Tag Archives: Writing books

Guest Post: Why You Should Read About Writing by Kelsie Engen

Guest Post: Why You Should Read About Writing by Kelsie Engen

This article previously appeared on A Writer’s Path.

The moment you think you know everything about writing, that’s the moment your writing plateaus.

Last week I talked about why writers should read voraciously. But that was a post focused on fiction. You know, reading in the genre you write. For instance, if you write fantasy, you ought to be familiar with fantasy and read it near daily.

But writers are, first and foremost, readers, and while it’s useful to read any fiction we can get our hands on . . .

Shouldn’t writers also read about writing?



Surprisingly, there are some people who don’t think writers should read about writing. (Or maybe they just find it boring.)

I mean, isn’t it kind of like reading about work or talking shop? Well . . . yeah. But there’s a reason we’re assigned reading in school, and there’s a reason that people “talk shop”: it’s how we’re taught new skills, understand what we’re doing wrong, how others do it right (or wrong), and why we aren’t good enough–yet.

Many of us writers never went to school for writing. Sure, we may have written the required essays in high school English class, or wrote a required short story in elementary school, all that jazz. But most writers these days don’t take the educational route and go to college and get a creative writing degree or an MFA in literature. Instead, today’s authors may study “literature” naturally through their independent reading and learn quite a bit. But at some point in your writing journey, you need a teacher. And that’s what books on writing do.

Person reading on a kindle james-tarbotton-367

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

1. You learn new skills.

Most obviously, the first reason you should read about writing is to learn something new. Even if you’ve been writing for twenty years, you may not have learned much about structure. Or you may not have learned exactly when to use a semi-colon, or you may not have learned how to write a short story.

All those things can strengthen whatever writing you do. Don’t assume you know it all–you never will.

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one can’t read.” ― Mark Twain

Language is fluid, ever-changing. It’s something that we can always continue to learn, and always continue to improve.

To read the rest of the article, click here.


Writing Books on my Kindle

Writing Books on my Kindle

I’ve written about the writing books on my bookshelves here and here. But I also have a collection of writing books on my Kindle. I’ve reviewed several of these on ARHtistic License; click the highlighted titles to read.

  1. The Audacity to be a Writer: 50 Inspiring Articles on Writing that Could Change Your Life compiled by Bryan Hutchinson.
  2. Crank it outCrank It Out! The Surefire Way to Become a Super-Productive Writer by C.S. Lakin.
  3. Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland. I haven’t read this yet, but I love this author’s work.
  4. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. This is one of the best resources a fiction writer can have. It lists the physical manifestations of various emotions which you can use to make your readers viscerally experience what’s going on inside your character. (If you want, you can try out the abbreviated version, Emotional Amplifiers, for free.)
  5. Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus when You’re Drowning in your Daily Life by Jessica Abel. I’m reading this now, and it’s excellent, but you really have to do the steps. This is the manual for professional cartoonist and graphic novelist Abel’s Creative Focus Workshop. Not strictly a writing book, it’s useful for all kinds of creative endeavors.
  6. How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good by Bryan Cohen. I haven’t read this yet.
  7. Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic with Your Words by Bryan Hutchinson. I haven’t read this yet.
  8. Jumpstart Your Creativity: 10 Jolts to Get Creative and Stay Creative by Shawn Doyle and Steven Rowell.Outlining
  9. Outlining Your Novel Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises for Planning Your Best Book by K.M. Weiland. I’d recommend getting this in hard copy.
  10. Productivity for Creative People: How to get Creative Work Done in an “Always On” World by Mark McGuiness. I haven’t read this yet.
  11. Publishing Poetry & Prose in Literary Journals by Writer’s Relief, Inc. I haven’t read this yet, but I find lots of good information on their website.
  12. Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters, and Everyone in Between Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters, and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell. I have to read this—I’ve heard such good things about it.
  13. Writing in Obedience: A Primer for Christian Fiction Writers by Terry Burns and Linda W. Yezak. I think I read this and was underwhelmed. It might be a good place for a beginning Christian writer to start.
  14. Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels by Rayne Hall. I haven’t read this yet.writing the heart
  15. Writing the Heart of Your Story: The Secret to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel by C.S. Lakin. One of the best books I’ve ever read on the art of the novel, which I will probably reread every year.
  16. You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins. A nice little motivational book when you need a kick to get going.
  17. The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin.
  18. The 15-Minute Writer: How to Write Your Book in Only 15 Minutes a Day by Jennifer Blanchard.
  19. 5 Secrets of Story Structure: How to Write a Novel That Stands Out by K.M. Weiland. I can’t remember if I’ve read this yet. Weiland often gives it away free.

