Good writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It needs direction and inspiration. Here are a few of the books I have been reading lately that have given my own writing a boost. What books have helped you improve your writing?
The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein
This book on writing has been a real gem. It covers the nuts and bolts of the process but also infuses each page with the inspiration and wonder that made me become a writer in the first place. To make things even better, the entire book is devoted to writing for children, particularly middle grade and young adult. The exercises throughout the book are particularly helpful because they focus on your work in progress instead of assigning unrelated exercises.
Several of my friends had the opportunity to hear Cheryl Klein speak at a writing conference last year, and I’m looking forward to attending a writing intensive that she will be leading this fall, so I’ve been doing my conference prep with this one.
The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield
I mentioned Scofield’s The Scene Book in a previous post, as a huge help in understanding the building blocks of a book. Her approach to revision here was equally insightful, and candid. She presented her methods as guidelines that still left room for each writer’s own voice and style. So many books focus on just getting a draft out that the revision process can feel a little bewildering, especially when that first draft is as rough as mine was. Scofield was a thoughtful guide for the journey and quite an encouragement as I waded deeper into the murky depths of revision.
The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird
This book is a screenwriting text with a lot of insight for novelists about writing a tight story with compelling characters that readers can’t put down. Bird lays out thirteen laws of writing, beginning with the importance of considering your audience all the way through a 122-item “ultimate story checklist” of questions to ask about your story when considering next steps or diagnosing problems. I first listened to this one as an audiobook and then went back and bought a paperback to mark up and flip around in when I wanted to revisit certain points and ideas. I would recommend it in either format.