What Makes A Good Writing Book?

What I classify as a good writing book will vary according to my mood and aptitude. It will depend on what I am seeking. Is it the development of writing technique? Or an increased understanding of that elusive trick, what makes writing work?

Some of my favourite writing books to date have offered insights into a famous writer’s life. On Writing by Stephen King comes to mind. King’s no-nonsense approach to the craft made it memorable. It is often recommended to writers, offering insights into the reality of a working writer’s life.

Another book that explores the act of writing is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. This book conveys the sheer joy of writing with a sense of zen. There is an enthusiasm and passion in Goldberg’s work that has stayed with me over the years. I still dip into the book when I need inspiration.

I look for similar things in a writing book and a writing group. I want to find a place that is supportive and inspires the act of writing. This can include examples of writing or tips on craft, but it needs to result in making me want to put pen to paper. One of the most influential books I read about this applied to any form of artistic creation. It is about six years since I worked my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. There were elements of it that I found challenging, including exercises on obstacles. This included real and imagined obstacles about writing and what I could do to give it priority in my life.

I started the morning pages during this time and it remains a daily way of connecting with my writing self. It is often where ideas begin, or space where the negativity and doubts can be expressed and released. Another enduring practice has been that of the artist’s date. I’m not as consistent with this but I challenge myself to seek out things which help my curiosity. That has been important too.

Recently I picked up Cameron’s The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life. It is early days but already it has me writing, and for me, that’s what it’s all about.

What do you look for in a writing book?

[Photo: circle of support]

14 thoughts on “What Makes A Good Writing Book?

  1. I recently read Dani Shapiro’s “Still Writing,” and it’s now in my top three favorite writing books. She takes a unique approach, with three sections: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. She talks about those with regard to the actual writing project, the writer’s process, and life in general. It’s a keeper.

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    1. Hi Donna, thanks for adding another book to my list! It is always good to find a book on writing that resonates, and I’m impressed that it is in your top three. Thank you for sharing 😊

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  2. Not being a writer – that is, not planning to write a novel or any sort of creative work – I don’t really look for writing books. However, I have enjoyed what I’ve read of Carmel Bird’s Dear Writer, which was republished in a new edition just a few years ago, called, I think, Dear Writer Revisited. I have found what I’ve read of it really engaging. But I’m not using it for practical purposes. I do think Bird is a great writer, and I think she is liked as a writing teacher!

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    1. Dear Writer Revisited is another favourite book on writing – thank you for mentioning it! It is written with warmth and humour, and this revisited version provides a contemporary comments to update the original book. Bird is a fantastic writer, and is generous with sharing insights into the writing craft. Thank you for your comments 😊

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    1. That’s a great point too – nothing beats writing for the sheer pleasure of it. Craft books can help with the development of skills and techniques, but it is the love of writing that keeps us turning up! Thank you for your comments.

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    1. Hello Peter, and what a good point you make. One of the most frequent tips given to new writers is the importance of reading, and it is this lifelong enjoyment of the written word that feeds into writing ability. It informs writing style and choice, and the influence of reading great novels cannot be underestimated. Thank you for your comments and for making me think about great novels!

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  3. I really enjoy The artist Way another book I have come to enjoy is Walter Mosely’s This Year You Write Your Novel. I found the book to be inspiring, humors, thought provoking and challenging.

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    1. Thank you for the tip on Mosely’s book – it sounds like a motivational read. I’ll have to track a copy down. I’m glad you liked The Artist’s Way too. It is one of those books that really stays with you, I find.

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