The Best Books on Writing

I realize that many of the writers in the KWA have found their personal strides.  But I am a writer still exploring my creative voice.  As both a writer of fiction and a poet, there are several books that I return to time and again to refuel and bring zest to my work.   Hopefully a suggestion here will bring you some inspiration as well.

Each of these books is available for sale, but for ease I linked each book cover image to the Amazon listing.  Please keep in mind that many of MY copies were borrowed from the public library, but I highly recommend supporting Wichita’s own Watermark Books.

Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rilke“Seek those [themes] which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of beauty—describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity, and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the objects of your memory.”

These letters are available in a variety of translations, the best of which is the M.D. Herter volume. The advice shared with a wider audience in 1932 remains timeless.  A writer doesn’t have to be a poet to appreciate the sentiment that writing is difficult and that writers should find the courage from within to continue.

 

Writing Down the Bones
by Natalie Goldberg

GoldbergGoldberg is my favorite writer for practical writing advice.  She combines her Zen practice with her devotion to daily writing, and the result is gracious encouragement for every writer.  One of the early chapters, “First Thoughts,” describes the daily writing exercise, even down to choosing a pen that gets you excited about writing..  Goldberg believes you must write through the bad results to get to the good.  And writing everyday is the ticket.

 

The Artist’s Way
by Julia Cameron

This book literally describes a course of action that aspiring artists and creative people can execute to unleash their own Cameroncreativity.  On a week-by-week plan, The Artist’s Way retrains the brain to look and see the world in new ways, which will begin to feed into the creative life.  While written more for the ‘artist,’ each week’s efforts are beneficial for writers.  For example, toward the end of week 2 [in the chapter “Recovering a Sense of Identity”], one exercise is to “List your five major activities this week.  How much time did you give to each one?  Which were what you wanted to do and which were should?  How much of your time is spent helping others and ignoring your own desires?”  Sometimes acknowledging what keeps me from working on a project motivates me more to manage my time differently.

The Art of Fiction
by John Gardner

gardnerIf you write fiction, you must read this book.  I had written stories for years before I realized that I was making some basic mistakes by violating the reader’s sense of psychic distance.  I am embarrassed to say that I was also quite happily attached to clichés.  Gardner essentially breaks down elements of a story, providing great samples and examples of what works AND what NOT to do.  Ironically, there are popular genres where certain things Gardner determined were errors are actually acceptable forms—like in Romance, readers accept the easy slide between one point-of-view and another.

 Tell us what YOU read!

This list is not exhaustive.  There are many other books available to inspire the writer within.  The best resources are often other writers.  What is your must-have book?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

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DSCN0574 A Poet and a writer, April Pameticky tries to find balance between her professional life as a writer, teacher, wife, and mother.  Her chapbook of poetry, Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been will soon be released by Finishing Line Press.

Catch up at AprilinWichita.

Blogging: The Diary You Want Everyone To Read

I have a standing date with my computer on Monday night for the last five years. During the previous week, I take notes, compile thoughts and research. I spend at least two hours crafting a cohesive essay. Once finished, the piece is uploaded to Female in Motion’s Blogger site and Networked Blogs sees that it makes its way to my Facebook fan page, Twitter feed and BlogFrog community.

Why keep a blog? Some of the reasons could be to educate the public on a subject you are an authority on, to earn money, to create a platform for a cause or mission, to share a hobby or interest, to express yourself, or to advertise a business. Writers in today’s competitive market are finding agents and publishers encouraging them to blog in order to create interest in their books.

  1. Design a blog. According to TechGainer, the top five blog hosts are Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournal and Xanga. For most users, it takes around thirty minutes to build.
  2. Determine the look of your blog. Do you want sleek, sophisticated images, or a warm, homey background? Templates are available on the blog sites, or you can drop in your own visuals.
  3. Decide what purpose and content your blog will contain. Do you want it to be directed at your readers, or other writers?

Do not keep a blog:

If you have to force yourself on a daily or weekly basis to blog.

If you routinely complain, “I don’t have anything to write about!”

If you’re using it as a dodge not to write your book…or another book.

I have learned some things about blogging in the last five years. It’s vital to write well. No shortcuts. No sloppiness. Use good, concise prose…with proper grammar. Keep a schedule. Post every day, week, or month. You may run the risk of losing readers’ interest if you post seldom or sporadically.

Make sure your blog’s focus is something you are passionate about. If not, it won’t keep you motivated to write every day, week, and month. I keep a file with ideas and notes for future blog posts. It also contains links to interesting articles I have found. I’m never out of ideas. I just keep replenishing the well. It takes discipline at first, and then it becomes muscle memory.

Link your blog to Hootsuite or Networked Blogs to manage the frequency and content of your postings. Never stop tweaking the look of your site. It’s refreshing. If you want to do any add-ons or gadgets, you can refer to help features on the site or just Google it.

A blog is a long-term commitment to share your writing with the general public, or at least your corner of the worldwide Web. The environment you create in your books should be recreated in your blog. It’s a great way to stay connected and current with your readers. If they see you care about them, they will respond in kind.

A blogger is constantly looking over his shoulder, for fear that he is not being followed.” –Robert Brault, American writer

Promotion Tip: Hosting Guest Authors

Writing a book may seem like a daunting task, and it is, I’m not slighting that at all. After the book (novel, novella, even an article) is finished, next comes yet another complicated task: getting it published.  Of course, during this part of your being-an-author process, you start or continue working on the next project.

After you have found a publisher or decided to go the Indie published author route, then you need to dive into the world of promotion. Trust me, your publisher really wants sales, but they are only willing to do so much to get the product sold. Their biggest part is finding outlets to make your book available (their website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Fictionwise, Bookstrand, etc.). All of that is great! But now YOU need to promote your product anywhere and everywhere you can.

One of the ways I promote my books and myself as an author is to take part in a blog tour or finding blogs to appear on. In the last 3 months I’ve done blog posts at 14 blogs. I have another 11 lined up from now through the end of September. It can be time-consuming to come up with slightly different information about yourself as an author, coming up with a short blog post on a topic somehow related to your book, or finding yet another way to share information about your latest release. Yet I love the challenge and it pays off in getting new readers interested in checking out my various books.

Now I’m taking this blogging thing a step farther. I’ve added Tuesdays and Wednesdays with Starla Kaye for guest authors to my website’s blog. I started promoting this a week ago to my fellow romance authors, my four publishers, and two promotion services I work with. My calendar is full from June 21-August 31 and I will start taking reservations for September 6-the rest of the year.

My point about this is not to brag on what I’m doing, but to share what I’m doing. Having a blog is important as it draws people to your website or your blogsite and gives them an opportunity to look at what books you write. Hosting other authors who have an established fan base that follows them around where they blog can also be valuable to you. Yes, you get that pleasure from helping someone else. You also get a chance to have others who might not ever have seen your books or come to your site to learn more about you. I strongly recommend you consider hosting guest authors on your blog, authors that write in your genre. You are welcome to check out my newly redesigned website and see how I have set up the calendars and more.  Starla Kaye