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The Writing Craft: The books to read

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King

I am an avid reader who loves learning.

When I was growing up my parents who were Italian migrants, brought my brother and I a set of the World Book Encyclopedias. I loved them. As a young girl who was learning the English language, these books opened up a world of discovery and fuelled my immense curiosity. Each night my father would sit with me as I read from a particular volume. Reading through each volume, I built up a bank of general knowledge that feed my imagination and satisfied my curiosity. My love of learning was ignited. Ferociously. It's no surprise that I became a secondary teacher trained to teach across a number of subjects: English, History, Drama and Religion.

Going to university was a dream come true for me and set me up as prolific lifelong learner. I was 25 years old when I finally had the chance to enrol in a Bachelor of Arts degree. As a mature aged student, who studied full-time, I cherished the gift of tertiary education. I embraced my courses' requirements of reading and research; discovering that these activities broadened my knowledge and understanding; again igniting and feeding a voracious curiosity and need to learn.

This has continued as an emerging writer.

I am currently completing a Master of Letters in Creative Writing in preparation for my ultimate goals; to complete a PhD and become a writer. Although at times, I have had to put my goals to the side when my life meandered in a different direction as I built my career as a teacher and nourished my role as a mother. Regardless of my personal and professional responsibilities, these two ultimate goals have always sat patiently within me, simmering away, but never forgotten.

Three years ago, after a major change in our family, I made the commitment to pursue my dreams. I am currently on this journey and loving every minute of it.

During this journey, I have purchased a number of books on writing. My bookshelf is brimming with books on all aspects of writing: characterisation; plotting, dialogue, voice and writing synopsis. I have books on writing in a variety of genres that I am interested in pursuing as a writer. The following are my current favourites that I re-read and dip in on a regular basis. They have inspired me, informed me and helped me as an emerging writer. They are my mentors, my teachers and my inspiration.

In support of Love Your Bookshop Day (Australian Booksellers Association) purchase any of the titles in this post at your local book shop.

So you Want to be a Writer

by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo

If you have just started your journey in becoming a writer or it's something you have dreamt of doing, this book is the one for you. Allison and Valerie share an abundance of advice to help you get started even when you have a day job. This book will inspire you to write and to get started.

Find this book at your local library or purchase it your local bookshop and support a local business in your area. Love your local bookshop.

You can also purchase this book on the Australian Writers Centre Website.

On Writing by Stephen King

Stephen King shares his experience as a writer with clarity and honesty. His advice is genuine about his own journey in becoming a writer. He's authenticity is powerful and you can't help but be inspired.

Find this book at your local library or purchase this book at your local bookshop and support a local business in your area. Love your local bookshop.

Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brodie

If you are a plotter or want to learn how to set out a novel that engages your reader, this book is the ultimate one. I have just finished it. I have filled it with underlinings, highlightings and notes in the margins. Jessica Brody has presented a 15 point plan on how to make your story work. As a companion to the book, I discovered Caroline Humes' worksheet designed around Save the Cat! fifteen-point plan.

Find this book at your local library or purchase it at your local bookshop and support a local business in your area. Love your local bookshop.

Self Editing for Fiction

Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King

This is another book that I devoured, reading it across one weekend. As a new writer, it is imperative that our manuscripts are polished and have been revised and edited across a number of drafts before submitting to a publisher or literary agent. Although I am still in the early stages of drafting my novel, I found that reading this book is making me aware of my scenes as I write. I will be re-reading this text again before I revise and edit each respective draft in readiness for the next draft.

Find this book at your local library or purchase it at your local bookshop and support a local business in your area. Love your local bookshop.

The Road to Somewhere: A Creative Writing Companion Edited Robert Graham, Heather Leach & Helen Newall

I discovered this text during my post-graduate studies in creating writing. This book is filled with information on all elements of the writing craft. It provides valuable advice and exercises on all techniques of the writing process, genres, editing and publishing. The exercises are an excellent way to refine and practice specific elements of the writer's craft.

Find this book at your local library or purchase it at your local bookshop and support a local business in your area. Love your bookshop.

Many published writers share the same advice over and over for emerging writers. Read widely. Although this post focuses on non-fiction works specific to writing, reading a variety of fiction across a broad range of genres is important too. Everything a writer reads is invaluable to their craft. I know it has been for me. My library is filled with books I still need to read and my Goodreads account has long lists of books I want to read.

What are your favourite books on writing?

Find the above books at your local library or purchase them at your local bookshop and support a local business in your area.

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Valerie G Miller
Valerie G Miller
Aug 26, 2020

Thanks for your comment. It is a clever trick - writing is flat writing? Throw in a cat. I know about getting caught up with reading. I do love my writing craft reading. I allocate 60 mins to read when I get home from work; it’s a buffer to get me back into my writing head: 30mins of a craft book and 30 mins to ignite the imagination. I do recommend On Writing by Stephen King; even if the last one you ever buy. 🌸


Aug 25, 2020

I also own So You Want to be a Writer, there are some inspirational tips from many authors which make a lot of sense and Save The Cat Writes a Novel which I bought recently. By pure coincidence, the protagonist in my WIP owns a dog; the reason for the heading of that book is if your protagonist feels flat, give them a cat. I figure I'm on the right track. I love Stephen King, I'm on the lookout for his book On Writing. I'm trying to limit the how-to books, you can become bogged down in the reading and forget to write.

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