Monday, December 16, 2013

5 Books That Have Helped Me as a Writer (Guest Post)

Note from MV: This guest post was written by my awesome blogging friend, storytellergirlgrace! :) You can visit her blog HERE. Please give her a warm welcome!

This post is probably not what you're thinking. I'm not going to list my favorite books about writing. Books about writing are good, but I believe that it's just as important for a writer to read plain good writing. A well-written story that inspires you is just as important as a grammar-and-syntax guide. So here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my favorite books that have helped me to be more passionate about my writing.

Wired that Way by Marita Littauer - This is a non-fiction book about personality types and how to get along with different sorts of people. It's not about putting people in little boxes of "this type of person, that type of person" - it is about how to understand people who might be very different from you, and learning how they think and why they act the way they act. Not only does this book help you to understand yourself and your loved ones better (and thus, maybe minimize relationship confusion and disagreements), but it can help you understand your readers. If you're writing for any kind of audience (as opposed to just writing a private journal or for your own amusement), then you will have readers who don't always think the way you think. Learning how to get along with people can really help you to not alienate all of your fans. Also, from a writing craft perspective, understanding different personalities can help you to develop characters. Just like every real person is different, your characters should all have some unique traits and quirky differences, too.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Pretty much my favorite fantasy series ever. (And yes, it’s a series – but it still counts). My mom read these to me when I was little, and I've re-read them many times since. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe inspired one of the first novel-length stories I ever wrote and finished (okay, it was probably a novella - but I was in fifth grade). Fantasy stories - especially tales of ordinary people who find themselves involved with a fantasy world - has always been my favorite genre to read or to write.

Beatrix Potter's books - The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tailor of Gloucester, etc, etc. These classic children's stories were read to me when I was little, then I continued to read them as I learned to read myself. Fuzzy animals, gorgeous artwork, a touch of fantasy - what's not to like? And recently I've been reading more about the author herself, and her love of nature and love of good storytelling. A writer needs a few heroes or role models, I think, and writer/artist/conservationist/businesswoman Beatrix Potter is one of mine.

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson - This might be considered a "success" book or a "business" book. But if you're wanting any kind of career in writing (full-time author or otherwise), you need some business know-how. And who doesn't want to be a success at whatever they're doing? "Success" doesn't mean "money" or "status" - it means living up to your full potential and being happy with your pursuits and results. This books teaches on the basic principle of "doing a little bit every day" to succeed and achieve your goals. Great for writing, great for life.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - And The Silmarillion, and The Hobbit, and The Unfinished Tales... I haven't read everything Tolkien ever wrote about Middle-Earth, but I've read a lot. It's fantasy story-telling at its most epic, and heavily influenced by mythology. I was already a fan of ancient mythology in general when I first started reading Tolkien's stuff, and these books showed me that it was possible to channel that interest into my other love, writing. While Tolkien's writings are a tad verbose, and maybe even "old-fashioned" in certain ways, he did a masterful job of creating stories for a modern audience that still held all the mystery of those ancient myths.

What are some of your favorite books that have helped you to become a better writer? Leave a comment!


Karoline said...

Loved this post :) Chronicles of Narnia provided me the same benefits they did for you. Apart from that, Pride and Prejudice taught me about dialogue (among many other wonderful things) and East of Eden by John Stienbeck was just a book that kind of changed my life, and showed me the meaning of an altering story.

Rich said...

Oh, never actualy read any of these, but I've watched some movies about them. (I know, not the same) I'll have to start reading these.

Anonymous said...

A couple books that really helped me were The Right to Write (Julia Cameron), Please Understand Me I & II (Keirsey & Bates), and Daring Greatly (Brene Brown). Great post!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the one that started it all for me was Creating a Life Worth Living.

Anonymous said...

StorytellerGirlGrace here! Thanks for reading and commenting, and for sharing the books that have helped you as writers! I'll have to look into the ones mentioned here - I haven't read any of those! :)

Dr. Mark said...

What a great list! I'll agree with you on Tolkein. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are masterfully told stories with a lot that I would love to emulate.

The entire Harry Potter series is inspirational in the way that Rowling made us want to read those thousands of pages for the one big payoff. Her world building is phenomenal as well.

Stephen King's On Writing is my favorite writing-related book. I'm not a fan of his actual work, but his insights on the writing process are really good.

Boquinha said...

Great, diverse list! I'm enjoying the post and the ensuing discussion in the comments. I think once you get into writing, you can't help but read like a writer. What I mean is, as writers, when we read, we notice things - dialogue, descriptions, development (alliteration? :P). It's not just a story; it's a work of art, good or bad. And I think it's kind of neat to have an eye for it as we read and learn and grow.