloved Shannara and Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Word and The Void trilogy, and the bestselling Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace.” Purchase Sometimes the Magic Words from Amazon.

Wild Mind book coverWild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg — “Natalie Goldberg, author of the bestselling Writing Down The Bones, teaches a method of writing that can take you beyond craft to the true source of creative power: The mind that is “raw, full of energy, alive and hungry.” Here is compassionate, practical, and often humorous advice about how to find time to write, how to discover your personal style, how to make sentences come alive, and how to overcome procrastination and writer’s block — including more than thirty provocative “Try this” exercises to get your pen moving. And here also is a larger vision of the writer’s task: balancing daily responsibilities with a commitment to writing; knowing when to take risks as a writer and a human being; coming to terms with success and failure and loss; and learning self-acceptance — both in life and art.Wild Mind will change your way of writing. It may also change your life.” Purchase Wild Mind from Amazon.

Natalie Goldberg's Thunder and LighteningThunder and Lightning : Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg — In this long-awaited sequel to her bestselling books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg, one of the most sought-after writing teachers of our time, takes us to the next step in the writing process.You’ve filled your notebooks, done your writing practice, discovered your original voice. Now what? How do you turn this raw material into finished stories, essays, poems, novels, memoirs? Drawing on her own experience as a writer and a student of Zen, Natalie shows you how to create a field big enough to allow your “wild mind” to wander — and then gently direct its tremendous energy into whatever you want to write. Here, too, is invaluable advice on how to overcome writer’s block, how to deal with the fear of criticism and rejection, how to get the most from working with an editor, and how to learn from reading accomplished authors. With humor and compassion, Goldberg recounts her own mistakes on the way to publication — and how you can avoid the most common pitfalls of the beginning writer. Through it all there is a deep celebration of writing itself — not just as the means to an end, but as a path to living a deeper, more fully alive life. Purchase Thunder and Lightning from Amazon.

Anne Lamotts Bird by BirdBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott — “Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.” Purchase Bird by Bird from Amazon.

Rebecca McClanahan Word PaintingWord Painting by Rebecca McClanahan — “In Word Painting, Rebecca McClanahan guides readers through an intriguing examination of description in its many forms. Through her thoughtful instruction and engaging exercises, readers will learn to tap into their senses, develop their powers of observation, and uncover the rich evocative words that accurately portray the images in their mindis eye. She includes dozens of descriptive passages written by master poets and authors to help readers develop their own descriptive writing style, and she also teaches how to weave writing together using description as a unifying thread.” Purchase Word Painting from Amazon.

Discovering the Writer Within book coverDiscovering the Writer Within: 40 Days to More Imaginative Writing by Bruce Ballenger, Barry Lane — “Messrs. Ballenger and Lane, each coming from the non-fiction and fiction sides of the fence, respectively, take the Biblical “40 day” timeframe and slap a step-by- step program upon it, filled with exercises and techniques designed to make your “inner writer” face light of day, embrace confusion, develop an eye as well as an ear, and finally, face the ultimate test: writing regularly, even when you don’t feel like it.” Purchase Discovering the Writer Within from Amazon.

The Merry Heart book coverThe Merry Heart: Reflections on Reading, Writing, and the World of Books by Robertson Davies — “Readers around the world continue to mourn the 1995 death of a beloved literary icon, but this rich and varied collection of Robertson Davies’s writings on the world of books and the miracle of language captures his inimitable voice and sustains his presence among us. Coming almost entirely from Davies’ own files of unpublished material, these twenty-four essays and lectures range over themes from “The Novelist and Magic” to “Literature and Technology,” from “Painting, Fiction, and Faking,” to “Can a Doctor Be a Humanist?” and “Creativity in Old Age.” For devotees of Davies and all lovers of literature and language, here is the “urbanity, wit, and high seriousness mixed by a master chef” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)–vintage delights from an exquisite literary menu. Davies himself says merely: “Lucky writers…like wine, die rich in fruitiness and delicious aftertaste, so that their works survive them.” Purchase The Merry Heart from Amazon.

writing past dark book coverWriting Past Dark : Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer’s Life by Bonnie Friedman — “The first book for writers that explores the emotional side of writing–dealing with everything from envy to guilt to the dreaded writer’s block. Bonnie Friedman’s work is anthologized in many books, including The Best Writing on Writing and Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. She has published in The New York Times, Self, Redbook, and the Michigan Quarterly Review. She has taught at Dartmouth College, and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.” Purchase Writing Past Dark from Amazon.

