Read Your Way to Better Writing

What do writers like to do most of all? Okay, besides dream of red wine (or other tipple) coming directly from the faucet tap. It’s reading! Writers LOVE (or should love) to read. And the best part about this love is that, unlike the possibility of ever-flowing wine, reading will help you be a better writer.

But before we get into my recommendations for books that will help you be a better writer, I have… 

A little update on my own book

It’s almost DONE!!!! Well, this draft is almost done. I have just a few more chapters to work through and am hoping to be done with them by the end of next week. This is only the second draft (after many false starts on this damn project), but normally my second drafts are little better than my first drafts and most of the heavy work really comes in draft three. This time around though, perhaps because I’ve spent so long on this book, the second draft is going to result in a pretty-close-to-the-end-product manuscript.

I still have a couple story lines to enhance, some settings that need a bit of flourish, and some consistency/timeline matters to nail down, but I’m really impressed with how well this draft is shaping into a book that one or two people might not hate reading.

Speaking of books you should be reading….

Recently, someone emailed me and, after warming me up with praise for my artwork, asked me for some writing advice. The first thing that popped into my head was READ. Of course, I think everyone should be reading more, but writers especially need to read. They need to read within their genre to understand the conventions (and the cliches), they need to read outside of their genre to be well-rounded, they need to read bad books to see what doesn’t work.

And, they need to read books on writing because the craft of writing is something you need to continually educate yourself on if you want to improve.

There are shelves and shelves of writing books out there. Some can be terribly hokey, some can be too general (yes, I know I need to try to write every day), while others can be too specific (really, I have to write at 2:14pm every day if I’m going to succeed?). For me a good writing book not only gives good advice in a fresh way, but should also prompt that little inspiration factory in my head and fill me with ideas for things to include in my own writing.

A few of these books are listed below and, as I get closer to heading into the final drafts of my own book, I plan to give a few of these a re-read not only to refresh my knowledge, but to fill me with ideas and inspiration.


  • Wired for Story by Liz Cron – The first time I read this, I immediately read it again taking copious notes on one piece of paper while filling another piece of paper with ideas the book generated. Liz covers many of the same notions other writing books cover such as building emotional connections with the characters, writing only what matters to the story, etc., but relates it to what our brains expect when reading a story. Even though it’s based on neuroscience, it is in no way overly scientific or hard to read.

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  • A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon – The subtitle says it all, “A concise, practical guide for novelists and short-story writers.” In less than 250 pages, this book covers all the basics with plenty of examples and tips. From concisely covering the elements of fiction (plot, characters, point of view) to information on revising, marketing and planning for your life as a super awesome novelist, this book really needs to be on any writer’s bookshelf.
  • Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon – Again, the subtitle is perfect: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore. At about 350 pages, this book is a bit more substantial but it goes over some of the major problems your manuscript may have and how to remedy them. I can’t think of any other book that helps me in my process of  “fixing” the weak areas in my drafts. There’s so much great information in Manuscript Makeover that I’m not even going to try to cover it all, just find a copy and commit it to memory!

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  • On Writing by Stephen King – I’ll admit I’m a huge Stephen King fan and may be a bit biased about this recommendation. The first part of the book is a mini-autobiography that tells about the influences and experiences that made King into a writer (some are very funny), plus a history of his writing career (try to control your envy monster). The second part is a mini-tutorial of what makes good writing, steps in the process of writing, and even some tips on revision. It’s very short and something you can read over and over again (obviously).

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  • Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected by Jessica Morrell – All of Jessica’s books are great, but if I were forced to pick, I’d say this one is tops for overall writing advice. She delivers great advice with plenty of sarcastic humor….just my style!

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  • Have any writing-advice favorites? If you’re not a writer, do books ever inspire you to come up with new ideas for your own craft? 

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    Saturday, 15 April 2017  * * * Noon to 3:00 pm

    Please stop by to say hello, grab a snack, and view several pieces of my colored pencil and acrylic artwork!! The gallery is at…

    Clackamas Community College, Wilsonville Campus, 29353 SW Town Center Loop EastWilsonville, Oregon 97070

    Can’t make it? Don’t worry, the art will be on display from 3 April until 16 June 2017

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