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Instruction Manuals: When in Writer’s Doubt

Sometimes writers need a return to the basics. We need to consult with writing experts through publications, articles, and author groups. Sometimes all we need is a bit of encouragement to keep doing what we know we are able to do. Here are some of my favorite authors and “instruction manuals” about the writing life.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard: I encountered Dillard’s work in college and treasure many of her words and insights. She is a go-to for understanding creative nonfiction and essays.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott: I started reading Anne Lamott in my late-teens and early twenties. What a journey it has been! I encourage writers to read her entire catalog–fiction, creative nonfiction, spiritual insight–to see how a writer’s life transforms over decades. I don’t agree with everything Lamott believes about life and living, but I sure wish I could have a cup of coffee with her and talk writing!

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland: I discovered this book when I was in high school, and I think it was one that gave me the courage to major in writing. Ueland’s book is one I recommend to young writers often.

Becoming a Writer by Dorthea Brande: This is another book I discovered in high school, and one I would continue to recommend to young writers.

A Poetry Handbook and Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver: I miss Mary Oliver! She is one of my favorite poets. These are her instructional works, but I highly recommend curling up with your favorite canine or taking a long walk with her poetry.

Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, and The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Language by Natalie Goldberg: While I don’t agree with Goldberg’s life philosophy, I do appreciate her thoughts about the writing life.

Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge: There are many catalytic activities in this little volume. I have used some when teaching writing in home education settings.

Writing Fiction Step by Step by Josip Novakovich: This is my go-to when I need inspiration for writing fictional scenes. It is sitting on my desk because I know I am going to be opening it often this year.

Fiction Writing Master Class: Emulating the Work of Great Novelists to Master the Fundamentals of Craft by William Cane: Granted you may not want to emulate all of these writers, but you will find insight and renewed appreciation for what these men and women have done for the literary world.

Books by K. M. Weiland: If you value a structured approach or need some extra guidance, I highly recommend Weiland’s books about writing.

Books by Joanna Penn: I am planning to read a few of Penn’s books this year as I have in the past years. She brings solid advice and encouragement to the writing life.

Books by C. S. Lakin: I am trying out Lakin, but based on the reviews of her works, I would recommend her.

A Little Book of Form: An Exploration into the Formal Imagination of Poetry Robert Hass: This is a book I am planning to read through this year. I have appreciated several of Hass’s translations and his poetry. I am excited to learn more about formal poetry for a current project.

Happy Writing Life!

Categories: Between the Lines: This Writer's Journal

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