Writing the Breakout NovelWriting the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — “A breakout novel is one that rises out of its category–such as literary fiction, mystery, romance, or thriller–and hits the bestseller lists. Maass explains the elements that all breakout novels share and shows readers how to use these elements to write a novel that has a good chance of succeeding in a crowded marketplace. They’ll learn to: create a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place, develop larger-than-life characters, sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish, weave sub-plots into the main action, explore universal themes that will interest a large audience of readers.” Purchase Writing the Breakout Novel from Amazon.

Noah Lukeman's First Five PagesThe First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman — The First Five Pages reveals the necessary elements of good writing, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or poetry, and points out errors to be avoided, such as : A weak opening hook, Overuse of adjectives and adverbs, Flat or forced metaphors or similes, Melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue, Undeveloped characterizations and lifeless settings and Uneven pacing and lack of progression. Purchase The First Five Pages from Amazon.

Noah Lukeman's The Plot ThickensThe Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman — “As a literary agent, Noah Lukeman hears thousands of book pitches a year. Often the stories sound great in concept, but never live up to their potential on the page. Lukeman shows beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—a veritable fiction-writing workshop—without boundless new ideas.” Purchase The Plot Thickens from Amazon.

Carolyn Lee's The Literary LifeMaking a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See — “Carolyn See distills a lifetime of experience as novelist, memoirist, critic, and creative-writing professor into this marvelously engaging how-to book. Partly the nuts and bolts of writing (plot, point of view, character, voice) and partly an inspirational guide to living the life you dream of, Making a Literary Life takes you from the decision to “become” a writer to three months after the publication of your first book. A combination of writing and life strategies (do not tell everyone around you how you yearn to be a writer; send a “charming note” to someone you admire in the industry five days a week, every week, for the rest of your life; find the perfect characters right in front of you), Making a Literary Life is for people not usually considered part of the literary loop: the non–East Coasters, the secret scribblers.” Purchase Making the Literary Life from Amazon.

If You Can Talk book coverIf You Can Talk You Can Write by Joel Saltzman — “When we talk, we tell stories and present ideas without anxiety. But when we think about writing, panic often sets in. Joel Saltzman, a former comedian, teaches how to “talk” on paper. Listen and learn how to: conquer perfectionism, parlysis, and procrastination; silence your inner critic; stop worrying about the “rules” of grammar; get inspired if you don’t feel inspired; and write with conviction, not apology. If You Can Talk, You Can Write gives you the daring freedom to produce the kind of writing that is creative, energetic, and most of all, truly your own.” Purchase If You Can Talk You Can Write from Amazon.

Vogler's Writers JourneyThe Writer’s Journey:

Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler — “In 1993, The Writer’s Journey became one of the most popular books on writing of the last 50 years. Now, the 2nd Edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s pioneering work in mythic structure for writers.”

Purchase The Writer’s Journey from Amazon.

Becoming a Writer book coverBecoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande — “Even in 1934, Dorothea Brande knew that most writers didn’t need another book on “technique” — and this, before so many more would be published. No, she realized, as John Gardner notes in his foreword, “the root problems of the writer are personality problems,” and thus her wise book is designed to simply help you get over yourself and start writing, with techniques ranging from a simple declaration to write every day at a fixed time — no matter what — to exercises that come close to inventing the TM and self-actualization movements that would follow a few decades later.” Purchase Becoming a Writer from Amazon.

