The Top Three Writing Books I’ve Read in 2020
So it's been a week since I created and took on the Stephen King Writing Challenge, and, to put it mildly, I've been keeping busy.
I've been cheering on authors @ASebuchi, @tinasammich, @authorsantanas, and @cr_burman as they've taken up the challenge themselves. (They're doing amazing!)
I've also been talking to writer's groups, writing a 1000 words a day, applying to a writing contest, and trying to finally take my To Do list down a peg.
Which means I've been getting into a lot of discussions with a lot of writers. And I find that I keep recommending the same books over and over again.
So, in the interest of time, I wanted to pass on a short list of books that have helped me take a second look at the industry this year, and gave me some ideas for what to do next.
Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business: The Complete Guide to Starting and Scaling from Scratch
The career of a professional writer used to be pretty straight forward. You got your skills up to where they needed to be. You found a client or clients who needed them. Then you quietly wrote for them for the next forty or fifty years. And, if you were good enough, you'd manage to get famous as well.
Things in the modern era have changed. Writing is now a fast-paced career that has enormous opportunity for growth, and the rules about how to make more money and get more exposure change with every new technology.
Which means you have to update your skills every so often to stay relevant.
And for New Years 2020, I promised myself that I would do that.
Most writer's guides I pulled off of Libby and Hoopla basically gave the same advice I'd been receiving since middle school. With the added mention of 'maybe you should get a website or a twitter account too'.
But this book was different.
Not only did it cover the basics that every new writer should know, but it showed new techniques for dealing with common client issues, bookkeeping questions, and legal problems that most writer's guides avoid like the plague. (Despite those issues being what sidelines or stops most upcoming writers from becoming professionals!)
Author Laura Pennington Briggs did a great job summarizing the problems and solutions that every writer must deal with when they write for money in the modern age.
Whether you've been dreaming of starting your writing career, or are coming up on your next decade in it, this book is worth a look.
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
Writing a book is glorious. Querying sucks.
No matter how many times you do it, it's always hard to send something you've lovingly worked on out into the world to be judged and ripped apart by strangers.
It's even worse when those strangers pass on it when it's clearly a masterpiece and you don't know WHAT THEY COULD BE THINKING.
Well, this is what they're thinking.
Lukeman uses his skills as an experienced literary agent to break down all the things I want to tell someone as a line editor. Especially when I come across a story with great potential, but whose author thinks it's perfect as-is.
From how you hook readers in in the first five pages, to major faults that could be disrupting the entire story, Lukeman has you covered.
And he comes across as the nicest guy! It feels like you're talking to an honest friend who just wants to help you.
You've got to read this book before you submit your next query. And I'd start sooner rather than later.
On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
When I was a much younger writer, I adored Virginia Woolf in a very specific way.
I worshiped and deified the work she had done in A Room of One's Own.
And I thought her actual writing was fine.
You know, solid. Nothing to brag about in modern times, when newer writers had used the tools she created to better effect. I didn't want to read her all the time, but when I got the urge for something that sounded like her stuff, only her stuff would do.
Stephen King has taken Virginia Woolf's oddly shaped space in my heart.
I like Stephen King's books. As a kid, I had more than a half-dozen of his paperbacks, all gotten secondhand from various library sales. They always ended up stacked with the rest of my TBR pile in a place of honor on my night stand. (And the floor beside it. And sometimes at the foot of my bed.)
I reread Carrie and The Shinning constantly.
It and The Stand were too thick for me to take on, but I did enjoy the movies and miniseries that were based on them.
I only planned on reading Tommyknockers and Rose Madder once, but they stuck around for years, getting picked over in moments of boredom.
The Eyes of the Dragon was the first time I read any story ferociously, constantly driving forward, trying to see what the next page would bring, only to realize it's 3am, and my heart is pounding because the villain is chasing our hero up a long circular staircase and I MUST KNOW HOW THIS ENDS.
But I couldn't say he was my favorite author.
My favorite authors were Neil Gaiman, Susan Kay, Spider Robinson. As a writer, Stephen King was just... OK. You know, solid. When you're in the mood for something that sounds like him, only he will do.
As a mentor, however, he is unparalleled.
On Writing isn't your typical writer's guide. King takes up most of the first half of the book - and most of the end - telling stories about his life. Stories that seem to be more interesting than important. But as he talks about the lessons he learned and how he pulled them together to create his process, the light bulb goes off. Because his life is a story. His drive to get published for the first time is a story. The car accident that nearly killed him is a story. And if we don't recognize the stories that make up our own lives, we'll never unearth the fossils of stories that could be.
But you probably already knew that. Especially if you've read my stuff before. Because I can't stop talking about how great this book is.
It should be available to borrow on Libby or Hoopla. If not, it's only about 15 bucks on Amazon.
Go. Read it. You're going to thank me later.