Between June and December of this year I’ll be working on my longest, most ambitious writing adventure to date: finishing my capstone project for my master’s degree. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a peek behind the scenes at the books I can’t write without. These are books that live on my desk so I can consult them whenever I need to!
There are three books that I rely on pretty heavily for inspiration: Flannery O’Connor’s letters, her prayer journal, and Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I turn to O’Connor’s journal for more spiritual advice on writing. She is able to connect her gifts and talents to the gospel in a way that I truly admire. Her letters are also a great source of advice and encouragement. O’Connor often built entire relationships with her fans and struggling writers via letter. The third book, Hamlet, is full of beautiful and inspiring language, so I turn to that for ideas on how to use my words to their full extent.
Textbooks on Craft
Both of these textbooks have been helpful to me as I’ve ventured into writing fiction over the last two years. My favorite of the two is Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, and I also keep a copy of her book Imaginative Writing on my desk. The other textbook pictured below, Perrine’s Story and Structure, is helpful as well. This book is designed more for reading short stories than writing fiction, but it has helpful tips and tricks that any writer can use.
Writers on Writing
This is my favorite type of book to refer to as I work. Mystery and Manners and Bird by Bird are two of my favorite books of all time, and I’m still working my way through On Writing and The War of Art, but I think that both will become staples in my writing life. These four books are great to flip through and pull out advice or to look through more carefully for help with whatever I’m struggling with at the moment. Right now I’m loving Steven Pressfield’s distinction between amateurs and professionals. I’ve got his qualities of a professional listed on a sticky note where I can see it every time I sit down at the desk. Check back later for my full review of his interesting book!
Style and Grammar Advice
Last but not least, no writer can be successful without mastering the fundamentals of the craft. These are my two favorite grammar books. Understanding English Grammar is a thorough exploration of everything you never wanted to know about phrases, clauses, and sentence patterns. The Elements of Style is smaller, simpler, and full of great rules for writers. A book that gets an honorable mention is Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln. All three of these are great resources if you struggle with the ins and outs of the language!
Notebooks and Pens
I’m partial to Moleskine notebooks. I use a small one almost daily to write down interesting things that I hear or imagine. I have a larger notebook that I’m using now to keep track of research, characters, and deadlines for my capstone project. I love the simple black cover and the thick pages inside. I’m also particular about the type of pens I use when I write–but who isn’t?
Have you read any of these books on writing? Which books do you turn to again and again? Let me know in the comments!