Rita Mae Brown's Starting from Scratch book coverStarting from Scratch by Rita Mae Brown— “From the best-selling author of Rubyfruit Jungle and Bingo, here is a writers’ manual as provocative, frank, and funny as her fiction. Unlike most writers’ guides, this one had as much to do with how writers live as with mastering the tools of their trade. Rita Mae Brown begins with a very personal account of her own career, from her days as a young poet who had written a novel no publisher wanted to take a chance on, right up to her recent adventures as a Hollywood screenwriter. In a sassy style that makes her outspoken advice as entertaining as it is useful, she provides straight talk about paying the rent while maintaining the energy to write; and dealing with agents, publishers, critics, and the publicity circus; about pursuing journalisim, academia, or screen-writing; and about rejecting the Hemingway myth of the hard-living, hard-drinking genius. In addition Brown, a former teacher or writing, offers a serious examination of the writer’s tool–language, plotting, characters, symbolism–plus exercises to sharpen the ear for dialogue, and a fascinating, annoted reading list of important works from the seventh century to the late twentieth.” Purchase Starting from Scratch from Amazon.

If You Want to Write book coverIf You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland — “In her 93 remarkable years, veteran freelance writer, memoirist, and writing teacher Brenda Ueland published some six million words. She once said there were two simple rules that she followed absolutely: to tell the truth, and not do anything she didn’t want to do. Such integrity both distinguishes and defines If You Want to Write, her bestselling classic that first appeared in the late 1930s and has inspired thousands to find their own creative center. As Carl Sandburg once remarked, Ueland’s primer is ‘the best book ever written on how to write.'” Purchase If You Want to Write from Amazon.

The Courage to Write book coverThe Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes — “Katherine Anne Porter called courage ‘the first essential’ for a writer. ‘I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence,’ agreed Cynthia Ozick, ‘sometimes every syllable.’ E. B. White said he admired anyone who ‘has the guts to write anything at all.’ An author who has taught writing for more than thirty years, Ralph Keyes assures readers that anxiety is felt by writers at every level and can be harnessed to produce honest and disciplined work., Keyes offers specifics on how to make the best use of writers’ workshops and conferences and how to handle criticism of works in progress; he also exposes the most common ‘false fear busters’ (needing new equipment, a better setting, a new agent). Throughout, he includes the comments of many accomplished writers–Pat Conroy, Amy Tan, Rita Dove, Isabel Allende, and others–on how they transcended their own anxieties to produce great works. Purchase The Courage to Write from Amazon.

Telling Lies for Fun and ProfitTelling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block — “Characters refusing to talk? Plot plodding along? Where do good ideas come from anyway? In this wonderfully practical volume, two-time Edgar Award-winning novelist Lawrence Block takes an inside look at writing as a craft and as a career. From studying the market, to mastering self-discipline and ‘creative procrastination,’ through coping with rejections, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit is an invaluable sourcebook of information. It is a must read for anyone serious about writing or understanding how the process works.” Purchase Telling Lies for Fun and Profit from Amazon.

Techniques of the Selling WriterTechniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain — “This book provides solid instruction for persons who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories; how to develop characters, how to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product. This is the book for writers who want to turn rejection slips into cashable checks. Purchase Techniques of the Selling Writer from Amazon.

Writing on Both Sides of the Brain book coverWriting on Both Sides of the Brain:

Breakthrough Techniques for People Who Write by Henriette A. Klauser — “A revolutionary approach to writing that will teach you how to express yourself fluently and with confidence for the rest of your life.”

Purchase Writing on Both Sides of the Brain from Amazon.

Listen to Me book coverListen to Me: Writing Life Into Meaning by Lynn Lauber — “Why write out of our lives? What can it do for us? How can sharing our stories connect us with others? Acclaimed novelist and essayist Lynn Lauber chronicles her journey as a writer and longtime teacher at creative writing programs around the country. She explores how writing—both fiction and creative nonfiction—has served as a means of personal navigation, a healing and avenging force, and a way of calling up not only a lost daughter but also a lost self. Her story serves as encouragement for others to produce their own personal narratives.” Purchase Listen to Me from Amazon.

If you have a writing book recommendation please leave it in the comments below.

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About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.