Of all the above books that I’ve already read, my two favorites are #4 and #15.

Did you find this article helpful? Please hit the Like button. Have you read any of these? Or do you have a writing book to recommend? Write your comment below.

Writing Books on my Bookshelf, Part II

Writing Books on my Bookshelf, Part II

On Tuesday I started listing all the writing books on my bookshelf and decided to take a break when I got to the thirtieth one.

Today I’m resuming where I left off.

Writing books on my bookshelf

  1. Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Michael Larson. I haven’t read this yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
  2. Missing Persons: A Writer’s Guide to Finding the Lost, the Abducted and the Escaped by Fay Faron. Oh, yeah…another book I’ve been meaning to read, because my 2015 NaNo manuscript is about a woman who finds a missing girl.
  3. New Roget’s Thesaurus. I don’t know why I have this; I usually use the thesaurus embedded in Microsoft Word.
  4. On Writing by Stephen King. One of my favorites. I posted a brief review of this book and several others here.
  5. On Writing Well by William Zinsser. A classic.
  6. One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty. I forgot I had this. One for the “To Be Read” pile.
  7. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. This book convinced me I needed a blog and a Twitter account.
  8. Plot by Ansen Dibell. Another TBR.
  9. poemcrazy: freeing your life with words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.
  10. Reaching Back: A Workbook for Recording Your Life’s Most Meaningful Moments to Share with Future Generations by Alice Chapin. I bought this book intending to record all my parents’ memories, but I procrastinated too long. My parents and all their siblings have passed away. Maybe I’ll work through it with my husband and preserve our histories.
  11. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. This book outlines a strategy for reading so that you analyze elements like character, dialogue, narration, and description, and discover what works and what doesn’t.
  12. Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham. Another TBR.
  13. Scene of the Crime: A Writer’s Guide to Crime-Scene Investigations by Anne Wingate, Ph.D. Another TBR.
  14. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I promise–this is the next writing book I read.
  15. Setting by Jack M. Bickham. TBR.
  16. Secrets of Successful Fiction by Robert Newton Peck. I bought this because I loved his Soup for President, but I haven’t read this one yet.
  17. Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks. The author signed this for me at the Maui Writers Conference in 2004. In addition to advice on the craft, lots of anecdotes from Brooks’ life.
  18. The St. Martin’s Handbook by Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors. This might be my grammar book from college. It’s very similar to The Little, Brown Handbook. You probably don’t need them both, but I can’t part with either.
  19. Story by Robert McKee. Epic book. I’ve started it a couple of times, never got too far into it, but it’s definitely earned a spot in the TBR section.
  20. The Story of With by Allen Arnold. Not strictly a writing book, this book focuses on God as the initiator of creative work, encouraging the reader to create with God.
  21. Theme & Strategy by Ronald B. Tobias. The subtitle is How to Build a Strong, Narrative Structure to Help Your Fiction Stand Tall, Run Fast, and Soar to Success. I know I need to read this book.
  22. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. I often see this book on lists of most favorite writing books. It’s not one of my favorites. I don’t completely agree with Pressfield’s philosophies. He’s all about art for art’s sake, and yes, that should be our first motivation, but it’s nice to get some affirmation. Pressman says, “The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life.” Uh, and committed suicide. He goes on to say, “To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.” Does he cash his royalty checks?
  23. Who Said That? compiled by Renie Gee. This is a book of quotations, which I bought in case I ever run out of material for my Monday Morning Wisdom series on ARHtistic License. So far, I haven’t had to refer to it.
  24. Word by Word: An Inspirational Look at the Craft of Writing by John Tullius, Elizabeth Engstrom, and the presenters of the Maui Writers Conference. Self-explanatory.
  25. The Writer’s Book of Checklists by Scott Edelstein. This book includes an amazing amount of helpful information, concisely summarized in list form, on 123 topics such as 10 Tips on Ghostwriting, 24 Tips on Asking for More Money, and 25 Key Points of a Book Contract. Released in 1991, some of the information is dated, and there is no mention of social media or technology, but it’s still a worthwhile reference book.
  26. The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing edited by Frank A Dickson and Sandra Smythe.
  27. The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing, Volume II edited by Jean M. Fredette.
  28. Writer’s Guide to Places by Don Prues and Jack Heffron. Suppose your character is from Columbus, Ohio. What football team does he root for? Where did he hang out when he was in high school? What part of town do the rich people live in? This book is a great reference for details about locations in the United States and Canada.
  29. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters by Christopher Vogler. Mine is signed by the author, whom I met at a writer’s conference. Vogler studied The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and wrote a “hero’s quest” outline that served as an unofficial outline for Disney movies for years. I’ve studied it extensively and used it as a framework for my works-in-progress, but the current trend for fiction is to start in the middle of action rather than establish the “ordinary world” as Vogler recommends.
  30. The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work edited by Marie Arana. Contributions from authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, James Michener, Mary Higgins Clark, Scott Turow, Wendy Wasserstein, and Ray Bradbury.
  31. Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America edited by Sue Grafton with Jan Burke and Barry Zeman. A collection of articles from the Who’s Who of mystery writers, such as Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Tony Hillerman, Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, and more.
  32. Writing Scripts Hollywood Will Love: An Insider’s Guide to Film and Television Scripts that Sell by Katherine Atwell Herbert. I went through a screenwriting phase about twenty years ago. I know I read this book then and liked it, but I don’t really remember much.
  33. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Yep, time to reread this.
  34. Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico. The front cover says this is a course in enhancing creativity and writing confidence. The sub-title is Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers.
  35. You Can Write a Memoir by Susan Carol Hauser. It’s been a while since I read this book, but I remember liking it. I’ve written a lot of notes in the margins.
  36. You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey E. Dils. All the basic information is in here.
  37. Your Novel Proposal From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook. Until this book was released in 1999, all books about book proposals focused on nonfiction, with maybe a few paragraphs here and there about how fiction is different. This book was the first to break the code for fiction writers. My copy is heavily dog-eared.

Alright, that’s it–67 writing books total (including the thirty in my previous article) on my bookshelf. Maybe there’s a few here you’d like to read. Did I miss any of your favorites? Please share in the comments below.




Review of The Audacity to be a Writer by Bryan Hutchinson, et al.

Review of The Audacity to be a Writer by Bryan Hutchinson, et al.


Bryan Hutchinson says, “Being audacious is about taking risks, going against conventions and the status quo.” He believes audacity is the most important quality of a successful writer.

The subtitle of this book is 50 Inspiring Articles on Writing that Could Change Your Life. Essentially, it is a collection of posts that appeared on Hutchinson’s blog, Positive Writer. I bought the ebook version when it was on sale for 99 cents. The ebook is regularly $4.99; the paperback list price is $13.95. In the introduction of the book, Hutchinson says, “Part of the proceeds from this book will go towards supporting the Positive Writer website, our regular contests, giveaways and other events.”audacity

That said, I am not sad that I paid 99 cents for the book. But the articles are so similar in focus that reading them one after another, I felt as though I was reading the same ideas dozens of times.

If you’d like to have a collection of writing encouragement at your fingertips, then, by all means, go for it. But if you only need an occasion dose, it might be more productive to subscribe to some of the contributors’ websites and explore them when you need an injection of motivation. I was already following some of them, and found lots of great content. However, I can’t vouch for all the websites; peruse at your own risk, and use your best judgment (Mom talking here).